Social media can garner power in the wrong hands


According to BBC News, “Six women have told us they’ve been touched inappropriately or had indecent conversations with the YouTube star [Sam Pepper].” 

Sam Pepper has infamously been known as one of the first YouTube stars with a mass following to fall under sexual assault allegations by minors. He was not the first and not the last to make headlines as victims have come forward with stories of what these powerful social media stars have done to them. At this moment, headliners such as the Lopez twins are coming under fire for having predatory contact with minors.

In the twenty-first century, blowing up on social media and garnering a huge fan base online is achievable for anyone who is on the platform. With the increased use of social media over the years, social media influencers have many young teens and children as a big part of their fan bases. Even now, some of these influencers use their powerful platform to their advantage with these young fans that look up to them. News headlines have been filled with influencers using their power to groom these underage fans. 

“No matter the age, talking with someone on the internet is dangerous. You never know what is on the other side of the screen, phone or ipad,” said Carolyn Gaffke, a health and P.E. instructor. 

Victims of online sexual predators range in age, and internet safety is highly important to teach to everyone, especially to young kids and teens who are exploring the internet. 

“Predators have greater access to potential victims and are able to engage in behaviors without drawing a lot of attention to themselves. Since so many people engage online, some people have become more comfortable sharing information about themselves that normally they would not share,” said Alyssa Albertini, a school social worker.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to social media is to not share any personal information and to not interact with anyone that you do not know. While it is easy to just make one’s account public or interact with someone that one thinks is close in age, it is just as easy for that person on the screen to be completely different in real life. 

 “Social media users and particularly influencers can hold a lot of power. They usually have a wide following and can be seen as people of expertise or knowledge because of their status. Even though influencers may have never personally met many of their followers, followers might feel as though they know them due to seeing their life updates and being connected with them through social media,” Albertini said. 

Many different people across the world of all different age groups follow social media influencers. For a devoted fan, interacting with one of these influencers can be a dream of theirs, and meeting them in person is a whole different ballgame. 

“Both influencers and celebrities have their benefits, but statistically, 70 percent of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities, the reason being authenticity,” according to

As the use of social media increases over the years, the danger of predators using it grows higher as well. Being a social media influencer gives one power and gives fans the feeling that they personally know these influencers, already trusting them. When this power ends up in the wrong hands, such as the girls who faced Sam Pepper in 2014, it can lead to traumatic events. 

“I have two children, and one of my daughters is obsessed with a YouTuber, to the point where she asked family members to buy the ‘merch.’ I had no idea this YouTuber even existed. I feel that young kids are being exposed to influencers at a very young age and they see these influencers as celebrities. This could be very tricky. If we look at some of the games the kids play, like Roblox, kids are stealthy and still able to figure out ways to communicate in a ‘protected chat’,” Gaffke said. 

There is nothing wrong with being a fan of an influencer, just like any other celebrity out there in the world, but it is highly important to take proper safety precautions when possibly interacting with people online. For example, looking out for signs of grooming is extremely important. 

“It usually starts small (with a compliment or like on your page). Sexual predators tend to gradually up their behaviors and test boundaries as time goes on. Things to watch out for are compliments (especially ones of a sexual nature), asking for personal information like your location or where you like to hang out, giving gifts, and touching (this could start out as small as a squeeze on the shoulder). They might ask you to keep your conversations private- they could give very appealing and convincing reasons. The best way to stop these behaviors online is to not engage with people you don’t know in the first place. If you do and start to feel uncomfortable- you can block the person at any time. Tell an adult- get help. Don’t feel bad about it. You are not being rude or snitching; you are protecting yourself. If you have concerns about a friend, share your concerns with them and tell an adult!” Albertini said. 

Social media influencers may seem untouchable with the power they hold over their fan base, but there are things that can be done. For example, coming to authorities with screenshots of inappropriate messages can put a stop to their behavior, or going to a trusted adult that can help someone get the help needed. 

Being a victim of an online predator’s ploy can be extremely difficult and traumatizing. For those who have ever been a victim, it is important to know that the experience is not any less or fake just because it was online. These social media influencers that use their power for ill-use do not deserve their platform, and it is time for them to be held accountable for their actions and get this power taken away from them.