TikTok moms have started a movement: Calling out potential creeps who follow child influencer accounts on the platform. The latest account in the spotlight is @wren.eleanor, a TikTok account with a massive 17.3 million followers. It's an impressive number and one that got the attention of armchair sleuths.
@hashtagfacts, another account, posted a video about what other people on TikTok have observed about this account's followers. They've noted the number of times specific clips of 3-year-old Wren have been saved. Perhaps, more surprisingly, they've taken note of the pre-filled texts that appear in TikTok's search box when one starts searching for "wren".
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Many also found a lot of "disgusting comments left by men" in certain videos about Wren.
"My daughter is 12 and a half," @hashtagfacts said in her video post, "The issue with all of these saves and the follows are that people are watching your children. And doing disgusting things."
"Protect your children."
Regardless of your intentions when you post pictures and videos of your children publicly, realize and accept the fact that the Internet, with all its awesomeness, also harbors creeps who follow social media accounts featuring kids for disturbing reasons. It's safe to assume they're everywhere: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Omegle, and others.
The simplest way to protect your children from the harms you know, and especially the harms you don't, is to keep them off social media entirely. Let them decide how they want to use it when they are old enough to understand and navigate the risks they face. That means no social media accounts for them, and no posting images of them on your own accounts.
If that simply isn't an option for you, for whatever reason, there are ways that you can still safely share photos and videos of your kids on social media while keeping them far away from the hawking eyes of online child predators. In reality, there are many things we can't control when it comes to protecting our children. However, as one TikTok commenter correctly pointed out, we can control what we post online about our kids.
So, parents and carers, let's take control.
Take your social media accounts private
Doing this also gives you time to think about what to consider before deciding on where you stand with the sharing of your child's photos and videos. Because at the end of the day, you, the responsible parents and carers, get to decide, not people on the internet.
Limit access to the child's photos and videos
Even though your entire account is public, some social media platforms allow you to pick and choose who among your contacts can see specific things you share. Better yet, share to a Private group on Facebook and Instagram comprising only of close family members and friends you've known and trusted for long enough you consider them as family.
The smaller the circle of trust, the better.
Yes, share via secure messengers and private albums
Social media platforms aren't the only places where you can safely share pictures and videos of your kids. Secure messengers like iMessage, WhatsApp, or Signal can also do this for you, so make good use of them.
If your family and friends all have Apple devices, or if you use Google Photos, you can also set up a private, shared photo album where you can share media of all family members safely.
Prepare your kids for a life with social media
Posting media of your kids on social media is one thing. Creating social media accounts for them, whether they meet a social network's minimum age requirement or not, is quite another. Because for children, especially girls aged 11 to 13, who are targeted by online predators more than other groups, just being online is already a huge risk.
Don't assume they know enough to look after themselves. Make sure they do. We suggest you adopt T.A.L.K., a series of comprehensive and actionable steps parents and carers can take to help guide kids through a safe online experience as they grow up.
T.A.L.K. stands for:
- Talk to your child about online sexual abuse. Start the conversation—and listen to their concerns.
- Agree on ground rules about the way you use technology as a family.
- Learn about the platforms and apps your child loves. Take an interest in their online life.
- Know how to use tools, apps and settings that can help to keep your child safe online.
Age shouldn't be the only indicator for when you can allow your kids to start exploring the wider Internet more. Maturity of mind should be considered, too.
We also believe that part of keeping kids secure online is developing their self-esteem. So no matter what negativity the online world throws at them, they will rise above it. An insecure child will easily succumb to criticisms, want to be famous, or feel the need to get approval and acceptance from everyone.
Putting them in front of the camera for millions of people to watch and look at won't build up the self-esteem your child needs.