65% of kids understand the motivation behind influencer content compared with 40% of 8-11s who can detect the placement of  paid-for advertisements in search engines.


More than four in ten children in the UK aged 5-15 said they watched vloggers or influencers on video-sharing platforms.

Unsurprisingly the likelihood increases with age. According to the new ‘Children and parents: media use and attitudes report’ 2020/21 from Ofcom 34% of 5-7 year olds watch YouTubers. This rises to 49% of 12-15 year olds.

65% of kids understand the motivation behind influencer content

Influencers are sometimes paid to endorse products or services through brand collaborations. 

Ofcom asked children aged 12-15 why influencers might say good things about products or brands. Two-thirds correctly recognised influencers might be being paid by the company or brand to promote the product or service (65%).

Compare this figure with the percentage of children in the same report who fully understood the positioning of answers in search engine queries. 

In 2020, almost nine in ten children aged 5-15 in Ofcom’s study said they ever used search engines. Again, unsurprisingly the rate went up along with the age of the child. 94% 12-15s said they visited sites such as Google. For 8-11 year olds the figure was 83%.

40% of 8-11s detect placement of search engine ads

Detecting the placement of sponsored or paid-for advertisements in search engines is an important element of critical understanding. In the Ofcom survey, children aged 8-15 who went online and used search engines were presented with an image of a Google search for children’s trainers, in which the first four results appeared with the word ‘Ad’. While more than half recognised that these results would have paid to be there, fewer correctly stated that was the only reason (40% of 8-11s and 49% of 12-15s). A smaller proportion thought the results were there because they were the most popular (30% of 8-15s) or that they were the best results (22%).

A call for proportionality

Media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.

As in other advertising disciplines, speed of adoption, ultimate utlisation and proficient use of specifics contained within the arrangements between advertisers and users are often slow. 

Much media and regulator scrutiny focuses on influencers and the actions by a minority to disguise their ads as organic content. Influencer marketing, however, is a relatively new marketing channel. Google was fully incorporated more than two decades ago - in September 1998. Comparisons are odious runs the aphorism used and re-used by notables including Marlow, Dunne and Shakespeare. In this instance comparisons are apt. Awareness of influencers’ motivations by children is relatively high compared with search engine advertising. More, however, can always be done. 

Feature photo by Emily Wade on Unsplash.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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