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How are influencers impacting young people?


April 19, 2024 Parent-Child Relationship


Par William Ahouma

Communications Officer

The term "influencer" is not new. From time immemorial, people have used their fame or social position to influence public opinion. Today, in the age of social media, the term refers specifically to a person who, because of their large audience, is able to influence consumer practices, ideas, or opinions.

Influencers, the new youth idols

Influencers set trends, unite communities, spark debate, and more. For today's teenagers, influencers have replaced movie and music stars as role models. As a result, some influencers earn a decent (and even excellent) living. 

Yet the influencer profession has a bad reputation. It is often associated with dubious business practices. Worse still, some studies attribute a great deal of responsibility to influencers for mental health issues among teenagers and young adults. Given the extent of this phenomenon, parents have every right to question the relationship their young people have with these new types of celebrities.

Young people are the most receptive, but also the most fragile, segment of the population when it comes to influencer-generated content.

It's not just about entertainment. Content producers also influence self-image. For young people in the process of building their identity and seeking meaningful relationships, it's difficult to remain unaffected by this world, accessible 24 hours a day, where imperfections are corrected by good framing and beauty filters. As a result, teens' social well-being and emotional balance are threatened.

Striving for a better influencer-influencer relationship

Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom. Under pressure from critics, social networks have adopted certain changes: putting less emphasis on the number of likes, giving users the possibility of monitoring their screen time, indicating which photos have been modified by a filter. It's not perfect, but it's encouraging. 

Similarly, some content creators have chosen to embrace a more responsible approach to their craft. In Quebec, a few influencers stand out by focusing on ways of being rather than on appearances: eco-responsibility, healthy eating, parenting...  However, there is still room for growth in certain niches, such as financial education.

Quels que soient les efforts consentis par les différents acteurs, la première responsabilité revient aux utilisateurs. Voilà pourquoi il est important que les jeunes adoptent de bonnes pratiques dans leur utilisation des réseaux sociaux et dans leur consommation du contenu qui y est disponible. À ce niveau, les parents peuvent grandement aider.

Some best practices

Strengthen your own sense of identity

For a young person to feel secure in their digital identity, it is important for parents to help them strengthen their own identity. An active lifestyle will also help ensure that they do not settle into living vicariously. 

If they enjoy a particular activity, encourage them to do it rather than just watch others do it. 

It is much more rewarding to be an actor in one's own life than to be a consumer of other people's lives, no matter how beautiful they may seem. 

Define online moments together

Scarcity forces choices to be made. A good way to raise awareness is to involve them in determining together what are the best times for their online time and what to spend it on so that it does not interfere with other aspects of their life (studies, physical activities, socialization, etc.).

Creating quality alternatives

For a teen looking for meaningful relationships, the online world can seem like a treasure trove. It is therefore up to the parent to reverse the trend by creating a quality alternative. Focus on activities that strengthen your unique social bonds. Open your teen's eyes to the community of parents, siblings, and friends that are waiting for them in real life, away from the screens.

Don't overlook parental influence

None of these best practices is a miracle solution. Above all, the goal is to make our young people responsible actors in their own development, capable of exercising their judgment to make healthy choices for themselves and their loved ones. As a parent, if you can influence your teenager in this way, you've already won!

Reference (in French)

Ordre des Psychologues du Québec, L’utilisation des médias sociaux chez les adolescents en contexte d’expériences sociales