### The Impact of AI on Social Media: Virtual Influencers Shaping Your Children’s Behavior

Engaged in an AI landslide, trapped in the realm of social media reality? It’s time to awaken and engage in conversations with your children regarding their online experiences, advises Emma Robertson from Digital Awareness UK.

Recognizing the positive influence that influencers wield over young individuals is crucial. However, a concerning statistic from Vodafone’s research underscores the necessity for parents to understand the influencers impacting their children. Shockingly, over half (52%) of boys aged 11 to 14 have interacted with content from influencers associated with the manosphere.

This aligns with the core theme of Safer Internet Day 2024, focusing on the factors that shape and alter the online and offline behaviors, emotions, and thoughts of young people.

While many parents are cognizant of the significant role influencers play in their children’s online interactions, they might be surprised to learn that some influencers are virtual entities, and the content they showcase may not be authentic. Intrigued? Let’s delve deeper into how AI-generated influencers and content are molding the perceptions and actions of children. Stick around as we explore this phenomenon and conclude with valuable tips to facilitate meaningful discussions within your household.

With over a decade of experience in online safety, we are enthusiastic about the opportunities AI offers to children. However, we firmly believe that the primary threat to youngsters online lies in their susceptibility to harmful AI-generated content.

The proliferation of AI-generated content, such as images and videos crafted using artificial intelligence, is projected to surge. Europol, a European law enforcement agency, estimates that by 2026, a staggering 90% of online content could be synthetically produced.

AI ‘Aggro-rithms’: Exposing young boys to detrimental content within a minute of going online

On Safer Internet Day 2024, Vodafone unveiled a poignant film titled ‘The Rise of the Aggro-rithm,’ shedding light on the harmful AI algorithms targeting teenage boys in the UK.


A stark illustration of this occurred in early February 2024 when numerous social media users, including children, encountered sexually explicit deepfake images of Taylor Swift. These fabricated images, generated by artificial intelligence, swiftly infiltrated children’s newsfeeds via social media algorithms, outpacing moderation efforts.

This incident underscored the imperative need for stricter regulation of social media platforms and AI-generated content. The existing moderation mechanisms are notably inadequate. For instance, a single deepfake image of Taylor Swift circulated on X (formerly Twitter) garnered a staggering 47 million views before the account was suspended.

Virtual influencers

Another burgeoning trend is the emergence of virtual influencers, a phenomenon not lost on the youth we engage with. Virtual influencers like Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela) are computer-generated personas with striking realism. Despite their non-existence, they amass millions of followers and even secure lucrative brand partnerships with renowned companies like Prada and Calvin Klein!

ChatGPT: Unveiling the multifaceted nature of AI

Artificial Intelligences have arrived, revolutionizing our society. While they may not resemble the malevolent robots depicted in science fiction, their impact is profound.

Conversely, concerns within our industry are mounting regarding the potential of virtual influencers to disseminate harmful content. Regrettably, several young boys have reported exposure to misogynistic, violent, or sexually explicit content featuring virtual influencers.

Impact of harmful content: Research by Vodafone revealed that 10% of boys encounter harmful content within a mere 60 seconds of being online. In support of ‘safety by design,’ Vodafone endorses Global Action Plan’s petition to prioritize user safety in product and service design.

We have observed firsthand how exposure to harmful content can desensitize young individuals to extreme viewpoints. Surprisingly, a significant portion of 13 to 17-year-olds believe that social media influencers should express their opinions online, even if they are harmful or incite hate towards individuals or groups. Freedom of speech emerged as a primary justification for this stance.

Initiating conversations with your teenage sons about online toxicity

For parents navigating the challenge of addressing the troubling internet content their children consume, insights from a clinical psychologist could prove invaluable.

This underscores the critical need to implement effective measures safeguarding children from harmful content, whether originating from AIs or real individuals. While ongoing efforts are essential, parents can take proactive steps to shield their children from harm and enable them to leverage the positive aspects of technology.

Parental support strategies: If you are apprehensive about your child encountering harmful content from social media influencers, consider these recommendations:

  1. Engage with algorithms:

    • Prompt your children to signal to algorithms to minimize undesirable content by indicating disinterest in specific posts.
    • Encourage them to unfollow accounts sharing objectionable content.
    • Remind them to refrain from interacting with harmful content, as engagement can lead to further exposure.
  2. Activate parental controls:

    • Employ parental controls on apps and platforms like TikTok to filter out harmful content. Explore Digital Parenting Pro, an interactive resource on parental controls and safety settings developed in collaboration with Vodafone, for effective guidance.
  3. Foster open communication and set a positive example:

    • Regularly engage your children in candid discussions about their online encounters to provide emotional support and guidance.
    • Recognize that parents serve as significant influencers in a child’s life, emphasizing the importance of modeling respectful behavior towards individuals of diverse backgrounds.

We trust these insights are beneficial. For further information on ensuring your family’s online safety, visit the Vodafone UK News Centre.

Stay informed about Vodafone’s latest updates by following us on Twitter and subscribing to News Centre website notifications .

Taylor Swift image, cropped and overlaid with text, used under Creative Commons license.