Issue #02: Gen Alpha on Socials

Breaking down what comes after Gen Z & the emerging behaviors of the next generation (Gen Alpha) on social media

Welcome back to Issue #2: Gen Alpha on Socials! This week we’re going to do a dive into social media, specifically how the next generation (Young Gen Zers + Gen Alpha) are leveraging social media & the opportunities / risks involved for brands and the startup ecosystem.

  • Content creation as a core skillset for Gen Alpha

  • Why YouTube Kids will win over TikTok

  • & the creation of billion-dollar kids franchises like Ryan’s World

  • The rise of Gen Alpha influencers

  • In conclusion… my thoughts on the next generation

Content creation as a core skillset for Gen Alpha

Kids today aren’t just asking for iPhones… they want access to TikTok to create content and make videos. This is minting the next generation of influencers – both with parents posting content of their kids (ie: mini fashion influencer Britain), and kids building their own channels with “parental supervision” (ie: Kim Kardashian’s 9 year old daughter, North West’s TikTok account).

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the top career choice for kids in the U.S. and U.K. today between the ages of 9-12 years old is to be a Youtuber or vlogger. The celebrities our generation looks up to are creators themselves… think Ryan Kaji (highest earning YouTuber last year at 9 years old), Charli D’Amelio (highest earning TikToke at 18 years old), and Addison Rae.

This need or desire to create content is not new for our generation.

Ten years ago, my younger sister’s favorite pastime was making “Video Stars” – aka a cult favorite video editing app for kids with tons of filters and songs you could use in the background to create content. I swear my sister made at least 1 a day at her peak, and I often joined in on making them with her. But these videos were never shared publicly (nor did we wish them to be!) as there wasn’t a social platform embedded in the app. These were the days before TikTok (or even Vine).

Kids today want to “make TikToks,” not just videos. Maybe it’s because they see their parents spending hours on the platform every day – repeating the viral songs, watching the videos over their shoulders, etc. Maybe it’s because their favorite hit songs are originating on TikTok. Or maybe they’re just seeing their friends begin to make dance videos, hear about it in conversation, or want to watch their favorite celebrities on there (ie: JoJo Siwa).

Some stats that are important to keep in mind here:

  • More than half of U.S. children now own a smartphone by age 11.

  • 87% of U.S. teenagers have iPhones

It’s amazing how quickly things have changed, even within my own generation (which spans 15 years for Gen Z). My first phone was not an iPhone. YouTube & AIM were my entree into social media. I even had Facebook (yuck) and actually used it – group messages lived there, I would “poke” the people I had a crush on… the whole works.

Fast forward to my younger sister who’s only 5 years younger than me, she never had a Facebook and never will have one. Her first phone at 11 was an iPhone, and her first social platform was Instagram & then Snapchat shortly thereafter (which is still where she communicates with her friends every single day).

She does not know a world before the iPhone and App Store. This is the case for many Gen Zers. So what are the ramifications for the next generation, Gen Alpha (0-9 yrs old), with the rise of TikTok as their introduction to social media? Let’s discuss, starting with the YouTube Kids vs. TikTok debate.

Why YouTube Kids will win over TikTok

Kids are asking for TikTok, but parents don’t know what to make of it or how to provide their kids with safe access to the platform. I've done Gen Z presentations for companies all over the world, often highlighting TikTok, and so many parents come up to me during the Q&A telling me they think TikTok is unsafe for their kids. And they’re not wrong.

I ultimately think YouTube is going to win the battle in capturing the attention of younger children, simply because it’s a safer platform.

YouTube has an entire platform dedicated to kids, with moderated safe content, parental controls, and more – called YouTube Kids. Netflix similarly has Netflix Kids.

With YouTube Kids, parents can create a profile for their child, turn search on or off, and even see the videos their child has watched. And it’s a separate app / website. See the profile I created below for my fake child who I named Georgie... adorable.

TikTok offers restrictive features for kids under 13 on the app (ie: private profiles, no engaging in comments/messages, content is curated for a younger audience, etc.), but it doesn’t make it easy for parents to have a real sense of control. And even with supervision, TikTok’s algorithm can’t control viral songs containing “swearing and sexual lyrics” or suggestive dancing, revealing clothing, etc. But all you need to do as a user is lie about your age/birth year and you’re in the clear with full access, much to an 11 year old parent’s chagrin. I’d be interested to see if TikTok eventually launches a separate app / offering for kids to alleviate some of these safety concerns.

YouTube was my entree into the world of social media and entertainment, and I think that will continue for younger Gen Zers and even Gen Alpha. However, I think YouTube will have a hard time retaining those users as they get older and download TikTok. Unless these young users become creators themselves like Ryan Kaji (@RyansWorld, 33.8 million subscribers) and can benefit from YouTube’s massive monetization engine… which startups are taking advantage of. & the creation of billion-dollar kids franchises like Ryan’s World

The idea of investing in creators as a new asset class has become popularized in recent years.

  • Slow Ventures launched a Creator Fund, where they can invest anywhere from $100K to $5M in each person in return for anywhere from 1-5% of the creator’s future earnings over their careers

  • Creative Juice invests in creators via their Juice Fund (just raised $50m), where content creators can apply for upfront cash to grow their online businesses in exchange for a cut of their revenue over a certain period of time (think b/w six months and three years)

And data-driven algorithms can make creator discovery even easier… I wouldn’t be surprised if we see YouTube and/or TikTok launch a similar offering in the coming years. But in the meantime, there are studios like helping YouTube Kids stars become billion-dollar franchises.

They partner with a select # of creators each year (assuming they have a set criteria of views, channel growth, etc. that they look for), and help them create franchises – in the case of Ryan’s World, has helped Ryan and his family create:

  • Toys, books, apparel, cartoons, a live-action series (Nickelodeon’s “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate”), videogames (“Ryan’s Rescue Squad”), live interactive online experiences and Ryan’s World Plus, a $3.99-per-month SVOD channel available through Amazon

Think of it like a venture-backed data-driven agency or studio, opening their networks to creators in exchange for a portion of the revenue.

To put this in perspective on how massive the opportunity is for creator-led businesses and franchises… Ryan Kaji (again, 9 years old…) is estimated to have earned $29.5 million from his YouTube channel in 2020. In that same year, it’s estimated he earned $200 million (almost 7x) from Ryan’s World branded toys, clothing, and TV deals. is helping to mint the next generation of “Ryans” all over the world, finding kid content-creating superstars and bringing them into pop culture.

The rise of Gen Alpha influencers

So now that we’ve talked about kids wanting to create content on TikTok (despite parents’ concerns), and burgeoning YouTube kid influencers like Ryan… what does it mean to be a social media influencer today for Gen Alpha? Well… it comes in different shades and across platforms.

  1. Kid-focused content that’s educational / around a brand

    1. Ryan Kaji – Ryan’s World (YouTube, 33.8m subscribers)

  2. Gen Alpha influencers creating their own content with “parental supervision”

    1. North West – kimandnorth (TikTok, 10.4m followers)

    2. Penelope Disick – pandkourt (TikTok, 4.9m followers)

  3. Parents creating public accounts for their kids

    1. LaBrant Family – everleighrose (IG, 5m followers)

    2. Fisher Family – taytumandoakley (IG, 3.1m followers)

  4. Parents posting about their kids on family / personal accounts

    1. TikTok Kidfluencers

      1. Britain / nishanoelle (121.9k followers)

      2. Jacob / keepupwithjacob (2m followers)

      3. Carter & Jonah / lauralove5514 (7.8m followers)

      4. Scout & Violet / maiaknight (8.8m followers)

      5. Lena / laurahfritz (2.7m followers)

I mention these accounts as examples of all of the different types of “influencers” that are emerging for the next generation, Gen Alpha. Many of whom command substantial followings and influence when it comes to kid’s toys, clothing, products, experiences – you name it.

North West, Gen Alpha’s TikTok “It Girl”

Let’s start with North West (9 year old daughter of Kim Kardashian & Kanye West) as an example here. In Nov 2021, she created a joint TikTok account with her mom under the name “kimandnorth” which has grown to 10m+ followers in the past year. If you’ve seen her videos, it’s clear North is running the show – some are fun videos with her mom / cousins, others are chaotic videos playing into trends that you’d expect from a 9 year old with a TikTok account. And not too dissimilar from the videos my sister used to make on Video Star… the difference being these are created with the intent of building a following and sharing the content. For example, on her 10-year-old cousin Penelope’s account, the first thing in her bio is “Hi guys can we please please get to 5 mil.”

What’s interesting is North’s account has become a topic of conversation on & off the platform, commanding real influence just as her celebrity parents do.

  • Initially when she launched the channel people were able to comment on her videos, and it became a running joke on TikTok when people started constantly asking her for Kim’s bank account information in the comments section (ie: North have you ever played Cash App?).

    • Back to the safety thing re Kids having TikTok, anyone under 13 shouldn’t have access to the comments at all (so you can easily just lie about your age). Quickly after this happened, North’s comments were turned off by her account admin.

  • She’s started doing things like hair tutorials & skincare routine videos to cement herself as a lifestyle influencer… and people are paying close attention to the products, even writing breakdowns in the press (ie this Glamour article on the products she used in her slicked-back ponytail look).

  • This video from TikTok user danielcharlesmckay explains perfectly how we all experience North’s account on TikTok now that the comments are turned off: “I love how North West’s TikTok is something we all experience but no one talks abt because of comments turned off. Like this universal experience that we enjoy but keep to ourselves”

The consequences of “Kidfluencers” when there’s no real consent

Many parents post content on TikTok of their kids because it’s family-friendly, or cute content they just want to share with the world. For example, lauralove5514’s account is dedicated to showcasing “gentle parenting” with her two young boys, Carter and Jonah, and is largely educational to help other parents learn from her content.

However, what happens when kids are young enough that they can’t consent to having their faces shared with millions of people online? For example, The Labrant family's youngest daughter named Sunday was born on June 7th this year… the first picture of her was shared online on June 11th at only 6 days old, and her name was added to their family-run IG account as well (now called posie.sunday with 1.5m followers, shared with her older sister Posie). In this situation, there’s not even the possibility of consent.

And what happens when those kids get older and can’t erase these videos or photos? We’re starting to see lawsuits exactly like this. In addition, parents will often get blasted for exploiting their kids for money / brand deals, exposing their kids to dangerous people online, and more criticism.

Ultimately, there’s not a ton of legislation governing the new frontier of social media influencers, and what’s acceptable when it comes to posting their kids online (other than COPPA when it comes to collecting/selling children’s data who are under the age of 13, but this is geared more towards the platforms like TikTok/YouTube and online service providers). Until we see real regulation, this will continue to be a contested issue on social media platforms for parents who choose to post pictures of their children online.

In best case scenarios, parents are giving their kids a headstart on the influencer business and helping them land brand & TV deals at a young age, or even launch franchises around kid-friendly content. In worst case scenarios… lawsuits against said parents and harm to the child's reputation or safety.

In conclusion… my thoughts on the next generation

A lot of fuss around the rise of Gen Z became more apparent as we grew into our late teens / early 20s, entering peak spending years and making a real impact on culture, consumerism, the workplace, and beyond. All at once, Gen Z was everywhere and nearly impossible to ignore (35% of the global population, $143bn in spending power, etc.).

We are super early in thinking about Gen Alpha, who are *max* 9 years old at the moment. But nonetheless, we’re already seeing characteristics start to take shape because of technology like TikTok and mega-influencers coming into the spotlight.

It’s hard to say how they’ll be materially different from Gen Z, but understanding how to grasp the attention of kids today is of the utmost importance for brands – meeting them where they are and speaking their language. They’re competing in the attention economy, and given Gen Alpha’s digital inclination (think the iPad kids), there’s a massive opportunity to build brand affinity early.

And as Gen Alpha comes of age, I’m excited to see the imprint they make on the world as they share their voices on the platforms of today and new ones of tomorrow.

To end on a fun note, here's me in 2007 on my 10th birthday... around the same age as our Gen Alpha influencers are now that I highlighted in this piece. Let's just say it's a good thing I didn't enter my influencer era until I was 23... Here I am rocking a GAP hat, Heelys (the shoes with wheels, which still fit me & I wear occasionally), braces, and this incredible ensemble of capris + ankle socks + zip up. Clearly, an icon.

I'm still learning, and this article was 7 pages vs. 16 pages last week. I'm excited to experiment with my longer-form deep dives vs. shorter hit pieces on trending topics, and am thrilled you're on this journey with me.

If you’re building for Gen Alpha, would love to hear about what you're working on and see how I can help. My email is [email protected]! I do advisory work for big brands, corporations, and startups alike :)

If you’re a dedicated newsletter subscriber, tell me what you’d like to see a deep dive on next! I have a long list of Gen Z-oriented topics I’m passionate about, but would love to see what’s top of mind for you.

About Me

My name is Meagan Loyst, and I’m a 25 year old Gen Zer who loves all things consumer, community, and culture. I’m the Founder & CEO of Gen Z VCs, the largest & fastest growing community for young people in Tech & VC with 20,000+ members and now a Gen Z movement. I was featured on the 2022 Forbes 30U30 list, am a 2022 LinkedIn Gen Z Top Voice, 2022 Crain’s 20 in their Twenties recipient, and won the 2022 Rising Star Award from the National Venture Capital Association. I love adding the Gen Z perspective to mainstream media and exec conversations alike.

Some fun press articles featuring me from this past week:

And be sure to follow me on socials, where I am very very active! Here I am on Twitter, LinkedIn, IG, and TikTok (just started a new channel from scratch, so you'll see me f*ck up a ton!)

xoxo, Meagan