By: Encina Roh, Peak Associate
In recent years, Instagram has seen an influx of parent-run accounts for young children. Such accounts have become immensely popular, each one prolifically documenting a child’s everyday life. As such, parents should reflect on whether they are putting their own selfish desires ahead of their children’s well-being.
While this seems benign, the issue is that social media is a level playing field: content is equally accessible to family, friends, fans, trolls, and predators. Parents can’t control who screenshots their posted pictures, nor can they control what’s done with them.
By making public accounts, parents are opening up their children to all kinds of reactions from their audience. While comments can be restricted to an extent on Instagram, malevolent users often have creative, effortless ways to work around this. Furthermore, strictly restricting comments minimizes page traffic, which defeats the purpose of most public accounts.
Thus, most parents accept the trade-off between less security and more clout. In much harsher terms, Instagram aids parents in exploiting their children for purposes that benefit themselves far more than their child.
With accounts of babies and toddlers reaching hundreds of thousands of followers, great potential for fame stands to be gained by the parents of minors when such accounts take off. However, even though children with immense social media followings may be equally famous as child movie stars, they remain unprotected by the labor laws and regulations of a film set or a professional setting. With so much power in parents’ hands, opportunities for parental abuse increase.
Some may argue that intent is important, and that most parents make accounts for their young children out of pride and happiness. But an act is never divested of its consequences.
By acquainting children with the world of social media at a very young age, parents also risk opening them up a completely new and still evolving set of digital dangers, dangers kids might not even be equipped to deal with in the long run. Children deserve to grow up without more pressures being added to what they already will (inevitably) face in the digital world of today.
For children growing up in the digital age, it’s already hard enough to navigate the new trends and the pressures that come along with them in daily life. As the protectors of their children, parents are responsible for their well-being and need to recognize the effects of their actions.
At the core of it all, children are immensely vulnerable and essentially helpless in an adult world. I think parents should be mindful of whether they are motivated by attention, fame, or fortune, and actively work to make sure such desires are not satiated at the expense of their child’s safety.