Media Smart launches initiative to educate children about how influencer marketing works

The advertising industry’s education programme, Media Smart, has launched a resource that aims to help 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.

The Influencer Marketing Education resource has been developed by education insight firm 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 the regulations around it. 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 and classrooms. Students will explore and evaluate the purpose and techniques of influencer marketing, with the aim of building digital and media literacy and what Media Smart calls “emotional resilience”.

Witton said: “Social influencers are an increasing presence in 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.”

Media Smart director Rachel Barber-Mack added: “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.”

You can see a promo of the film material here.