Children's Influencers on YouTube - a Controversial Success Model

On YouTube, there are more and more formats in which children recommend products and give personal insights into their everyday lives.

Eight-year-old Miley is currently one of the biggest children's YouTube stars in Germany. She appears as an influencer in the marketing of Bibi Blocksberg, for example. Her YouTube channel "Miley's World" currently has more than half a million subscribers (as of August 2018). In the U.S., six-year-old Ryan's channel "Ryan ToyReviews" is one of the highest-paid YouTubers, with more than 15 million subscribers.

While some users and parents are very critical of influencer marketing with children because of its instrumentalization, other parents and advertisers see it as a lucrative opportunity to market (their) children.

Event on the topic
The symposium "Between toys, camera and YouTube - children and influencing in social media" on 27.09.2018 would like to illuminate the field of tension of children-influencers in social media from different perspectives and discuss it with actors from different disciplines. A special focus will be placed on the following areas:

  • Children's privacy rights on the Internet,
  • Instrumentalization of children in social media, and
  • Inadmissible direct sales appeals to children in social networks.

The symposium is aimed at stakeholders from the fields of media policy, youth media protection and media literacy promotion and is a cooperation event of the German Children's Fund and the Commission for Youth Media Protection. Participation in the event is free of charge. Registrations are possible until 19.09.2018.

Product placements and product recommendations on YouTube
Google's video platform is one of the most used web offerings worldwide and offers a wide range of content produced specifically for children, among others. Many YouTubers are role models for children and young people. The channels of the most successful German YouTubers are subscribed to millions of times over, enabling them to generate high advertising revenues. In addition to pre- or post-production advertising clips and in-video ads, YouTubers can earn money through product placements and product recommendations. This so-called "influencer marketing" works so well because brands take on an important function, especially in childhood and adolescence. It's a matter of setting oneself apart, demonstrating affiliation and dealing with the effect on other people. Brands, especially in the areas of electronics, clothing and beauty, have an orienting function during this time of the search for identity and offer security. If a product or brand recommendation comes from the mouth of a role model, this can have a major influence on the purchase decision of young fans. In many cases, the exact product names and so-called affiliate links are included in the video description for the products mentioned, which direct users to online stores when they click on them. When a purchase is made, the YouTuber and any management involved share in the revenue. In some cases, the product recommendations or product placements are marked as such. With the guide "Am I allowed to do that? How am I allowed to do that?", the state media authorities provide an FAQ catalog that answers the most frequently asked questions about product presentations and advertising messages in self-produced YouTube videos and other social media.

YouTube - a platform for children?
Even though children's influencers or content designed for children can be found on YouTube, the video platform is not geared towards the target group of children and their needs. The minimum age for YouTube use within the EU is 13. With YouTube Kids, the platform offers a special app that is intended to ensure that only content suitable for children and families can be played. The offer is curated both automatically and manually, but even with YouTube Kids it can happen that unsuitable videos appear.

Since 2013, the video platform Juki has offered a safe and non-commercial alternative for children who want to watch videos by other children or upload their own videos. All videos on the platform are accompanied by media pedagogy and pre-screened by the editorial team. This ensures that all uploaded contributions are suitable for children.  

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