The phenomena of Influencers on Social Media: Benefits and Harms
Nowadays, children are bombarded by influencers’ videos and marketing content every day through Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and others.. From a very young age, they already display a high level of awareness through those influencers in all aspects of life. Also, they added many societal concepts and issues that are larger than their absorption as children. As a result, due to the enhanced awareness of influencers, our children are exposed to mental health problems in the end.
There are many types of influencers our children might be following (The video gamers, the beauty blogger, toy unboxers, instafamous, etc.) on social media platforms and these contents seem to play an important and critical role in children's lives because they spend a long time watching, observing, and documenting in their minds, commenting on influencers content that they are ultimately influenced by. As such, the level of engagement with influencer content seems high. Also, our children and teens turn to these influencers not only for entertainment but also for advice, information, reference, and as role models! Young people consistently say that the digital world offers positive social and emotional benefits. However, the scientifically-grounded insights lead us to believe that the exposure is also affecting their mental health.
There is a strong correlation between mental health issues in children and the long time they spend on communication platforms for various reasons; including watching videos of social media influencers. As mental health illnesses represent 16% of the global burden of disease and injuries among people who are between the ages of 10 and 19 years of age(Reference: WHO)
Influencer marketing, is it a trick or a truth?
The other and more unexpected source of exposure to online influencers is the commercial aspect leading to sales, expressed as commercial interruptions during children's programs and on dedicated YouTube channels.
Think about it, have you been surprised by your little one messing with your beauty products, trying to apply makeup on her face? She must be following one of the child influencers who gets paid to trigger kids’ need to buy more and more products, catapulting very young children into the world of adults. Also, Family vlogging has boomed on YouTube in the last decade. Parents and their children turn the camera on as they play, craft, bake, go on trips, or review toys, and kids all over the world watch them, mesmerized, then rush to buy whatever they are promoting, directly or indirectly.
Therefore, our role as caregvers is to find healthy solutions that supports our children’s choice and protects them from the dangers of the content created by content creator or social media “influencers”ز
Tips for caregivers
Helping your children to evaluate the content that they get exposed to is very important, therefore talk to your child or teen about their favourite influencers on social media and why this person deserves to be followed closely.
Influencers can certainly have a positive influence on the daily lives of young people, but the opposite is also true, especially if you are not aware of what your children see on social media, and how much time they spend watching the influencers’ content.
It is necessary that you check on the social media platform and watch some videos and photos to get an idea of what your youngster is exposed to on a daily basis. Take an interest in these influencers, ask your teen questions, ask them for their opinion in order to get them to think more independently and more fairly.
Parents, older siblings, and role models have the responsibility to help kids avoid the traps by helping them recognize influencer marketing and have a mind of their own, making well-informed opinions and decisions.
- By delaying contact with the screens as much as possible. Early exposure is known to cause many problems in children, ranging from developmental delay and learning difficulties to obesity, not to mention mental health issues. How can a 7-year-old kid already know what an influencer is? Given the fact that the minimum age to open a social media account on Instagram or Facebook is set at 13, children should not have an account to start with.
- If contact with the screen and usage of the internet is already established, take the time to dissect the content with the child. Start by checking the accounts and pages they follow, keep an eye on the way they are interacting on social media, and make sure that what they ask you to buy them online is not what influencers are advertising, be it directly or indirectly.
- Explain to the child what an influencer does by talking to him in simple words.
- It is also an opportunity to talk about the beauty standards conveyed by the media at large and social networks and the monetization involved with these standards and issues related to self-confidence and self-image. The most important thing is to awaken their critical thinking.
- Tell your kid that even if there is a good influencer that they’re a fan of and follow, they should not copy their lives and follow everything the influencer is doing. Tell them about the importance of having their own personalities, their own taste, own hobbies, and own opinions. They should be able to think critically and know when to follow what the influencer is saying, and when to stop.
In conclusion, we as caregivers, we must make our children aware that our goal is not to become a version of the lives of the influencers, or even other people, and we should not believe or be affected by the content we see behind the screens from the influencers because they are humans at the end of the day. Also, we need them to be aware that we can use these social platforms for spreading awareness and knowledge about topics that are in line with our values and ethical standards as a Qatari Arab community. We must always strive to our true selves and not just a duplicate or replica of others.