An influencer is somebody who effects a decision somebody makes by acting as an authoritative figure in the minds of the viewer. In YouTube, this functions as content creators taking sponsorships from businesses. YouTubers then use these sponsorships as a source of income, and in return advertise products on their videos, which makes them an influencer - urging fans to buy the products which they think their ‘idols’ use.
Having advertisements and sponsored videos on YouTube should not be a huge problem. As YouTube replaces TV, businesses have moved on to advertising their products online through creators instead of television shows, because brands move to where the consumers are. However, the demographics of the site create an issue. As children viewership has increased on the website, the social responsibility of the organisation and its creators has grown in turn.
The number of children on YouTube is astounding. Ofcom’s report on ‘Children attitudes towards social media’ reports that 81% of 8-11 year olds are on YouTube. As children surface on such platforms, influencers have greater and greater power to market products to children, arguably making them the most influential members of society.
This market power is utilized in a number of different ways. One ad campaign, by the clothing brand New Look, featured YouTube personality Beckii Cruel asking her fans to wear a New Look scarf in a ‘different way’, helping to create an army of consumers for the brand. Another regular influencer is Logan Paul, infamous for his ‘Suicide Forest’ debacle. He has a huge child viewership, and has also partnered up with Pepsi in the past, promoting the drink. In short, a sugary, unhealthy drink was promoted to millions of children thanks to YouTube influencers. This is a clear detriment to society.
YouTubers do not just influence children to buy products however; they also influence behaviour. This is much more dangerous. Mainstream creators like KSI and Logan Paul have become modern role models, new idols for children. These people fight each other in glorified boxing matches, create ‘diss tracks’ and indulge in pranking random members of society. What’s worse is that is doesn’t seem like some creators are aware their responsibility. In a televised interview, when asked about being a role model, KSI replies with “I don’t see myself as a role model’.
YouTube is not necessarily an entirely bad site. The website is an amazing tool for educating and informing, utilising its worldwide viewership to bring different worlds, cultures and people together. The ease of accessibility that YouTube has makes it an ideal place for all people including children, and most of the time it is a good experience for everyone. However, the influence of these ‘child-friendly’ creators remains concerning. These creators may not be deliberately using their status negatively; messages of ‘self-love’ and inclusiveness are also being spread around the platform, all of which do have a positive undertone to them. Nevertheless, the impact of influencers can be adverse if they aren’t kept in check by the adults of society – and promoting a product or a type of behaviour that might prove to have some negative impact on children, should be put an end to.