June 10, 2020, Toronto – The rise of the Internet has led to the creation of the social media influencer, altering the aspirations of children around the world.
A recent British survey of 2,000 parents of children aged 11 to 16 years shows strong interest in being an influencer for a career. Among parents whose children told them what they want to do when they grow up, 17 per cent said they wanted to be a social media influencer, and another 14 per cent desired to be a YouTuber. Only doctor, at 18 per cent, was higher.
“This news should put parents on alert,” says Alexis Dorais-Joncas, lead of ESET’s research and development team in Montreal. “As with all aspects of life, there are dangers and pitfalls in the online world. But in the digital realm, the threats aren’t always evident, and some of them hide behind veils of anonymity.”
When your kids are online and working on building a following that would make them worthy the title of “influencer,” here are some red flags that may pop up along the way:
- Online Hate — Sadly, this is inevitable. The vitriol that can flow from someone hiding behind the safety of their screen is disturbingly sad. Comment sections are flooded with hurtful messages and threats — frightening for anybody, no matter their age. If your children are active online and are actively building a following, parents can help by moderating comments, reporting inappropriate behavior and using parental control tools to monitor your kid’s activity online. With parental support, kids can be taught how to act responsibly and articulate their opinion.
- Oversharing and Online Stalking — Kim Kardashian is one of the most influential figures on social media. During one of her visits to Paris, this backfired. She was robbed at gun point, resulting in the theft of US$8 million worth of jewelry. The heist was organized based simply on following Kim’s whereabouts through her social media posts. This example of oversharing should be a warning to anyone, especially to young influencers who will do almost anything to please their followers. Parents should help their kids set boundaries between their public and private lives. It is also helpful to drill home that anything posted online will stay there forever.
- Followers are Not Real Friends — We spend so much time in the digital landscape that it can be easy to forget that it is no real life. Children in particular have a tendency to overlook the fact that followers are not real friends. A digital connection in an online platform is not going to be there when they need a break from the latest social media craze, and they won’t be a confidant in difficult times. It is crucial that parents encourage real friendships and strong family ties that should not be neglected for a digital life.
“Parents should work hard to build bridges across the generation gap,” says Dorais-Joncas. “Stay up to date on the latest teen trends, keep an eye on the posts of the influencers your kids follow and be prepared to talk with your kids about inappropriate content you find online.
“Ultimately, accept your child’s ambition to be a content creator on social media. This provides you with an opportunity to be close to them and teach them more than just how to prepare their online stream.”
To learn more about the dangers faced by children online as well as about how technology can help, check out ESET‘s Safer Kids Online platform.