Influencing is Big Business, Here’s Why That’s Bad for Kids

When your kid launches YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media, they probably check the most recent posts by their favorite vloggers (video bloggers) and influencers.

Do you know what happens next? Are your kids’ online idols pushing dangerous products, ideas, and behaviors?

While many internet personalities produce silly, fun, or harmless content, many might encourage or sell dangerous products. 

And why not? According to Goldman Sachs the current online creator market is worth $250 billion and is projected to nearly double to $480 billion by 2027.

The bottom line? Today’s online world can be a very hazardous place for kids. 

Influencing is Big Business – With Little Regulation

When kids go online, they often enter a vast world of influencers and creators, including some who promote dangerous products or ideas. Their goal is to create emotional bonds with impressionable youth to sell everything from nicotine pouches to steroids to unproven health claims. 

Social media influencers share much of their lives, showing followers their likes and dislikes, personality quirks, experiences, and more. An internet personality can start to feel like a real friend, especially to kids. However, influencers also need to make money; certain types of content can mean more followers and, therefore, more cash. Whatever attracts more eyeballs attracts more money, and some internet personalities may not be concerned with the ethical implications of their actions if it means more followers.

The FTC has rules that govern posting sponsored content, but these rules are not always followed. And what about influencers who are promoting dangerous products or ideas without the help of advertising money? They aren’t required to disclose anything about negative consequences.

What Are Unscrupulous Influencers Selling Our Kids?

Here are some risky products and behaviors content creators have been caught promoting:

  • Zyn nicotine pouch sales grew 62 percent between 2022 and 2023, primarily due to influencer hype. 
  • TikTok influencers are selling steroid-like drugs to their followers, even though many are illegal to purchase. Creators have encouraged people to lie to access these drugs, which have many dangerous side effects. Some of these accounts specifically target teens.
  • One study showed that YouTube’s most popular kid influencers (ages 3-14) frequently promote unhealthy food and drinks to millions of followers.
  • Many wellness influencers share false conspiracy theories about COVID-19, climate change, sunscreen, wifi, and more. Some have even been caught lying about unregulated products they’re promoting.
  • Social media platforms have faced criticism for failing to delete pro-eating disorder creators and content. Posters have found ways to get around certain banned words or phrases, and closed groups on platforms like Discord and Snapchat are havens for users sharing pro-eating disorder information and tips.

Protect Your Kids and Keep the Dialogue Going 

Recent news has heightened concerns about what kids and teens are learning from their favorite accounts—away from the watchful eyes of their parents. These tips will help you talk with the kids in your life about what type of content they are consuming online.

  1. Ask children about their interests and influencers with an open mind. Get to know who and what they are engaging with.
     
  2. Select and review new content together. You can also use review sites like Common Sense Media to understand what’s out there.
     
  3. Ask your kids what their favorite influencers are up to! Bringing their interests into a shared conversation helps them know you are engaged, and they are safe to tell you what kind of media they consume.
     
  4. Replace fear with curiosity and empathy. Remember what it was like to be a kid and idolize the celebrities and artists of your era? Your kid is doing the same online. Please keep the discussion going as they grow.

If your child has been exposed to a content creator promoting dangerous or risky products and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.