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Opinion/Commentary

Wren Eleanor and the not – so innocent world of kid-fluencers

Home screen with TikTok and other apps
Image: iStock

People are getting concerned about children safety online.

According to The Australian, concerns over American toddler, Wren Eleanor has Australian influencers question posting their children online.

Wren’s mother, Jacquelyn, has received backlash after inappropriate comments were found under videos of the three – year – old. Videos of Wren eating attracted worrying comments.

Jacquelyn called the comments “disturbing”.

Influencers start questioning posting images of their children online

The scare over Wren has made other influencers think twice about posting their children’s images online. Social media creator, Caleb Finn told The Australian:

[Wren] is going to grow up and the mother claims it’s a digital scrapbook for her daughter to look back on, but if you go on any of the videos, it’s all these older people pining for this baby.

Adding to Finn’s comment, many of the comments on Wren’s and other children’s accounts appear to be by men.

Concerns for kids on social media isn’t new

The issue of children on social media has been discussed on social media since 2020. This was largely sparked by Myka and James Stauffer, who exploited, then ‘rehomed’ their Chinese – born adopted son.

Canadian YouTuber, Josh Barbour has been particularly critical of family vloggers who use children. He covered the Stauffer case, and has since exposed other family vloggers such as: Cole and Sav Labrant, Jessfam and Ruby and Kevin Franke (formerly Eight Passengers).

His argument has been consistent: children can’t give informed consent. When asked whether children can give informed consent, former Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professor, Dr Kirk Honda said: “No. It’s obvious”.

In late 2020, Dr Kirk Honda confirmed that kids can’t properly give consent to having their images/ videos shared online

Barbour has exposed what I mentioned above — that young girls’ accounts are often targeted by men. Children such as Everleigh Labrant (Cole & Sav) and Piper Rockelle are exploited and numerous men make inappropriate comments.

Even infants and toddlers aren’t safe. More recently, Barbour has exposed TikToker, Maia Knight and the inappropriate parasocial relationships created between her twin infant daughters and Knight’s audience.

TMI: parents divulge sensitive and traumatic information

Apart from the sexualisation of young children, family vloggers tend to overshare. They divulge very personal information about their children, especially medical.

Barbour has slammed family vloggers who share their children’s sensitive information and traumas to their subscribers. Earlier this year, he slammed Tiffany Nelson for exploiting adopted daughter, JourNee’s traumatic past.

JourNee is twenty – three, but the video was so uncomfortable to watch. JourNee looked visibly uncomfortable.

Tiffany went into detail about JourNee’s living conditions in Russia before being adopted. JourNee didn’t remember it. Barbour was angered by these revelations.

Having adopted sons himself, he knows how information about trauma should be handled. It’s up to the adopted child when they’re an adult. They can access their file, or let it be. It’s not up to adopted parents to disclose the infornation or make it public.

Family vlogging may have sounded cute and fun. But there’s no other way to say it. It’s exploitation. Every day a parent decides to profit off their child’s image or video, they’re exposing them to danger.

Say it with me: kids can’t consent.

Using social media and blogging for change: Influencer advocates for people with a disability

Image: Canva

Want a light – hearted story?

Peta Hooke is a social media influencer.

People may look at the terms ‘social media influencer’ and have certain ideas. Chances are, Peta Hooke doesn’t fit those ideas.

She has cerebral palsy and uses a an electric wheelchair.

Hooke uses Instagram to advocate for people with disabilities.

At first, Hooke was hesitant. She told ABC Life that she feared that Instagram wasn’t a safe place for people with disabilities.

I remember when Instagram became a thing in my friendship group in the summer of 2011. At the time, Instagram didn’t feel like a safe space for someone like me.

Hooke worried that Instagram was just another platform for the privileged.

Hooke joined Instagram

Hooke ended up joining Instagram. She created a heavily private account and she admired attractive influencers.

She then started a podcast and used Instagram to promote her advocacy.

She said utilising Instagram made her “sick with dread”.

Despite her fears, no one laughed at Hooke. In fact, she has built up a supportive community of followers.

Using social media for advocacy

Since building a following, Hooke has used her daily life and content to educate and change minds. She also aims to expand what people define as having a disability.

She wants to inspire people with disabilities:

I hope through my presence on Instagram I am implicitly encouraging other disabled people to find the same power.

People with disabilities need visibility. And chances

Black woman in wheelchair on a footpath down the street
Image: iStock

When I first read about Peta Hooke, I thought it was great. People with disabilities: physical, intellectual or mental need a chance.

They need chances to live and to work, just like anyone else. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are over represented in unemployment statistics.

Having people with disabilities visible and mainstream is important. People need to realise that people with disabilities are just people. They may need a little help or slight adjustments. They can be a baser to society when given the chance.

Challenging beauty standards and influencer culture

It’s great that Hooke uses her platform to challenge beauty standards and influencer culture. People are becoming more and more aware of the damage social media can do. For years, people have worried about teens and influencer culture’s impact on their self – esteem and mental health.

Creator and former Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even admitted that platforms like Instagram were made to be addictive. Algorithms are deliberately programmed in a way to make certain images popular.

A call to able – bodied people

Anyone can be a part of the change. For those in privileged positions, please consider supporting content creators from marginalised communities.

Like, share and follow their content. Show other people the talents and abilities of people with disabilities. And for those who do support content creators with disabilities (including my followers), thank you very much.

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