Social media influencers have become an effective and agile tool for marketers over the last decade. They help to build trust with consumers and produce entertaining content that results in conversions. It’s no wonder this role has started to expand into a more diverse range of contributors. Among the most popular of these at the moment are children; this group is known as kid-fluencers.
This can be an extremely lucrative prospect for kid-fluencers and their families. There are even examples of children making upwards of $26 million a year from online content as a result of sponsorships and ad revenue. Marketers, meanwhile, get to enjoy better reach and greater engagement. It can certainly seem like there are wins for everyone involved in this scenario. Unfortunately, wherever vast amounts of money are at play, there is also potential for unethical behavior.
Wherever children and vulnerable people are involved there is clear duty to make certain there are stringent protections in place. Let’s take a look at how this applies to the case of kid-fluencers and where marketers need to exercise care.
One of the most common protections from exploitation is legislation. The creation of social media and YouTube videos may seem fun. Indeed, kid-fluencers’ content tends to involve games and fun. Though this may seem like an extension of playtime, the involvement of money and contractual expectations places these activities firmly in the remit of work.
Technically speaking, formal kid-fluencer work is usually subject to the same regulations as any other child in entertainment fields. Most states have laws that limit the number of hours children can perform each day. However, while traditional entertainment is highly regulated, such measures aren’t in place for kid-fluencers. Indeed, the Coogan Law — which requires 15% of child performers’ earnings placed in a protected account — often doesn’t apply to child influencers.
As such, there is a situation in which there is no guarantee parents aren’t overworking their kids to the point of mental crash. This means marketers need to be more stringent in considering their relationships with kid-fluencers and their parents. This may involve checking how many other projects the child is producing each week to limit adding to their load. Even building the requirement for a Coogan-style account into contracts may be wise.
It’s important to consider the issue of privacy when it comes to kid-fluencers. These children are not of an age where they can make informed decisions and give consent to aspects of their lives being broadcast to the world. They often don’t even have the boundaries afforded to child actors. After all, much of the influencer content is geared around the child’s home life and personality.
Some other countries are already taking steps to address this. Last year, France passed laws to protect kid-fluencers’ privacy; companies must gain permission from local government regulators before they can use children in social campaigns. Unfortunately, the U.S. doesn’t yet have any laws approaching this yet.
Most people accept that kids can have a role to play in effective campaigns. Businesses need to create social media strategies to raise brand awareness and create a more personalised experience for consumers. Influencers can be key to creating high-quality content to attract attention and nurture genuine engagement. Kid-fluencers are often highly effective in these areas as they tap into consumers’ sense of fun, humor, and empathy. But this should not take priority over kids’ right to privacy.
Though there are no strict regulations for privacy at present, marketers need to consider how their actions can provide forms of protection. This could include insisting content does not take place in kids’ own homes or bedrooms to preserve their personal space. It could also involve avoiding activities like engaging in live chats.
Quality of life
Children need to be able to just be children. There is always a danger of kid-fluencers spending so much of their time on media enterprises that there is little space to develop healthily. Indeed, many adult influencers find the pressure to keep creating viral content negatively impacts their stress levels and sense of self-worth. Kids need additional protection from this.
There is an absence of formal regulations to help children avoid this. To some extent, excessive pressure and negative actions from parents may fall within child abuse legislation. But this is often difficult to establish and rectify. Again, this is where marketers need to take some responsibility for their approach.
It’s worth considering including a liaison on campaign teams where kid-fluencers are part of the strategy. They can engage in regular dialogue with parents to understand how kids’ social media activities are offset by other interests. Indeed, it may be sensible to include life-enhancing resources as part of the payment package. This could involve trips and recreational elements without any obligation to use them for content.
Part of this dialogue with parents should also surround suggesting measures to prevent burnout. Taking a break away from social media can help maintain mental wellness. This could be a full 24 hours away from digital platforms every week or even a 30-day detox if the situation becomes problematic. Marketers can help strategise this break in a way to make certain they don’t negatively impact the child’s core audience or revenue stream. But even if the result is a drop in engagement, the child’s welfare must come first.
Kid-fluencers are becoming a common feature of our contemporary digital landscape. While their content may be entertaining and engaging, they are also vulnerable to exploitation. There is some basic child labour and abuse laws that can address some of the worst issues. But in many cases, there isn’t nearly sufficient formal regulation or standards to recognise when kid-fluencers are subject to the negative issues surrounding their activities. This means marketers must take steps in their dealings with kids and parents to minimise the potential for exploitation and harm.