‘Everyone wants to be famous…’ Alternative/ Indie band Superorganism sings. Isn’t that the age-old adage? Everyone wants to be famous, except being famous now is slightly more achievable than it was years ago. 20 years ago, you needed some kind of talent, usually of the singing, dancing, performing variety. These days all you need is an Instagram account, a few handy filters and a load of click bait hashtags and you can be Instagram famous.
But to become famous in this way you need carefully edited photos, with five hundred clicks of the shutter just to find one perfect image, showing an unrealistic reality only to gain a couple of thousand likes. Maybe you will gain a few endorsement deals out of it. While Instagram is full of carefully crafted pictures, creating a fake reality for its users, what happens when parents turn their kids into Instagram influencers?
Scrolling through Instagram you see photos of children, little girls in pink frilly dresses surrounded by books with hearts in their hair, or mothers with daughters in matching outfits, families riding bikes in very picturesque scenes, artfully posing in a field of flowers with hair curled, lace dresses on, looking as if they are from a different era.
But do these images paint a realistic image of childhood? Do the kids actually like getting all dressed up and being told to stand and pose while their parents take photo after photo of them sitting, standing, doing whatever unrealistic thing they may be doing?
Most 5-year olds enjoy running around, getting dirty or playing with their toys, but when parents create Instagram accounts for their children, is it because the child wants to be in pictures or because the parents want to create ‘kidfluencers’?
One question we need to ask ourselves is this: are the children able to keep up with the role of becoming a public figure? A survey of 2,000 British parents of 11- to 16-year olds shows that 17% want to be a social media influencer and 14% want to be a YouTuber. Gone are the days of kids wanting to be astronauts, firefighters, or doctors. Now they all want to be influencers.
What many don’t take into account is the mental health problems that are associated with social media use. As social media evolves, there is a risk that young influencers may experience feelings of inadequacy and feeling challenged as they get older, which can be detrimental to children’s emotional wellbeing.
And parents are not just throwing their children into Instagram: it is also YouTube and Vlogs. Little twin girls Mila and Emma are known for their YouTube channel in which they appear in adult conversations, from what they want to be when they grow up to making fun of people who go to the gym. Mila and Emma have done advertising for Amazon, Nest, Dollar Rental Car, Macy’s and Walmart, among other companies. They recently flew to the premiere of Aladdin and appeared on the red carpet. But what comes with all this fame is the constant need to create content. These twins have a full-time job having scripted conversations, or filming advertisements.
While the sweet-spot for kids to have vlogs and be kid influencers is 2-4 years old, this is also the age that children do the most learning and developing. Surely a four year-old should be having sensory play, and learning to count to ten, rather than having a full time job creating internet content and becoming famous for something they don’t fully understand?
The question remains, should we be encouraging children to become influencers? While more children are growing up to become influencers, are they fully equipped to handle the pressures that come with social media and living in the public eye?