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Does Your Child Want To Be An Influencer? Here's What You Need To Know
  • Your nine-year-old approaches you and declares he wants to be a YouTube influencer. Should you be scared or should you be supportive?  As parents navigating how the ‘kid influencer phenomenon’ works can be complicated and intimidating. It can also raise quite a few ethical questions especially once the child influencer starts to monetize his content, which is not unlikely.  

    Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World is one of the most successful YouTube kid influencers whose content has become a common fixture in living rooms of families around the world. He has tens of millions of followers and has also managed to monetize his content (also in the millions), guided by his parents.

    Watching Ryan’s World can be pure fun especially from the eyes of a young child. His toy unboxing and gimmicks are exciting, the rest of his family are just as infectiously fun as they join the kids in play, and in many ways, Ryan’s family looks just like yours.

    In short, his content is relatable and it’s easy for other children to see themselves doing the same things as Ryan. 

    'In Ryan's World, they're opening up a new toy every day, so there’s this constant consumerism being embedded within these messages for children. -Benjamin Burroughs, assistant professor

    Benjamin Burroughs, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at the University of Nevada (UNLV) who studies emerging and social media trends, is one of those dads whose children watch Ryan’s World. In an article posted on University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) website, Burroughs talks extensively about the child influencer phenomenon and covers some ethical questions that stems from this.

    His questions are something parents may have to deal with should they allow their kids to create their own content, share it with the rest of the world, and become influencers in the process. 


    What does it mean to be a child that consumes constantly?

    Burroughs' interest in social media influencers started when his own children wanted him to do the things Ryan’s family was doing. “In Ryan’s family, they’re able to constantly consume content and products. They’re opening up a new toy every day, and subsequently playing with that new toy every day, so there’s this constant consumerism that’s being embedded within these messages for children,” he shared.

    ‘What does it mean to be a child that consumes constantly?’ is one of the ethical questions Burroughs raised that parents will inevitably have to ponder on at some point. While historically, advertising to children has been regulated by government, with You Tube, that has all gone away, said Burroughs.

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    Because of this, there is not only lack of control over how much branding and consumption messaging was good for children but children are being targeted by child influencers in ways that parents may not be cognizant of or aware of, he adds. 

    “There is kind of a pernicious promise of YouTube that’s all about consumption,” he warned.  Parents should be wary of content that connects consumption with play “in a way that creates this need for constant consumption, not only of YouTube content, but of the branded content itself,” he expounded.

    How can you protect influencer-audience relationship from commercial exploitation?

    While children as brands endorsers are not something new, Burroughs says there is a shift when it comes to online influencers. According to him the difference lies in the feeling of proximity, of that sense of closeness to the influencer, who’s just like a regular kid with a regular family.

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    On children as influencers: 'What does it mean to have a child that has all this attention, and has all this ability to influence the perceptions of family by other children?' 

    In the case of Ryan’s world, he points out that filming Ryan playing with toys produces a “kind proximity to the audience,” which he thinks is unique compared to other “iterations of child influencing.”

    Unlike advertisement as seen on TV or heard on radio, influencers like Ryan create relationships with their audience, Burrough observed. “YouTubers have a great understanding of their audience and are constantly trying to nurture and build that relationship, because their value is in the perception of their connection to the audience.”

    This connection with the audience is what brands value and this is where they have been able to inject themselves -- into that influencer-audience relationship.  

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    How will being an influencer impact my child’s life?

    Burroughs, who has focused on the impact of YouTube for his research, observes that the video sharing service is the platform of choice for kids’ content. “You don’t really have child influencers popping up on Twitter, for example, and tweeting to a child audience.”  

    He explained that You Tube is visual, tactile and easy to navigate and upload new content on. “My 2-year-old can go through and access content, and get to the content that he wants to watch, which is a little scary if you think about it.”

    YouTube, no doubt, has given many talented children the opportunity to showcase their talents, find their own voice, create unique content, and even monetize these contents but how will all these impact their life?


    Parents need to have conversations with their children about consumption practices, what they're watching, and what it means to be a family.

    Burroughs poses a question parents and society may have to contend with at some point: What does it mean to have a child that has all this attention, and has all this ability to influence the perceptions of family by other children?

    Burrough emphasizes on the importance of parents’ guidance and navigating the possible impact of the influencer phenomenon on a child. 

    He said, “There needs to be a larger discussion about parents having conversations with their children about consumption practices, about what they’re watching and how they’re understanding what it means to be an influencer, and what it means to be a family.” 

    He adds that these values needs to be balanced with this idea of empowerment coming from building content for YouTube, which he thinks has also positive remifications.

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