Last week, I covered some major aspects of social media use that affect ALL parents and kids, regardless of the level of fame of their young actor, or where they are in their career. In this week’s post, I dive a bit deeper into the specific social media issues that affect young actors in particular.
Some of the social media use issues that especially affect young actors:
Follower counts on Twitter and Instagram can in fact affect casting choices, if most other things are equal.
For example, if two roughly equally talented actors are under consideration for a role, the one with the higher number of followers on those platforms will probably be cast. Don’t translate this into thinking that a high follower count alone will get your child roles, however! Talent, the right look, and experience still play the biggest role in casting. And legitimate followers—not “followers” who are purchased, or gained in a “follow-for-follow” fashion—typically only come from true fans, which only show up after work has been done. In other words, if your kid has 100,000 followers because they followed 100,000 people, this will not impress casting.
Large social media follower counts can also lead to lucrative endorsements IF a young actor already fits the criteria/profile a company has for talent that represents their product.
Again—follower count alone means nothing. It is simply another way for companies to choose between final contenders. If two young actresses, roughly equal in career level and look, are being considered for an endorsement deal, the one with more followers on social media will likely get the contract. Companies that use actors for endorsements typically are interested after the follower count is in the millions, not the thousands.
YouTube can be a legitimate way to gain attention for talent, and there is a growing list of young YouTube stars who now have their own shows, record contracts, and endorsements.
YouTube is a global platform and can be especially useful for kids who may not have access to representation or auditions in the major markets. It can also be a great way for creative, passionate young people to get their work seen by people who may be in a position to produce it at a higher level.
Comments on Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms can sometimes be devastating in their cruelty, and if a child has some amount of success or fame they can be worse.
People objectify the famous, and when we objectify people, they stop feeling real. If someone is not real we can say what we want to and about them, as we believe at a certain level that they have no feelings. Being exposed to what can be vicious public commentary can be very challenging emotionally, even for the most confident kids. Social media can take bullying to a global scale with anonymous players who hide behind fictional user names and avatar photos. Coaching your kids to remember that bullies act from a place of fear and unhappiness—happy people simply do not say or do cruel things to others—can help. Kids can say and do some awful things to gain a sense of self-importance and power. Adults who never matured can do this too. Ignoring nasty comments is generally the best way to deal with them, as it is less fun for the bully if you don’t engage. “Don’t Feed the Trolls” is good policy.
It’s a good idea for parents to at least secure the domain name their young actor would use—“yourname.com” etc.—so they can make use of it when they are ready, and so no one else grabs it first.
A simple website can be easy to put up, and be a place for headshots, reels, and contact info for bookings. Remember to NEVER use your home address or home phone number on a website. Use your child’s agent as the contact, and if they don’t have an agent yet, use your own email address.
It’s also a good idea before your young actor gets too much exposure to do a quick audit of where your family’s personal information might be listed online and either remove or protect it.
If you register their domain, for example, spend the few extra dollars it costs per year to make the registry private, so your home address etc. is not easily looked up in a WHOIS search.
Scrub address and phone info from all the Facebook accounts in your family, and while you’re in there, look through all the online photo albums of every family member—any photo on FB is essentially available to the public, even if you think only your “friends” can see them.
Are there any photos you’d rather not see, or your kid/s might rather not see, online for all time? Cute naked toddler photos are less cute if your child becomes a public figure.
The pressure for young actors to have a social media presence is real. If you are confused by or deeply dislike social media, try to overcome your ignorance/bias so you can understand what your child is being asked to do.
People who are “digital immigrants” rather than “digital natives” often instinctively dismiss social media as silly or superficial. It can be those things, but it can also be a meaningful way to build community, and for young actors to connect with fans globally. Actors are expected to post about their projects as part of promotion. It has become a part of their job description, and educating young performers about the safe and thoughtful use of social media is as important as acting lessons and good headshots.
The age at which young actors can/should have their own accounts is a judgment call for parents.
But most social media guidelines officially restrict use of their platforms for people aged 13 and above, even if in reality many kids 12 and under use them. If your young actor is under 13, you can manage their social media accounts on their behalf. Many parents of young actors do this.
Get familiar with the specific platforms your young actor is using.
Yalda T. Uhls, PhD, the author of Media Moms & Digital Dads: a Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, recommends that parents open their own accounts on the social media platforms their kids use, and make an agreement that the kids must “friend” their parents in order to have use of these platforms. Research shows that knowing their parents are likely monitoring their online presence makes kids more thoughtful about what they post.
Post photos of fun events after they are finished and you are no longer there.
A basic safety guideline that all people should follow, but especially young actors, is to post about an event, or about being in a particular location, AFTER they have left. Do not post in real time while you are there—this can lead to stalker problems, as well as broadcast that your house may be unattended.
Take basic steps to discourage hacking.
Don’t use passwords that are based on personal data. Mix letters and numbers. Make sure that answers to security questions are not easily guessed or researched. If your house has a wifi network, give it a name that is generic and not easily guessed.
Remember to unplug regularly.
Encourage your child to get out in nature, and step away from the phone, tablet, and computer on a regular basis. It’s easy to give the online world too much importance if you never step away. Spending time unplugged is a great way to keep some perspective.
If you follow these guidelines, you will be well on your way to a safe and healthy social media presence for your young actor, and you will be in a better position to support and guide them in this new territory. Humans need to feel that they belong, and we all benefit from a sense of connection. Social media provides this sense of connection and belonging for us, and can translate to real-world benefits if we use it wisely.
I highly recommend the new book, Media Moms & Digital Dads: a Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age, by Yalda T. Uhls, PhD, for further reading on this important subject.
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
Sharing is nice! Know someone who would benefit from this post? SHARE IT!