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April 13, 2024

The next generation of influencers are here. And they’re less than 10 years old.

The next generation of influencers are here. And they’re less than 10 years old.

Koti and Haven Garza have half a mouthful of baby teeth and can hardly pronounce the word “influencer.” But the 7-year-old twins are already sharing their skin care routines and fit checks to 4.8 million followers on TikTok.

“Get ready with me to go out to dinner,” Haven Garza says to the camera in a TikTok video that has amassed 2.6 million views. “First up, my Bronzi and my Goldi drops,” she continues, working serums into her face with a makeup sponge.

The “Garza Crew” first went viral on TikTok in 2020, after their mother Adrea Garza participated in the trending “flip the switch” challenge with one of the girls. In about a week, the family’s first-ever video had racked up more than 100,000 views, and the then-toddlers were on their way to internet fame.

The sibling duo are part of a new wave of Gen Alpha influencers — creators born between 2010 and 2024who are building followings online for videos posted on their parent-run accounts.

“They love it,” Adrea Garza said of the twins’ online content creation. “They think it’s so cool that people know who they are and want to take a picture with them wherever we go.”

It’s a market that has grown in recent years and is strong enough to sustain its own app. Zigazoo, which launched in 2020, brands itself as the world’s largest social media network for kids and is home to more than 700 influencers dubbed “kid talent,” who create trending “challenges” that other kids can participate in.

The app’s “kid talent” roster does not include the Garzas, but features already-famous child stars who were recruited onto the app and those who grew “Zigazoo-famous” simply through posting, according to Ashley Mady, president of Zigazoo Kids. 

The app, which says it uses human moderators to approve all content posted, has more than 8 million users and works with brands like iHeartMedia and the NBA to engage children on the platform.

“We want to lift kids’ voices, put them in charge, and make sure that all the content that they’re creating is positive and something that they can be really proud of, which is why we moderate every single piece of content that goes up with human eyes,” Mady said. 

But it’s a level of professionalization that has drawn scrutiny.

“For a lot of families, this isn’t just a hobby or a side gig. It is the primary, or sometimes the only, source of income,” said Chris McCarty, a Gen Z activist who has worked with state legislators on bills aimed at protecting child influencers. “So I think those aspects in particular make it very difficult for a child to fully consent to being online in this way.”

Child influencers have been around for years, with some of YouTube’s biggest channels featuring kids unboxing and reviewing toys. But with the recent momentum around legislation to protect kids online, the parents of these Gen Alpha creators could soon be the subject of greater regulation.

In August, Illinois became the first — and remains the only — state to enshrine child influencer protections into law: it entitles children to a percentage of earnings from their monetized online content. California’s Senate just passed a similar bill, and legislators in other states are hoping to do the same this year.

Mark McCrindle, the social researcher and demographer who coined the terminology “Gen Alpha,” said the world is seeing the first “global experiment” on what happens when a whole generation of kids is socialized in a digital-first world. 

What differentiates Gen Alpha’s online presence from Gen Z, who were the first to be considered digital natives, is that they’re not even trying to be influencers — they just are.

“They intuitively know what will work, what will gain leverage, what will get good results … Whereas for Generation Z, they can use the different platforms but it’s more a studied art,” McCrindle said. “The currency of [Gen Alpha’s] world is influence, particularly peer influence, and therefore that has strongly shaped them.”

… if they ever decided one day that they don’t want to post themselves on social media anymore, then they don’t have to be on there anymore.

-Adrea Garza, mom behind the ‘garza crew’accounts

Gen Alpha influencers appear to be naturally comfortable in front of the camera — they open PR packages, participate in trends and show off their favorite coffee orders. But their content often invites shock from internet users who feel that these kids — with their skincare, makeup and nails done — are living too mature a lifestyle for their age.

Concerned commenters have flooded Garza’s page, with some questioning whether Koti and Haven know what they’re getting themselves into. 

“I think that it’s great that other people are worried about things, but this is probably the least of the worries that I think they would have,” Garza said. “My kids are just great, and I wish we would focus more on things like homelessness. I mean, it’s been freezing, and I go to bed every night and tuck my girls in, and I’m just so blessed that they have somewhere to sleep at night that’s warm.”

Garza now tries to shield the kids from harmful comments by limiting their access and by turning the option off on certain TikTok and YouTube videos.

“I don’t show where they go to school,” she said. “I don’t show where they do their activities. I don’t show our daily routine on social media to protect all of our privacy.”

She said she supports any legislation aimed at protecting child content creators’ privacy and earnings. Currently, she has a system in which she allocates some of the income made from their videos into a fund that the kids can’t touch until they’re 18, some into a separate college fund, and some into the girls’ monthly allowance.

“At the end of the day, I think all parents are just trying to do their best and making the best decisions for their kids that they can possibly make,” Garza said. “And so I would just like to spread that my kids are happy … And if they ever decided one day that they don’t want to post themselves on social media anymore, then they don’t have to be on there anymore.”

Angela Yang

Angela Yang is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.

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