Highlights

  • Children showing off their talent on social media are becoming mega influencers
  • As young as 2-3 years, these children are making big bucks in sponsored content
  • 73% of kids ask parents to buy kidfluencer-recommended products: report

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Playground of influence: the business of kidfluencing is a ticking time bomb

Children may not be allowed to have accounts on social media but they are making big bucks as 'child influencers.'

While Facebook (or what is now Meta) may have hit pause on its eerie ‘Instagram for Kids’ project, this has not stopped children from becoming mega influencers on its main app.

From singing, dancing, acting, reviewing toys, movies or food to just posing in the trendiest fashion, a new generation of content creators is showing off their talent on social media.

Called ‘kidfluencers,’ these children who could be as young as 2-3 years old and are now making big bucks for influencing their millions of followers. You can find these mini-influencers on YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok and more.

SEE MORE 8-year-old Ryan Kaji is the highest paid YouTuber

The influence of kidfluencers

The overall influencer industry is valued at about Rs. 1,200 crore in India. While we don’t know the market cap for child influencers, reports have pegged earnings from a single post to be as high as Rs 1-3 lakhs for the most popular among this clan. In South Korea, a 6-year-old YouTuber Boram reportedly bought an $8 million home from her influencer income.

If that sounds like a lot, here’s why tiny tots are making big bucks. A 2019 digital insight study said that 73 per cent of kids ask their parents to buy something after seeing recommendations from kid influencers. And 81 per cent of parents bought something children wanted after seeing it in a kidfluencers’ post.

And it doesn’t take a genius to estimate that with school closures and online schooling, these numbers have and will continue to rise.

The consent and cash problem

But who gets to keep this money? While children are the face of the operation, these pages are generally run by their parents, as most social platforms don’t even allow children under 13. There’s an ongoing global debate on whether influencing is ‘work’ and if so, can it be dubbed child labour?

Last year, France introduced a law to regulate children’s 'influencer income.' The law mandates all income to be kept in a bank account till the kid turns 16 and also safeguards the child’s right to be 'forgotten' if they want the content to be taken down. Notably, a YouTuber mom in the US was accused of inflicting abuse, starvation, and emotional manipulation by her own children for using them in her videos.

SEE MORE Physical punishment actually worsens children’s behaviour, finds Lancet study

Closer home, the kidfluencer industry is still in its nascent stage and there doesn’t seem to be much regulation in place to safeguard children from exploitation.

Parent Take: the problem with child influencers

Speaking to Editorji, Ruchita Dhar Shah of First Mom’s Club highlighted the consequences of turning your child into an 'influencer.' Shah says that there may be information that parents give out (even unintentionally) that could reach online predators.

She explained that children's personalities are changing very quickly so while it may start as a fun talent you want to show off, it is incredibly hard to draw a line before it gets too much.

It is also dangerous to expose your child to a situation where they may calculate their self-esteem based on the number of likes and shares of their post, a problem that most adults also cannot tackle with ease.

SEE MORE How to keep a check on your child's drug use

Got a kid who wants to influence?

Just like forcing a kid to become one, it is probably not a good idea to stop your kid from becoming an influencer if that's what they want (and consent) to do. However, it is the duty of the caretaker to warn and prepare children for the online world before they choose to take the plunge.

In this case, Shah recommends asking children to not share their personal details like school, location or age with their online audience. It is also important to prepare the child for any negative comments or feedback that may be targeted towards them. Set limits on how much they can post or just social media and screens, in general.

SEE MORE Got a screen fiend kid under 5? Here’s why a digital detox is desperately in order

Parents and caregivers should also keep a watch on what the kids are doing. It may take some time for parents to understand this world, but Shah adds that understanding the platforms is key to safeguarding your children from its ill effects.

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