Is Exposure to Social Media Influencers Healthy For Kids?
What Is a Social Media Influencer?
Social media influencers are individuals who regularly post on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to share branded personal content with viewers. Social media influencer hopefuls work to build a reputation as experts on specific subjects. The more followers they amass, the more power they have to impact viewers’ tastes, lifestyles, worldviews, and interest in specific products. Among minors, some of the most popular of these are beauty bloggers, video game bloggers, toy unboxers, and other “Instafamous” personalities.
Some of the dangers social media influence can pose for the youngest, most impressionable audiences include the following:
Damaged self-esteem. Because they are still figuring out who they are and what kind of life they want, kids and teens can’t help but compare themselves to influencers. They may not perceive how scripted and manipulated their favorite content is. Consequently, they can feel inadequate in various categories: socioeconomic status, looks, popularity, family status, relationship status, or even race.
Poor eating habits. Children are equally ill-equipped to grasp that influencers sometimes answer to corporate sponsors or gain more views by conforming to unattainable beauty standards. This means that social media personalities can drive your child to consume excessive amounts of junk food or attempt dangerous fad diets in an effort to fit in or look a certain way.
Use of drugs. Children can often be exposed to drug ads (tobacco, e-cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana) online; Black, Latinx, and Native American children have even higher exposure than their White peers. Even worse, however, influencers can function as living ads for drug sponsors and promote dangerous substances in posted content. Because of influencers’ power to impact social norms and perceptions, your child may begin to view drug use as acceptable and seek out the same products.
Criminal behavior. Some influencers are known for pulling harmless practical jokes, but others orchestrate cruel pranks, take part in dangerous challenges, and generally engage in unethical to criminal behavior. These kinds of content can quickly go viral, and your child may feel emboldened to imitate these influencers for attention or to avoid being seen as potential victims themselves.
Harmful bias. Unfortunately, implicit racial bias and harmful stereotypes about marginalized communities spread everywhere that people are, including on social media. Many platforms’ algorithms tend to unjustly promote White influencer content, which can lead your child to idealize Whiteness and White cultural subsets. In addition, influencers can directly or indirectly spread misinformation and encourage other forms of harmful discrimination.
Teach Kids Safe Tech Use With Net Positive
The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah County is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens and leaders. We accomplish this by providing evidence-based programs with a focus on those that improve academic engagement, build character, and improve healthy behaviors.
Our Net Positive Program educates K-12 students about digital safety, health, citizenship, and leadership. After participating in our program, students are 97% better prepared to face internet dangers. Contact us to learn more and ask your school to schedule a Net Positive Presentation, or support us with your donation today!
Lee, Bruce Y. “Meta, Tiktok, Others Being Sued. Here Are 10 Ways Social Media Can Hurt Kids' Mental Health.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 Dec. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2022/12/18/meta-tiktok-others-being-sued-here-are-10-ways-social-media-can-hurt-kids-mental-health/?sh=32b541bc56a6.
“5 Unhealthy Ways Digital Ads May Be Targeting Your Child.” HealthyChildren.org, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/5-Unhealthy-Ways-Digital-Ads-May-Be-Targeting-Your-Child.aspx.