little girl holding a smartphone in the air, performing on a colouful stage, which looks like a phantasy landscape of toys, an inflatable rainbow arched doorway and plants, bubbles.

The kidfluencer boom: A digital playground

May 2024

Move over, Kardashians, there's a new set of social media royalty in town. They have followings the size of small nations and brand deals they could retire on, but they won’t have signed them themselves because they’re barely old enough to write their name, let alone retire. We’re talking about the meteoric rise of the  “kidfluencer”, the tiny trendsetters popping up with increasing regularity on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube feeds.

Welcome to the wrinkle-free world

Ryan Kaji created the YouTube channel Ryan's World when he was eight (or, rather, his parents did because YouTube doesn’t allow under-13s to set up a channel). By November 2021 his unboxing videos and toy ‘reviews’ attracted 49 billion views. If each of those views lasted just 30 seconds, he would have been watched 4,500 times longer than he had been alive.

Then there's Ava Ryan, a comedy sensation who's been getting laughs since she was barely out of diapers, and 14-year-old Kian, the teenage culinary prodigy behind “Cooking with Kian”, whose cooking skills would put some professional chefs to shame.

Market momentum: Collaborations and kid power

Big names such as Walmart and Mattel are eager to tap into the incredible pulling power of these youngsters. Ryan Khaji, for one,  has reportedly endorsed 1,600 products including watches, sporting goods, water bottles, toothpaste and, of course, toys. And, according to Forbes, in one year alone, he raked in $30 million. 

"Brands are willing to pay handsomely for kidfluencers’ ability to connect with their audience"

Brands are clearly willing to pay handsomely for kidfluencers’ ability to connect with an audience – and particularly with a younger demographic. Child influencers have a knack of integrating products into their content in a way that feels natural and authentic, driving engagement and sales in the process. And, after all, who better to promote their products than the very audience they're trying to reach? 

Navigating the moral maze

But fame and fortune aside, the kidfluencer phenomenon is not always seen as an entirely positive thing. First, there are the ethical implications of putting children in the spotlight. These kids may have millions of adoring fans, but they're also exposed to the harsh realities of the internet – cyberbullying and so on.  

"There are the ethical implications of putting children in the spotlight"

While most social media platforms have a minimum age of 13, there’s nothing to stop parents setting up accounts on their behalf or using their own accounts to share kidfluencer content. That’s why most kidfluencer account bios are at pains to tell you that the account is run by a parent or other family member. 

And then there’s the other elephant in the online room: should brands be advertising to children at all? Because, although social media platforms claim to be for over-13s only, younger audiences are clearly the target of kidfluencer content. 

In the US, the Federal Trade Commission is strengthening laws around data collection and push notifications for under 13s, but many argue that these measures don't go far enough to protect young internet users – or the child influencers themselves. 

The debate rages on, and there are no easy answers. But one thing is clear. Any brand considering adding kidfluencers to their marketing mix needs to tread carefully, provide plenty of support and guidance, and act responsibly.

Because, while the internet grows up and matures, it looks like the face of the influencer will remain fresh and unwrinkled for a good while yet.