Today's tweens are getting introduced to commercial content earlier than ever before via the intense influence of YouTube vloggers, AUT lecturer Kate Jones says.
Entertainment, socialising and creating an online identity are the three main things tweens (10 to 13-year-olds) do on the internet and now a slew of vloggers are exerting a powerful influence on them via popular platforms, Jones says.
“In the last few years, there’s been a real explosion of children’s viewing of vloggers on YouTube.”
“Every time children interact on YouTube with a vlogger those interactions constitute influence on the child.
“The sites these vloggers use, they’re very easy to navigate, they load fast, they look good and they offer two-way communication. The vlogger will often answer questions from a user and so a subscriber builds up a perception of a one-on-one communication.”
In the UK, vloggers such as Zoella (Zoe Sugg) have millions of young followers, Jones says.
Many preteens view social media stars such as Zoella and New Zealand beauty vlogger Shannon XO as trusted sources of information, and as a result, they're being introduced to brands earlier and in an intimate way, Jones says.
“We might be looking at a more intense or even sped-up process of becoming a consumer in the way that children can interact on these platforms.”
Interactions with such vloggers are largely “unregulated”, she says.
“We already know that our under-tens find it difficult to discern between persuasive advertising and commercial content from ordinary friendly things.”
While influencers were always there – usually in the past as musicians, sportspeople and models – social media has created a very different landscape, Jones says.
“What’s happening now, which is different, is there’s an ability for children to have more interactions, and those interactions we think are meaningful.”