Parenting influencer accused of exploiting her toddler and attracting predators
We all have different views on social media – and especially when it comes to our young children and how much of their lives and pictures we are comfortable sharing with 'the world.'
For instance, I have friends who have never once shared an image of their child online, even if their social media has all sorts of privacy settings.
I take a more modified view – I don't mind sharing the odd picture of my children on Instagram (I am not a TikTok user, not will I ever be), but a lot of these are just family snaps with cousins or pictures from their first or last day or school, or on a hike we love or something similar.
I also always pause before I post, and consider if the pictures I post are ever something they might end up feeling embarrassed over – now or in the future. And if the answer is yes, I don't post.
However, this is not the case for everyone.
In the past decade, social media has not only become a platform where adults earn can earn vast amounts of money through brand deals and sponsored content, but many parents are also now realising the earning potential of their young children – and this is where things get a bit murky.
If you spend any amount of time scrolling through TikTok, you might have heard about the controversy surrounding the toddler "influencer" account Wren Eleanor.
@wren.eleanorBugs are scary ?♬ Paradise - Ikson
Who is Wren Eleanor and what is the controversy?
Wren Eleanor is an American toddler with her own TikTok page (run by her mum, Jacquelyn). The profile is largely made up of videos showing the cute tot doing cute tot things, and wearing cute tot clothes.
It is clear that the page has become rather lucrative for the young mum, as there are lots of videos of the two of them showing off their gifted clothing "hauls" from fast-fashion companies like Shein.
There are also lots of videos of Wren eating snacks, playing in pools and playgrounds and – slightly more strange – in one now-deleted video, the toddler was pretending to be her mum and mimicking shaving her pubic hair and using a tampon.
Strange? I know.
And some of these videos are no doubt what has sparked a conversation on social media, with thousands even going as far as calling her mum out for exploiting her toddler and intentionally uploading questionable content of little Wren for clicks and likes.
Why the movement? Well, when you have more than 17 million people following a toddler girl, there are, unfortunately, as Mother.ly points out, bound to be some potential predators (or at least creeps who make predatory comments and "fan" accounts) that regularly lurk and comment on Wren's photos and videos.
@wren.eleanor The ✨cleanest✨ little toddler! #rawrkids #rawsugarmademebuyit #rawclean @rawsugarliving_ @target ♬ bee - Burbank
Second, the astonishing popularity of the account has brought the question of social media, minors, and consent to the forefront of an international dialogue unlike anything ever before. Because no matter how we feel about kids having their own social media accounts, the bottom line is this: Children cannot give their consent to appear on social media.
'Children cannot give informed consent'
"Children are unable to give informed consent," Sarah Adams, better known as @Mom.Uncharted, says in a recent video.
"To all the people who are like 'Oh, my kids like making these videos,'" she continues. "Well yeah, they like attention from mom and dad. They like doing things with you. They like dancing, and hearing funny songs, and seeing themselves on playback. That's what they like. But they're not consenting to you uploading it on a public social media platform to be seen by a potential billion people, not knowing who those individuals are."
Many have also said that they are taking their own children's photos off social media, and are taking part in a movement dubbed #SaveWren.
In one video, which has since been deleted from TikTok, but is still visible on Jacquelyn's Instagram account, Wren is seen playing with a tampon and pretending to use a razor to shave her pubic area. In another video, Wren is seen taking a bath in a bathing suit.
Disturbingly, these videos get more comments and "saves" than her other videos, according to Rolling Stone.
Searches for ‘Wren Eleanor hot dog’ or ‘pickle’ were high, meaning users on TikTok and Google are searching for the three-year-old eating those foods. One TikTok user spotted that a video of the toddler wearing a cropped, orange shirt was saved more than 45,000 times, and that a video of Wren eating a hotdog was saved nearly 350,000 times, and pointed to disturbing comments on the content.
And as thousands of concerned social media users have left comments or tagged Jacquelyn in comments pointing out when predatory messages arise on videos of Wren—there are dozens of videos that highlight the disturbing comments on TikTok—it's fair to say she is aware, to some extent, that her daughter's content has been viewed by potential predators many times.
Other parents share videos saying they are now regretting ever sharing images or videos of their children to social media, and are actively deleting content – after raising concerns about where the footage will end up.
One TikTok user, Danielle Tilley, said in a video:
"It’s the creeps’ fault and I agree, but the fact of the matter is they are out there and they are not leaving any time soon."
"And it is your job as a parent to protect your child."
What is YOUR take on this? Are you concerned about the images you share of your children online falling into the wrong hands?