Parents Shopping Kids on Instagram, Wake Up

Dr. James Emery White | Mecklenburg Community Church | Updated: Mar 18, 2024
Parents Shopping Kids on Instagram, Wake Up

Parents Shopping Kids on Instagram, Wake Up

A recent article in the New York Times (NYT) detailed a deeply disturbing phenomenon. Titled “A Marketplace of Girl Influencers Managed by Moms and Stalked by Men,” it ran the following sub-heading: “Seeking social media stardom for their underage daughters, mothers post images of them on Instagram. The accounts draw men sexually attracted to children, and they sometimes pay to see more.”

For example, Elissa has been running her daughter’s Instagram account since 2020, when she was only 11 and too young to officially have her own account. She posted photos of her daughter in evening dresses, high-end workout gear and dance leotards. Her daughter now has more than 100,000 followers—some so attached to her that they pay $9.99 a month for more photos.

Some of the child influencers earn six-figure incomes.

Welcome to the world of Instagram influencers who have accounts managed by their parents. And yes, it’s legal. As the NYT reports, “Although the site prohibits children under 13, parents can open so called mom-run accounts for them, and they can live on even when the girls become teenagers.” The investigative article adds,

But what often starts as a parent’s effort to jump-start a child’s modeling career, or win favors from clothing brands, can quickly descend into a dark underworld dominated by adult men, many of whom openly admit on other platforms to being sexually attracted to children.

Disturbed yet? Here’s more:

Thousands of accounts examined by The Times offer disturbing insights into how social media is reshaping childhood, especially for girls, with direct parental encouragement and involvement. Some parents are the driving force behind the sale of photos, exclusive chat sessions and even the girls’ worn leotards and cheer outfits to mostly unknown followers. The most devoted customers spend thousands of dollars nurturing the underage relationships.

The investigation found 32 million connections to male followers among the 5,000 accounts the newspaper examined. These interactions can lead to abuse. “Some flatter, bully and blackmail girls and their parents to get racier and racier images.” Men are openly fantasizing about sexually abusing the children they follow on Instagram and laud the platform for making them available. “It’s like a candy store” said one; “God bless instamoms,” wrote another.

This when one in three preteens lists “influencing” as a career goal, and 11% of Gen Zers already describe themselves as influencers.

One mother interviewed for the article said: “I really don’t want my child exploited on the internet.... But she’s been doing this so long now. Her numbers are so big. What do we do? Just stop it and walk away?”

Yes, that is exactly what you do.

Listen to one mother’s remorse:

Kaelyn, whose daughter is now 17, said she worried that a childhood spent sporting bikinis online for adult men had scarred her.

“She’s written herself off and decided that the only way she’s going to have a future is to make a mint on OnlyFans,” she said, referring to a website that allows users to sell adult content to subscribers. “She has way more than that to offer.”

She warned mothers not to make their children social media influencers. “With the wisdom and knowledge I have now, if I could go back, I definitely wouldn’t do it,” she said. “I’ve been stupidly, naïvely, feeding a pack of monsters, and the regret is huge.”

Parents, please wake up.

James Emery White

Sources

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Michael H. Keller, “A Marketplace of Girl Influencers Managed by Moms and Stalked by Men,” The New York Times, February 22, 2024, read online.

For stats on the career goals of Gen Z see Erica Parker at The Harris Poll, read onlilne.

“The Influencer Report: Engaging Gen Z and Millennials,” Morning Consult, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of ChristianHeadlines.

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The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.



Parents Shopping Kids on Instagram, Wake Up