Media release

Children use social media to make BIG money

#BrandofMe research by Centennial College’s kidsmediacentre looks at kids’ online brand-building

Toronto, February 25, 2016 — Your monetization-savvy child may be making thousands of dollars from social media followers numbered in the millions. Gen Z and Millennials are the new influencers and marketing industry cash cows, according to new research by Centennial College’s kidsmediacentre. The study, known as #BrandofMe, explores the ethics and business models fuelling our youths’ fame-building obsession (

Children as young as five are the new content creators and teens everywhere are being pursued through their social feeds to (happily) shill product for big brands. Kids’ social media #instafame is revolutionizing the media and marketing industry, traumatizing advertising and marketing industry execs, and creating pre-teen entrepreneurs.

“After-school video production is the new arts and crafts, with children as young as five creating YouTube channels,” says Debbie Gordon, Director of kidsmediacentre and lead researcher. “Social media monetization inspired by the Kardashians is the new paper route. With a slowing economy, market malaise and YouTubers as the new celebrities, Gen Z and Millennials see content production as a viable career. Our kids are growing up expecting to have an audience, converting followers into real money.”

“The marketing industry is hiring kids en masse, negotiating huge endorsement and brand integration deals and handing over pay cheques of $10,000 to $20,000 per sponsored Instagram post and YouTube video,” explains Gordon. Industry experts say an average of 200 young people sign with agents every day to be influencers, in effect becoming the marketing industry’s new media buy. Parents need to pay attention, but do they even know the depth and breadth of their child’s social reach?  

“We are now in an era of millionaire YouTubers, with world tours and publishing contracts, and parents are floundering,” says Gordon. Advice from a Toronto (now Los Angeles-based) mother of a YouTube sensation with 140 million views: “I think it's a mistake not to refer to your child as a brand…then it will help all the other safeguarding pieces fall into place.” 

The kidsmediacentre research profiles the huge shift in marketing to kids and the new digital celebrities and influencer marketing agencies turning kids into branding agents and BIG personal brands. The message from these agencies as they hand $20,000 cheques to minors (who are forging their parents’ consent signature): parents need to get involved.

About the research

Researchers interviewed young creators – YouTubers, Instagrammers, Twitch streamers – to understand the new face of entrepreneurship and the skills required to be a #BrandofMe. Parents of famous and budding YouTubers were also interviewed. This study is the second wave of research in a three-year study about youth and the quest for social media celebrity by the kidsmediacentre at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre. It builds on the first study #Instafame and the Epidemiology of a Selfie-Curated Culture.

In addition to Debbie Gordon, co-authors of this research include more than 20 Centennial students and graduates of the Children’s Media, Broadcast, Graphic Design, Public Relations, Book and Magazine, and Interactive Media programs. The mission of the kidsmediacentre is to explore kids’ media futures. This research initiative is an example of how Centennial College is leading the conversation regarding issues of importance to its students and its community, as articulated in its Book of Commitments.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Scott Hosmer, Story Arts Centre, Centennial College

416-289-5000, ext. 8506