“Would some of those creators even be there if it wasn’t for the kids? The answer’s no,” Adams added. “The kids are the platform, they are the page, and it’s the parasocial relationships that people are developing with their children that people are really interested in.”
From toddlers to teens, the risks associated with becoming a brand and living center stage on major tech platforms have sometimes frightening real-world implications.
Florida-based TikTok star Ava Majury, for example, started on the platform at 13. Within a year of launching her account, she had amassed a million followers, nearly 75% of which were male, according to reporting in the New York Times.
With the permission of her parents, Ava, then 14, sold selfies that she had posted on Snapchat to a an 18-year-old man, despite the fact that he had bought photos of her, along with personal information, from her friends. He would later show up on her doorstep with a shotgun.
The ordeal ended with the alleged stalker being shot dead by Ava’s father, a retired police lieutenant.
But that hasn’t deterred Ava, who is now 15, from continuing with her social media career, which I imagine is incredibly lucrative.
In the UK, a recent report produced by the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee emphasized the need for new legislation to cover child influencers and recommended the need for a way to regulate their participation in the influencer community, and the impact this may have on them, including on their consent and privacy.
Similarly, Leah Plunkett, author of the book Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online and a faculty member at Harvard Law School, believes the US should update its federal and state labor laws to recognize child influencers as performers and give them legal protections in terms of their earnings and their working conditions.
“When parents have made “sharenting” into a business enterprise, rather than a personal habit, their child stars should have legal protection, just as child stars do on movie sets and Broadway stages,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Posting on social media, Plunkett said, can teach kids that they have to perform a version of themselves to keep the family business going.
“When we document everything our kids do and try to monetize what we’ve created, we’re putting kids in the spotlight, in front of countless strangers, now and in the future,” Plunkett said. “We’re setting them up to act at being themselves, rather than giving them the privacy to play, to figure out who they actually are.”
As lifestyle influencer Amber Fillerup Clark so aptly explained to followers who questioned why she had stopped posting pictures of her children, “privacy is power.”
Adams encourages parents to stop posting images of their children entirely.