The advertising industry’s education programme Media Smart has launched a brand new resource aimed at helping children understand the commercial link between social influencers and the brands they may be promoting. The rising numbers of social influencers in young people’s lives has prompted Media Smart to create a film-based PSHE teaching resource for 11-14 year olds, the first of its kind to tackle this area of marketing.
For a taste of the film resource watch: https://vimeopro.com/edcoms/media-smart-promo
The Influencer Marketing Education resource has been developed by education insight specialists EdComs. It features popular youth influencers like Hannah Witton, who have volunteered time to feature in short films talking about what influencer marketing is, why brands use it and its regulations. Other topics of the short films, where influencers talk directly to young people, include how to critically evaluate social media content, how to identify paid for promotions/adverts and the use of airbrushing and filters in content.
The films will be supported by teacher guidance and a presentation for use in assemblies or the classroom. Students will explore and evaluate the purpose and techniques of influencer marketing, with the aim of building digital and media literacy and emotional resilience.
Hannah Witton, YouTuber, Broadcaster and Author said: “Social influencers are an increasing presence in the young people’s lives and have a positive role to play in advising and sharing their experiences with their followers. But with that growing presence comes an important responsibility to help children identify whether what they are seeing is an advert or not. This is even more critical when it comes to crucial issues like body image and promoting body positivity. It may not always be obvious if influencers have used airbrushing or filters on the images they post of themselves. Young people need to be educated about this and understand what they see isn’t always real.”
Rachel Barber-Mack, Director, Media Smart commented: “We know young people have some understanding of the commercial relationship between brands and influencers, but we also know there are significant gaps in their knowledge of what has become an everyday part of their lives. Our objective is to help children fill in these gaps to ensure they build their digital and media literacy and ultimately their emotional resilience. When putting together these resources, it was clear that the best way to educate them was through youth influencers themselves and I am grateful for their contribution. I would also urge any brands that work with influencers to join us in our mission and help make children social influencer smart.”
The importance of the ad industry in taking responsibility for explaining the links between influencers and brands was highlighted by advertising’s think tank Credos recent research which showed that 74% of parents think industry has a role to play in educating young people about this form of marketing.
 In 2018, 83% of 12-15 year olds had their own smartphone, 69% had a social media profile and 89% watched YouTube, according to Ofcom. This means that large numbers of children are encountering influencers while scrolling their phone or navigating their favourite web channels but might not always be aware what is paid-for content in the videos they see.