Kidfluencers: Is it ethical?
Ryan ToysReview, a children’s Youtube channel that features Ryan, who turned seven last December, has earned $22 mil, according to Forbes magazine. Managed by his parents, who also present along with his twin sisters, they are releasing a new video everyday. As of February 19, their “Huge Eggs Surprise Toys Challenge" has over 1.7 billion views, making it the 39th most viewed video ever.
Who are the viewers? According to Youtube Analytics, they say mostly women aged 25 to 44. But according to Alex Chavez-Munoz, the founder of Viral Talent that works with child influencers, a lot of these viewers are actually children using their parents’ devices.
US federal law protects children under 13, and for television, there is the Federal Communications Commission to regulate children’s TV. But this is not the case with Youtube and Instagram, owned by Google and Facebook respectively. They just do not allow their channels or accounts to be registered by anyone under 13. The rest of the regulating they pretty much leave to parents.
As television viewing continues to drop and online activity grows, even among the youngest, companies see social media, particularly Youtube and Instagram, as the best channels to reach their consumers.
The kidfluencers endorsement deals can be quite lucrative, from $10,000 to $50,000 for a sponsored video on Youtube. A 30- to 90-second “shout out” on a longer video can also earn as much as $25,000.
Meanwhile, on Instagram, child social media celebrities can be paid by a company or brand $10 per post per every 1000 followers, and they may have over two million.
According to merchdope.com, there are now 1,300,000,000 persons viewing Youtube with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute and five billion videos watched each day. What television channel can compete with this kind of reach?
Josh Gollin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told The New York Times that with this power companies like Crayola, Dreamworks, Walmart and Claire’s do not have the incentive to keep children away and are employing kidfluencers to in fact target children.
Meanwhile, families are using younger members who are gamers, video bloggers, fashionistas and just personalities to anchor their family channel. Ryan ToysReview is a prime example with
their videos a cross between reality television, pranks and skits.
The 2015 PBS Frontline documentary, Generation Like, by correspondent Douglas Rushkoff “explores how the perennial teen quest for identity and connection has migrated to social media and exposes the game of cat-and-mouse that corporations are playing with these young consumers.”
Psychologists say the younger the child, the easier it can be to manipulate them. Now, with children born into the online social media world, will we be able to protect them? Can we trust the parents of these kidfluencers as well as brands to act ethically in their decision making or do we need government regulation?