Whether it's picture poses, outfits or trends - influencers on social media 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 on young people. 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 subject of influencers.

What is an Influencer? - simply explained

As the name "influencer" suggests, these people try to influence their fans with their posts on social networks. These include, for example,  TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. They often share their entire lives with their followers and market products and services in the process. Young people in particular often quickly get the impression that they also know their role models in private.

Among the most popular and successful social media influencers in Germany are Lisa and Lena and Younes Zarou. The twins Lisa and Lena share their everyday lives with their followers, especially on TikTok and Instagram. They share outfit inspirations, skateboard videos or insights into their work on various TV sets. 

Younes is the most successful TikTok star in Germany (April 2023). He offers his more than 53 million followers (as of June 2023) creative videos in which visual effects play a major role. His trademark: He posts explanatory videos about the effects used (making-ofs) afterwards. 

Manipulation through hidden advertising

Orientation to role models inspires and motivates children and young people. Both positive and negative influences are possible. Advertising is usually viewed particularly critically. Influencers often include them in their posts and videos in a rather hidden way. Children and young people are particularly at risk of not recognizing the hidden advertising messages as such. This makes it easier for them to be manipulated.

In order to be able to critically scrutinize their idols on the web, 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 buying pads 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.

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 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.

Influencer influence

For children and young people in particular, recommendations from their favorite influencers provide a certain amount of guidance. 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 their opinions. Around one fifth even said that they were explicitly guided in their opinion formation by influencers.

Tips for guardians

Children and young people need support at school and at home. This is the only way they can learn to correctly assess the goals and actions of influencers and influencer marketing. They also need help in filtering information and evaluating it for relevance and truth. Conversations and an honest interest in the young people's lives are a good way to start. In the classroom, it is important to address these issues and offer projects to teach children and young people about reflection and critical assessment.

  1. Keep up the conversation 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 learning with 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.