Names like Lisa and Lena, Melina Sophie or Julien Bam come up often at your house and you know for sure that they are not friends of your child? Then your son or daughter probably has a crush on an Internet star or influencer.
Young people in particular often spend several hours a day on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. In doing so, they look at videos and photos of people they don’t know personally, but about whom they nevertheless know a lot and on whom they orient themselves. These so-called influencers report on their supposed everyday life in pictures or videos and deal with topics such as fashion, beauty or gaming. Influencers often have a presence on multiple social media platforms. Athletes, models and pop stars are also active as influencers.
Fans or followers or subscribers communicate with their stars: they answer surveys, respond to calls, such as challenges, or like and comment on posts. So they feel like they are somehow connected to the influencers.
The most famous influencers have an enormous reach from thousands of followers to an audience of millions: the twins Lisa and Lena have as more than 15 million subscribers on Instagram and over 10 million followers on TikTok. YouTuber Bianca “Bibi” Heinicke from BibisBeautyPalace has 5.9 million subscribers and Julian Bam 5.7 million.
Adults often miss out on this trend. For many young people, influencers are role models and have a great influence on them – hence the term influencer. They are often the same age as their fans or just a few years older and appear to act naturally, so that their followers trust them and seek advice as if they were their big siblings.
Companies have recognized the value of influencers and use both the platforms and their stars for marketing purposes. In the photos and videos of the Instagramer one sees directly or also only “incidentally” products like beauty articles or clothes of certain brands. Companies also often use influencers to boost the credibility and popularity of a brand. What looks like a personal recommendation from a famous influencer is often advertising.
The boundaries between one’s own opinion and advertising are blurring and becoming difficult to discern. This is mainly because not all influencers mark their posts with “advertising” or “advertisement”, even though this is actually mandatory. It is unclear whether the influencer bought the product in question himself or was paid to hold it up to the camera.
Children and young people don’t necessarily realize this or take a less critical view of it, as they want to emulate their online idols and are easily influenced by them. For example, if influencers dress a certain way, kids and teens associate those brands with their stars and want to dress the same way.
It seems so easy to succeed and make money as an influencer. That’s why many children and young people want to become YouTubers or influencers themselves. But the photos and videos posted don’t show the work behind a life as an influencer.
Young followers are not only influenced by topics such as fashion and lifestyle. Influencers portray themselves in certain ways, often embellished by filters and poses. They are mostly pretty, slim, athletic and successful. You have to look hard on social media for role models who don’t look perfect and ideal. Young people hardly ever come into contact with it. You can read more about this in our article Diversity and Role Models in Social Media.
Social media platforms are also used to inform and express opinions. That’s why influencers who want to politically motivate young followers or even convince them of their extreme views also cavort there. If your child begins to take an interest in social issues such as environmental protection or equal rights as a result, this is certainly a positive thing. But there are not always good intentions behind it: Quite inconspicuously, certain influencers, e.g. in a cooking video, influence their audience by interspersing derogatory comments about certain groups of people or persons that actually have nothing to do with the video content.
Don’t judge your child’s stars. You probably also had a crush on a star as a teenager that your parents thought was stupid. You don’t have to like your child’s influencers, but should try to understand what your child likes about them. Show interest and ask which people your child follows on Instagram and Co. Together, question what the influencer is showing in the posts and what could be behind it.
It is normal to look for role models when you are in the process of developing your own personality. Encourage your child to think about it and be available as a point of contact if he or she has questions.
Our colleagues from klicksafe have summarized the phenomenon of influencers in a video by #Elterninformiert.