TeacherLists Blog

Children, Influencers, and Impulse Buying Online


You may have seen news outlets reporting on the trend of young girls flocking to makeup stores, or maybe you’ve seen it while shopping yourself; it could even be that your child is suddenly asking for expensive skincare and you’re not sure where it came from. No matter the case, this topic has taken the internet by storm, and seemingly everyone has an opinion on it. We’re here to get you up-to-date on the trend, and most importantly, help you talk to your kids about influencers and covert social media marketing.

What’s going on?

While the exact origin of this trend is unknown, one thing is for certain: social media has had a massive impact on the self-esteem of young girls. Beauty influencers on TikTok and Instagram Reels have made pre-teens develop a chronic fear of aging, causing them to want expensive and extensive skincare routines that are often dangerous for pediatric skin: think retinoids, $50 moisturizers, and anti-aging creams. They hear adults online talk about wrinkles, sun spots, skin texture, large pores, and other normal parts of being a person, as things that need to be removed. Since pre-teens don’t have these features yet, they want a thorough skincare routine to help prevent them entirely.

How is this happening?

Most influencers are not purposefully advertising to kids. The main problem is with the algorithms these apps use. When users go viral for recommending their favorite products, the algorithm will spare no one, especially a potential customer. If your child has been watching beauty influencers use fun, sparkly eyeshadow on TikTok, the algorithm will determine your child as someone who could be interested in this must-have product for 20-somethings.

However, some influencers are continuing to use deceptive advertising practices and not fully disclose when one of their videos is actually an ad. Legally, online advertisements need to be obvious. In practice, that’s not the case. As such, young minds can consume hours of advertisements online and not even realize it– they’ve seen all their favorite influencers post about the same $75 “skin-saving” serum, so it must really be that good. They need it.

In a more recent development, pre-teens are seeing this uptick in beauty content as an opportunity for them to cash in on the trend. “Gen Alpha” influencers have started popping up on TikTok, where they demonstrate that infamous skincare routine to thousands of people. Now, the fear of missing out is even more personal to the young viewer. They watch someone their age use every product they’ve ever dreamed of and think, “why can’t I have that, too?”

How can I protect my kids from this?

It’s inevitable that your children will want to be on social media and participate in trends, but it’s crucial that you talk to them about social media smarts and the truth about influencer marketing. Here are some tips to help them develop a healthy relationship with social media.

  1. Educate them on the signs of paid promotions. Discount codes, PR box openings, and tagging the company of the featured product are just a few of the many signs you may be looking at a paid promotion.
  2. Remind them that influencing is a job. No one is giving out a discount code out of the kindness of their heart. No one is making a 5-minute-long Get Ready With Me video detailing every step of their routine for no reason. It’s okay to watch, but think of it more like acting in a TV show than documenting real life.
  3. Talk about the advancements of photo and video editing. It’s part of the job for influencers to look good. As such, they use heavy filters and edit their videos to look their best. Not to mention, a non-traditional job with extremely high pay means they have access to resources like personal trainers and expensive food that most of us don’t. It’s unrealistic for your child to hold themselves to those standards.
  4. Discuss the “Highlight Reel” effect. People only post their best online. This even goes for your child’s friends, too! It’s not an honest look into someone’s life, it’s simply a highlight reel.
  5. Encourage your child to diversify the content they watch. If they like beauty influencers, encourage them to seek out influencers with different looks and styles. Encourage them to find influencers that aren’t afraid to show acne, scars, and other normal parts of being human.
  6. Validate their feelings. Even adults have a hard time with impulse buying because of influencers. Adults compare themselves to what they see online, too. What you feel as an adult with everything you know about the industry is only a fraction of what a young, impressionable person is feeling. Handle these conversations with kindness and empathy.
  7. Foster their growth and self-expression. As kids inch closer and closer to adolescence, their sense of self and individualism will become increasingly important. They’ll want to experiment with makeup and different styles, and yes, some of it may be influenced by what they see online. The freedom to express themselves will help alleviate feelings of general unease as they go through that uncomfortable time. Only you can decide what’s age appropriate for your child, but be open to discussion and hear them out when they want to make a change.

Originally posted 2024

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