Famous people are literally everywhere in the modern world. You can’t look at any news website, social media platform or phone without something to do with someone famous popping up. It is no wonder that children’s influences also include famous people that they see on a daily basis.
Though it has been found that celebrities are increasingly ditching social media, thousands of celebs are still posting every day which, every day is being consumed by millions of people and increasingly; more children and young people.
Social media and children
It has been found by Ofcom that in the UK, a majority of children under 13 have a social media account. It was also found that just 42% of parents asked knew the minimum age requirement of 13 for using the majority of social media platforms.
Ofcom also did some research into the usage of media by age ranges. It was found that:
3-4 year olds. 17% have their own phone, 21% use social media and 24% have their own profile, 89% use video sharing platforms and 50% use messaging sites or apps.
5-7 year olds. 28% have their own phone, 33% use social media and 33% have their own profile, 93% use video sharing platforms and 59% use messaging sites or apps.
8-11 year olds. 60% have their own phone, 64% use social media and 60% have their own profile, 95% use video sharing platforms and 84% use messaging sites or apps.
12-15 year olds. 97% have their own phone, 91% use social media and 89% have their own profile, 98% use video sharing platforms and 97% use messaging sites or apps.
16-17 year olds. 100% have their own phone. 97% use social media and 94% have their own profile, 98% use video sharing platforms and 99% use messaging sites or apps.
It has also be found by Statista that in 2022, out of 400,000 respondents, children aged 4-18 spent an average of 114 minutes a day on TikTok, 91 minutes a day on Snapchat, 30 minutes a day on Instagram, 14 minutes a day on Pinterest, 11 minutes a day on Facebook and 9 minutes a day on Twitter.
As you can see from the data found by Ofcom and Statista, there are a staggering amount of children using social media and spending a long time on it. Though a lot may have parental controls on them, it is entirely possible that because of the amount of time that children are spending on social media, they will see content that is not suitable for them, or are seeing advertisement for something.
How is social media being used by celebrities?
Like a lot of people today, social media is being used by celebrities to connect and communicate with people who follow them or who are fan of them. The way in which social media influencers and celebrities use social media is an extraordinarily clever marketing technique.
Not only do they sell themselves, their products and their brand by appearing nearly daily on social media and to millions of people, but they also give the impression that they are being personal and friendly with those who are following them.
By doing this, they are giving the impression that they are knowable and approachable. Along with showing people what their fame and fortune has bought them on social media, which for many young (and older) people is a huge attraction, they can be seen to be a friend. This again is another huge influence on them.
Taking the top 10 most followed Instagram accounts of 2023 so far, most of the accounts have pictures of the celebs with their fans, in a nice house, on a nice holiday or showing their followers what they have been doing with their day.
These are nice things to look at, and dependent on how sceptical you are, a great incentive to follow them. But, as we know, not everything you see on social media is real and not everything on social media should be replicated.
A big worry for parents, teachers and even governments is that children and adults do not see what is real or fake online and what is to be genuinely believed. As part of the already mentioned study by Ofcom; only 11% of 12-17 year olds could identify the components of a social media post that which was an indicator that it was about something real, more than a fifth were unable to detect a fake online profile and less than a fourth (37%) could correctly identify links at the top of a search engine as sponsored ads.
What is the harm of seeing fake things on social media?
Plenty of research has been done into this, as I am sure you can imagine, and many would think that as long as you know it is fake, what’s the harm? Right? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.
Even if you, or a child knows that something they view online is not real and is viewed a lot of times, it can still play a part in skewing the way it is viewed, even over time making it seem like it is real.
The worst-case scenario is when children and adults view things that are fake online and believe that they are real. In recent years there has been a rise in the spread of disinformation on social media which has led to people believing false and potentially dangerous things.
It is also apparent that the spread of false information and a false view on the world has led some children to be influenced by celebrities who are famous for expressing misogynistic, abusive or racist views, but because they also show that they are living a lavish lifestyle with fancy cars, mansions and seemingly endless money; people and more worryingly, children, are wanting to emulate what some celebrities have and believe they have to act the same way as them to get it.
A recent high profile case of this is of Andrew Tate who has a long history of being racist, misogynistic, violent towards women and has recently been arrested along with his brother and two women for alleged human trafficking offensives in Romania.
If this wasn’t a serious issue enough on its own for everyone, he also has millions of followers on social media that include some who subscribe monthly to view his content.
It was found by Hope Not Hate that 74% of males aged 18 to 24 had seen some sort of media to do with Andrew Tate and almost half of them viewed him in a good light. It was also found by the same organisation that only around half of boys had heard of Rishi Sunak and even less who have heard of Keir Starmer! This just one that goes to show the immense persuasive sway and influence that some celebrities have online.
This is just one extreme example of how someone who is seen as role model can give young people the wrong ideas and influence them on how to treat others whilst spreading disinformation.
What damage can social media do to children?
It is important to note that not all social media is bad but the way it is consumed and unfortunately the way in which a lot of time it is made, can be damaging. Social media can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying, abuse and disinformation, it can also be damaging to children’s ability to grow healthy relationships; both in real life and online.
It has been found that with the exposure to celebrities who are interactive with their followers that some believe that they are friends or close and personal in real life. It can lead to a one-way relationship called apara-social relationship, with the follower feeling a sense of wanting towards the celebrity but in reality, will never have that feeling reciprocated. It is also linked to celebrity worship, where people become obsessed by a celebrity and become engrossed in their lives.
This can lead to the forming of unhealthy relationships, damaging existing relationships, missing out on real life events or can lead to the learning of forming unhealthy relationships in real life and away from social media.
Can anything be done to help children and young people with problems caused by social media?
It is a question that has been asked since the dawn of social media. But thankfully, there are some things that can be done to help children and young people with social media problems.
Young Minds have come up with a few ways which you can offer support to children who are having problems with social media.
Talk to your child. The best way to help is to talk with your child about social media and let them know that some things they see online will not be real. It is a good idea to speak with them about spotting fake articles, fake pictures or unrealistic videos online. If they are becoming transfixed on social media pages, it might be a good idea to speak with them about if they are real or if they have been altered.
Lead by example. Do you continuously scroll through social media? If so, you may be setting a bad example to your children. In moderation, of course there is no problem. But if you are always online and missing out on real life interactions as well, your child will potentially pick up on the same behaviour.
Talk about using personal information. Let your children know the dangers of putting too much information online. Information that shouldn’t be shared.
Discuss social media platforms. Talk about what each social media platform can do and how each can be manipulated by its users to potentially show unrealistic pictures or videos.
Though there is so much good to come from social media such as fundraising for charities or showing the world your latest good news (legitimate stuff we mean!) A lot of posts, videos and pictures should be taken with a pinch of salt. Children need to be educated to ensure they can tell the difference between real and fake content and need to be educated more about the potential risks of social media influencers and celebrities.