Whether it's picture poses, outfits or trends - influencers are the new stars and dictate what's hot. Hidden advertising messages, distorted representations of reality and problematic content and role models can have a negative influence. How do influencers work and what should parents and guardians keep in mind? We answer these questions in our topic area. There is also a wide range of materials for parents, teachers and young people on the topic of influencers.

What is an influencer?

As the name "influencer" suggests, the stars of the younger generation try to influence their fans with their posts on social networks like TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. They often share their entire lives with their followers and market products and services in the process. They often show themselves close in front of the camera and give insights into their private lives. This quickly gives viewers the impression that they also know their idols in private.

Among the most popular and successful influencers in Germany are Bibi's Beauty Palace and Younes Zarou. While Bibi focuses on YouTube with posts on topics such as beauty, fashion and lifestyle, Younes is Germany's most successful TikTok star. He offers his more than 47 million followers (as of June 2022) creative videos in which visual effects play a major role. His trademark: He posts explanatory videos about the effects used (making-ofs) afterwards.

Influencer and advertising

Orientation to role models inspires and motivates children and young people. Positive and negative influences are possible. Advertising, which influencers often include in their posts and videos in passing, is usually viewed particularly critically. Children and young people are particularly at risk of not recognizing the hidden advertising messages as such.

In order to be able to critically question their idols online, children and young people need to learn how influencers earn money. On the infographic "How do YouTube stars earn money?" we have shown examples of the many different ways of earning money on the YouTube platform. Particularly problematic here are purchasing models that suggest to children and young people that they can get closer to their idols by paying money. This includes, for example, the possibility of highlighting a comment by making a monetary donation so that it is more likely to be seen.

Influencers are particularly attractive to the advertising industry because they have a high level of credibility in their community and tend to have the status of friends. If they advertise a product, their fans often perceive this as a recommendation from a valued person. And while people tend to look critically at traditional advertising, they are much more favorably disposed toward recommendations from friends.

Advertising content must also be clearly marked for influencers.

The Medienanstalten's guide - Tips for offerings on YouTube, Instagram and Co. contains assistance on the labeling requirements foradvertising in social media offerings (such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, etc.) and other online media such as blogs and podcasts. The guide is also suitable for learning which rules apply to advertising in social media and how to recognize labeled advertising content.

Opinion power in social media

Especially for children and young people, recommendations from their favorite influencers provide a certain orientation. This was also shown in a survey conducted by klicksafe as part of Safer Internet Day 2020. Just under a third of respondents aged 13 to 20 said that social media influence the formation of opinions. Around one fifth even said that they were explicitly guided in their opinion formation by influencers.

The fact that many posts often present a distorted reality can be difficult for younger users to see through. The advertising industry also takes advantage of this to sell its products specifically to the young target group via influencer marketing. Because if the beloved online star uses a product, many children and young people want that too. Almost half of the students surveyed in the klicksafe survey confirmed that theyfollow influencers' purchase recommendations.

Tips for guardians

Children and young people need support at school and at home so that they can learn to correctly assess the goals and actions of influencers and influencer marketing. They also need help in filtering information and evaluating its relevance and truthfulness. Conversations and an honest interest in the lives of young people - both at home and at school - are a good place to start. In the classroom, it is important to take up these topics and offer projects to teach children and young people reflection and critical assessment.

  1. Stay in touch with your children about the currently popular influencers. For example, have your child introduce you to their three favorite influencers. To get an overview yourself, you can watch the klicksafe video series "#ParentsInformed" on the topic of influencers. Our information brochures "What does my child actually do on ..." also provide an overview of the YouTube, TikTok and Twitch platforms.
  2. Make children & aware of problematic tendencies among influencers. This will enable them to classify their idols in a competent and informed manner.
  3. Promote background knowledge, for example, by informing your child about the actual everyday life and working methods of influencers. With the infographic "How do YouTube stars earn money?" you can clearly explain what sources of income there are. The "YouTube Family Checklist" also offers many opportunities to start a conversation together.

For educational practice, the material Kosmos YouTube offers an ideal basis for talking to young people about their idols on the Internet.