The NSPCC has spoken out to warn high-profile YouTubers that they have a responsibility to make sure that relationships with young fans were appropriate.
Emily Cherry, who is head of participation at the children’s charity told the BBC that “blurred boundaries,” between prominent vloggers and their viewers can put young people at risk. YouTube, meanwhile, has said that educating fans and creators is key.
The warning comes as brands continue to turn to bloggers to front their campaigns, with eight in 10 industry professionals recently saying they now work with social media influencers in some capacity.
As part of a wider investigation into the subject the BBC published an interview with a young fan, Ania Magliano-Wright, who alleged that YouTube creator VeeOneEye had sex with her when she was 15. VeeOneEye, real name Jason, declined to be interviewed by the broadcaster but said the topic was something that needed to be discussed.
It also contained a video interview with vlogger Alex Day who was faced with 14 separate allegations, but never charged. He denied any sexual contact with underage fans but conceded that he had "manipulative relationships with women,” and told the BBC the he was surprised more allegations hadn’t surfaced against content creators.
The Google-owned platform has pointed out that influencers are responsible for their own content and conduct, with spokeswoman Thea O’Hear saying:"As a company we have very clear community guides which set out the rules of the road on YouTube.”
"It's really important that creators are aware of the responsibilities that come with having a big audience and a global fan base.
"We also try to provide practical support and guidance to creators to help them create the right kind of content and have the right kind of interaction with their fans. It's also around parents being involved, and schools, and everybody having a really good understanding of what it is to be a young person in the 21st Century.”
In a statement to the Metro, an NSPCC spokesperson asserted: "The NSPCC has a very positive and beneficial relationship with a number of YouTubers and they’ve really helped us to create engaging self-help content for young people for our Childline Youtube channel.
"We are however aware that within the YouTube community – as with any other online community – there can be dangers and young people should be careful about sharing any private information and if they’re ever unsure they should talk to a trusted adult or contact Childline."
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently issued guidelines for influencer marketing, saying it was prepared to clampdown on social media campaigns that mislead consumers.
The NSPCC will aim to raise public awareness that it runs Childline at The Drum's Do it Day event in November in order to help underline the importance of the service for young people.