Parents Warn Against the Effect of Virtual Influencers on Teens 
Sat, April 17, 2021

Parents Warn Against the Effect of Virtual Influencers on Teens 

Papadopoulos says that virtual influencers put teens at risk of being manipulated by marketers. / Photo by: weedezign via 123rf

 

Influencers are everywhere, popping up on every emerging social media to make sure that they are following closely on the pulse of the masses. It’s a tedious job rife with misconceptions and ridicule, even as some of these influencers are just getting by. 

Sometimes, though, some influencers just go too far, or even just straight-up cash in on something that was fragile in the first place. The loose nature of what it means to be an influencer means that so many people can say, through their own subjective points of view, what an influencer is and what they aren’t. 

To some people, someone who is very clearly not human (computer-generated) can be an influencer, but to others, that just takes away from the fact that influencers sell themselves on authenticity. Be that as it may, it has not stopped these virtual influences from continuing on this path, and parents are getting worried about what this might do to their children. 

Dangers of Virtual Influencers to Teens

One “influencer” parents are particularly concerned about is Lil Miquela, along with many others just like her on the platform. As reported by the British news source The Guardian, while adults are more discerning on these kinds of situations and will definitely not fall for the gambit, they’re not the ones that are in trouble. 

The internet is where most teens and children spend their time, and any teen with even foot-in-the-door knowledge of any influencer might have already come across such virtual influencers like Lil Miquela. Before you insist that it’s probably an overreaction to assume that these virtual influencers bring more harm than good, psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos clarifies that it’s still inherently manipulative. 

For teens, it can be very hard to traverse the ups and downs of figuring out where you stand in this big, silly world, and being plied with useless information about a person and/or thing masquerading as an “influencer” on one of the most influential social media platforms isn’t exactly the best idea to learn how to fit in with the world. 

Like many concerned parents, Papadopoulos says that these virtual influencers put teens at risk of being manipulated by marketers. The worst part is knowing that these influencers aren’t real, and yet they have an engagement that seems to be. 

Papadopoulos says, “They are not there to educate and empower; they are there to engage and they do that by making us feel afraid, angry and insecure. The biggest thing we can do for our kids is get them to think critically, to ask, am I being influenced by an individual or a group? And why?”

 

Most teens and children nowadays spend their time on the internet. / Photo by: Antonio Guillem via 123rf

 

It doesn’t help that capturing the “human” behind the Instagram posts is easier now that AI can basically just parrot the kind of behavior actual, real-life influencers have, as well as use top-notch technology to curate their Instagram feeds for maximum engagement. 

While other virtual influencers are not as famous as Lil Miquela with her 1.7 million followers, they are still rather creepy to look at and strange to see thriving on social media. Sure, it’s a free space where almost all content is allowed, but even so, it sets a dangerous precedent for teens who are just beginning to think critically for themselves. 

For iNews UK, Papadopulos’ advice, if you are a parent, is just make sure that your child is aware that social media is, at some point, just advertising.  

“Parents need to equip their children with all of the information. Speak to your child about these accounts in the same way you would with a real-life influencer, encourage your children to think critically about what they are viewing,” Papadopoulos says. 

Luxury Brands and Virtual Influencers

If there’s something these larger-than-life influencers can do, it’s at the very least be the vessels that luxury brands can use to market their products. If they’re not going away anytime soon, then what are we supposed to do with them? 

Wrote Adina-Laura Achim for Jing Daily, the leading digital publication on luxury consumer trends in China, perhaps the skills of these virtual influencers will best serve the demanding needs of many luxury brands. 

If you want to market something without all the ineptitudes human error can sometimes bring, virtual influencers are the endorsers you’ll need. Achim writes, “Virtual influencers act like cool Gen Zers, have captivating, aspirational life stories, take part in the right events, hang out with the right celebrities, and they even engage with the In-crowd on social media.” 

Aside from the complete lack of PR disasters among virtual influencers, WalktheChat and Jing Daily also calculated that virtual influencers will also never earn as much as real celebrity influencers like the West’s Kylie Jenner, for instance, because, of course, robots and computer-generated influencers have absolutely zero real-life expenses.