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My child follows everything from an influencer. What should I do?

Interview

5 June 2024

It doesn’t take having a phone for children to be influenced. Consider a toy store or friends that own something that their friends want too. From a young age, kids deal with all sorts of temptations. An online influencer is an extension of all the offline temptations. We asked researcher Emmelyn Croes from Tilburg University for 5 tips that we should bear in mind as parents of children who follow influencers. 

1.Still developing 

Your child will find it difficult to distinguish between posts with advertising with other types of content. This is due to how they are still actively developing their so-called persuasion knowledge. This is the knowledge necessary to see past tactics used to influence or convince consumers to make purchases. It’s not until puberty that kids understand what advertising entails. Therefore, it’s important to help your child and not to blame them for being easily influenced. Additionally, the legally mandated #ad tag does not trigger any particular response in kids if they do not know it indicates advertising and how or why they should beware of it. These things need to be explained to them by us. Research shows that when kids are aware a post is sponsored, their desire to buy it becomes reduces. 

2. Know why 

It is important to know why your child follows a specific influencer. It could be because the influencer does fun activities or shares certain information. But also, for instance, that other classmates follow this influencer and your child wants to join in. It is good to keep watch of what they like and understand why they like certain content. Ask questions about it or watch a vlog they enjoy watching together with them. 

 3. Just like real friends 

Many children see influencers as their friends. This stems from how strongly they relate to influencers, or how much they tend to also look up to them. This connection means that kids will also follow their advice. This can have positive effects, as studies have shown how influencers can encourage children to pick up healthy habits, such as eating healthily or getting in enough movement. But it can also lead to picking up bad habits. Therefore, it’s important – just like with real friends – to discuss this with your child. 

 4. Behind the scenes 

Influencers only display a small part of their lives, which does not paint an accurate picture of their actual lives. Teach your child that not everything they see on social media is real, but that a photo or video shows you just a part of the bigger picture. Content is always edited, directed and thought out beforehand. This can be seen as “staged authenticity”. Though they may claim something is authentic, it is only a small part of the bigger picture that the influencer chooses to share. This is not their real and complete life. Especially with the rise of AI and virtual influencers, the distinction can sometimes be harder to make. 

5. Know what’s happening 

As a parent, it’s very important that you are up to date on your child’s world and remain so. Put aside any judgement and place yourself in the shoes of your child. It can also be helpful to speak to other parents about this and exchange experiences. In this way, you know more about what is going on and you will be able to determine whether there are influencers who share content that is not appropriate for your child’s age, so you can make new agreements about this with them. 

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