Jen Fahey

How Influencers Are Affecting Kids and Money

When it comes to teaching children and teens about money, our lessons usually focus on earning, saving, and setting goals. We might even talk about debt or the value of delayed gratification. But the application of these lessons becomes more difficult for students when their time on social media is spent viewing people unboxing toys, giving makeup tutorials, or posing in certain clothing brands. Social media influencers are paid to persuade. And as our culture becomes increasingly digital, influencer marketing is experiencing a rapid rise. Before we consider how influencers can affect our students, let’s understand how this trust-based marketing works. 

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What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is product endorsements or mentions by individuals who have a large dedicated following on social media. Some are considered to be experts in their respective niche while others have gained popularity by simply being considered funny or beautiful. Years ago, influencers were mostly celebrities but now virtually anyone can become an influencer by providing popular content.

This type of marketing is incredibly successful because influencers are trusted by their followers, and often have high rates of engagement. Therefore, their product reviews or sponsored posts have a more authentic tone than a television commercial even though they are being paid to drive a brand’s message. 

How are children and teens affected by social media influencers?

Influencers can rack up millions of followers who feel as if they have a relationship with the individual. There are even influencers who allow people to join an exclusive inner circle of “close friends” on Instagram for a monthly fee. The follower then has access to more intimate posts and details of the influencer’s life. Because of the trust that’s been established, when an influencer promotes a product or service, it will not always be easy to recognize that this is a marketing campaign. 

Our students can spend hours engaged in these campaigns; commenting, liking, and connecting with people who are paid by brands to drive sales. And as the popularity and success of paid social media influencers increases, followers are often not only wanting what the influencers have but also wanting to be them. 

How Can We Respond?

The good news is that influencers can make a positive impact in the world when they model prosocial and healthy behavior. And there’s nothing wrong with advertising products that they truly love and recommend. However, since choosing to follow socially responsible influencers requires discernment, our conversations about financial responsibility should encourage media literacy. Here are a few practical questions children and teens can ask themselves while scrolling through their newsfeed:

  • Who created this picture, video, or advertisement? What is the author’s point of view?
  • Why was this post created? To make me laugh, bring awareness to a cause, or to persuade me?
  • What information has been disclosed and what has been left out?
  • How does this post make me feel?

Children and teens spend anywhere from 6 to 9 hours per day online accessing videos and music through social media. And whether our students are aware of it or not, being immersed in digital culture also puts them on the receiving end of countless marketing campaigns by social media influencers they admire or trust.

Asking the right questions and teaching media literacy will equip our students to successfully navigate the complexities of social media marketing. While this certainly sets them up for better financial responsibility, the benefits don’t end there. Helping them understand how they are being influenced strengthens their ability to think critically and become the biggest influencer in their own lives.

Be that teacher, the one with the lasting impact

Set up your EVERFI account to help empower your students to build healthy spending habits.

Jennifer Fahey
Jen Fahey Headshot
Jennifer Fahey has been a creative writer and blogger for over ten years. She’s recently had the pleasure of teaching preschool through elementary age children as well as providing administrative support to a humanitarian organization while working in Eastern Europe. Jennifer, along with her husband and their three children, are now happy to be settled back in their home of Boston, Massachusetts.