teens

Ask Cybermum: "So your kid wants to be an influencer. Here's what you need to know."

When I was growing up, I dreamt of becoming the Prime Minister, an air hostess, and an actress – in that order.

I was keen to change the world, then live a glamorous life travelling it. But oh, how the internet has changed the aspirations of our youth…

A recent study by LEGO in the US has shown that becoming a YouTube star is a far more common aspiration for young kids than becoming an astronaut.

As the first generation of digital parents, we’re swimming in unchartered waters. There’s no inherited family wisdom about managing teens on TikTok that can be whispered in our ears – we’re learning on the job.

Watch: How ‘Proud Parent Syndrome’ Affects Your Child’s Cyber-Safety. Post continues below.

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And not only do we need to get our heads around all the social media platforms, online games, and messaging apps our kids are using, many of us are also learning how to be a ‘mumager’ too.

Whether it’s a YouTube star, Instagram influencer or a TikTok sensation, it seems most families will have at least one child who is set on making it big online – enter, stage left, the mumager to ensure this situation is being managed safely. You know, behind the scenes.

For some years now, one of my boys has had a YouTube channel that has earnt him some pocket money. A self-confessed ‘car nut’, Cyberson no. 2 has created an array of videos providing tips, reviews and hilarious content that together have amassed thousands of views.

Alex-Merton-McCann-family
At home with my YouTuber. Image: Supplied.
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There’s no doubt the internet is providing our kids with opportunities and experiences that many of us would have killed for as teens. But when your eyes are bright and your tail is bushy, it can often be impossible to see the risks.

If you find yourself trying to manage your budding social media star without completely raining on their parade, then you are not alone. Mumagers and dadagers are a fast-growing occupation – pro bono, of course!

So, what’s the job description? Here’s how it works in my house:

1. Keep your 'stars' close.

Aspiring influencer or not, the best way of keeping your kids safe online is by keeping the lines of communication open.

Your kids need to know that they can confide in you if they experience an issue online and, that if they do, you won’t take their devices away. If your kids know that you understand and respect their digital lives, then they’ll be far more likely to share their issues and concerns with you.

What to do? Make a big effort to understand their world. Whatever social media platforms they are on – get on them too. Try out the latest apps and games and share your journey with them over the dinner table.

You’ll absolutely earn yourself some cred (even if they make fun of you for trying) which means they're more likely to consult you when things go awry online.

2. ‘Your stats don’t define you’.

Aspiring influencers will also take an often-pathological interest in their statistics. Whether it’s likes, views or followers – an increase or decrease in these numbers can often affect your kid's sense of self-worth.

Without a doubt, these public statistics have resulted in our often damaging culture of likes. For many people – both kids and adults – likes are viewed as a measure of social acceptance which can play havoc with self-esteem and confidence.

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What to do? As a mumager, your best course of action here is to be a bit of a broken record. Constantly remind your ‘star’ that their value is not defined by the number of likes they receive on a post or a lack of new followers after releasing a new video they’ve laboured over.

These numbers do not reflect their worth. Being authentic, kind, and true to yourself is a far more powerful metric that numbers.

Managing online privacy.

Serious wannabe social media starts will often find it necessary to upgrade their standard social media accounts to business accounts to access their statistics and ‘engagement’ rates. However, business accounts often require users to display a mobile phone number and an email address which can absolutely jeopardise their online privacy.

It doesn’t take much for a hacker to use an email address and a mobile phone to access many more sources of personal information.

In 2019, nearly $61 million was stolen from Aussies using email addresses and phone numbers. And while some hackers may choose to keep the juicy info for themselves, others will sell details including your name, telephone, email address and credit card details on The Dark Web.

What to do? If your influencer absolutely needs to have a publicly displayed email account, create one specifically for this purpose. And likewise, for a mobile number.

Clearly being a mumager or dadager requires some work but ensuring our kids remain safe while following their dreams is the goal here.

So, my advice is to work with them: teach them how to manage their privacy, navigate the likes culture and be good critical ‘online thinkers’. You never know – they may end up making it. Just make sure you negotiate your cut first!

Alex Merton-McCann is McAfee's Australian Cybermum, helping to guide parents and their kids through the ins and outs of online life.

Optus has partnered with McAfee to include a subscription of the McAfee Safe Family app in the Optus Family Plan, at no additional cost. The plan also includes four SIMs and 250GB of monthly data to share.

Feature image: Supplied/TikTok: The Hype House

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