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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

A look Into the Murky Side of KidInfluencing

Corporations have taken to paying young YouTubers with millions of followers to promote their products. What implications does this hold for the future of marketing toward children?

What is one thing Walmart, Staples and Dreamworks all have in common? They have paid thousands of U.S. dollars for the marketing services of a new wave of influencers: children below the age of 12. This young niche of internet influencers have coined the term, or kidfluencers. Although kidfluencers have been around for a number of years – a good number of them starting out as adorable additions to their parents’ Instagram and YouTube accounts – the kidfluencer market has only recently begun to show tremendous growth. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers stated that, “The under 13 digital media market is showing a 25 percent year on year growth rate.”
These young influencers now command fees as high as 10,000 to 15,000 USD for promotional instagram posts and 45,000 for sponsored YouTube videos. Forbes Magazine announced that seven-year-old YouTube star Ryan, of Ryan ToysReview, made 22 million dollars in 2018, becoming 2018’s highest earning YouTuber. The young boy even outearned YouTube megastars PewDiePie and Jake Paul.
The growth of the kidfluencer industry is indeed astounding. However, the industry’s unprecedented growth also raises a litany of concerns. For starters, we ought to ask whether children have the requisite understanding of the merchandise they market or the marketing industry at all? Most kidfluencers are too young to have well-informed opinions, or to be knowledgable enough about the companies and products they advertise. It is the parents who handle contracts, while the children are mostly instructed on what good things to say about the companies and their commodities. The kidfluencers give millions of their trusting followers the impression that they swear by the products they market, and persuade them to purchase these goods. Meanwhile, most of the kid stars are not fully aware of what they are encouraging their followers to buy, or even what they are saying.
Most parents would not allow their children to advertise a harmful product; nevertheless, each kidfluencer’s followers place a great amount of trust in the opinion of a child and believe the products being recommended are actively used by the child. As such the question still remains whether these underage influencers are misusing the trust viewers may place in their content.
Another disadvantage of kidfluencing is the level of unhealthy exposure that all internet users have to the children who participate in kidfluencing. The New York Times reported that many sexually offensive remarks were made by pedophiles on the comment sections of some preteen girls’ YouTube videos. The article states, “The commenters left time stamps for parts of the video that can appear compromising when paused — like a girl’s backside or bare legs. They also posted remarks that praised the girls, asked whether they were wearing underwear, or simply carried a string of sexually suggestive emojis.”
For toddlers, these comments may have no significant effect. However, for older preteens approaching adolescence, exposure to these statements could affect the way they handle matters of body image and sexuality.
Despite these concerns, it cannot be denied that the industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. In light of the industry’s massive leaps, parents and companies may have to move to create better online protection for these young internet stars. Progress is already being made. The New York Times reported that a number of major brands, including Nestle and Epic games, decided to stop buying advertisement spaces on YouTube after their ads appeared on the videos that had vulgar comments. The decisions of these companies may ensure that YouTube is more proactive in protecting kidnfluencers.
It should not be ignored that kidinfluencing has given children a massive platform to make their opinions known. A good example of how this is achieved is in the production of kid-centered commodities. Brands who wish to work with and even establish long lasting relationships with child influencers are compelled to listen to their demands and produce more commodities that satisfy these requests. In this way, children, represented by the kidinfluencers, are given more of a say in the manufacturing of their products.
Kidfluencing may be the new trend, but the industry is not without its complications and concerns. Time will tell whether society is able to effectively address these issues to ensure an industry with innocence at its core does not become corrupted.
Chisom Ezeifemeelu is a staff writer. Email her at
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