Mommy Vlogging is Child Abuse and You Won’t Convince Me Otherwise

For many of us parents, our opinions about sharing our children online have evolved over the years. Back in the day, we saw apps like Facebook and Instagram as little more than a way to keep in touch with long-distance relatives and high school friends. One of the benefits of these multimedia apps was that they allowed us to share photos and videos of our children to loved ones who didn’t get to see them every day.

As social media has expanded to become a multi-billion dollar industry with creators of all types and backgrounds seeking to take a piece of that pie, the way we use social media has changed. Some parents, who once used their social media pages to share sweet updates about their children, have now become “mommy vloggers” who exploit their kids’ countenance to secure brand deals, free merchandise, and even free vacations. For these parents, it is no longer as simple as sharing their children’s lives with the people who love them. It is now about dragging their children onto the dance floor to capitalize on the long-known reality that social media content depicting children gets up to 30% more engagement (and revenue) than content depicting adults.

I could write hundreds of articles about the ethical implications of this behavior, as well as the long-term effect on the mental and emotional well-being of these children who are exploited by their parents. But that will not be the topic of this article.

Today, I want to discuss how these mommy vloggers are equipping and enabling child predation, and they are doing it with full knowledge of that fact.

There is no other word for what this is: it is child abuse.

I’m going to use just one example of a TikTok account with 17.5 million followers. This account is managed by a mom, but it is mainly her small daughter who is depicted in their videos. For the sake of the child, I will not share the name of this account or any photos of their likeness.

This mother frequently posts pictures and videos of her daughter wearing incredibly revealing clothing, dancing provocatively, and blowing kisses at the camera. Perhaps most revoltingly, she often films her daughter eating phallus-shaped foods like bananas, cucumbers, and more. The videos, though portrayed as an innocent depiction of “what we eat in a day,” have been described by many as pornographic appeals to pedophiles. To give just one example of the many I could offer, consider this: a video of this little girl in the bathtub amassed 22,000 Saves, while another video of her pretending to insert a tampon had 385,000 Saves.

This is compared to photos or videos of the mom without her daughter in view of the camera, which inspire 1,000 or fewer Saves.

To Save a video on social media is to download it to your device. And there is absolutely no question why hundreds of thousands of people would download this type of highly suggestive content of a little girl that isn’t despicable and wrong.

The mommy vlogger who runs this account is well aware of these statistics. She can see them herself, as they are prominently displayed on the right margin of all of her videos. She is not unaware of what it means that these images of her daughter are being saved to strangers’ devices. She has decided to become willfully oblivious to that fact, choosing to prioritize money and attention over her daughter’s safety.

And I know what you’re thinking: Okay, but this is a really extreme case. Most parents aren’t posting such clearly inappropriate content of their kids online. Most are just sharing everyday moments with their kids.

You’re not wrong. It may seem intellectually dishonest to discuss the extreme cases that are probably the outliers instead of the norm. But here’s what I need us all to realize: pedophiles can sexualize and objectify nearly any image of a child, no matter how innocent those images are. The idea of strangers from the internet downloading the countenance of our children to their personal devices should alarm and disgust every single one of us. No matter how much some parents may choose to ignore what might be going on behind closed doors with their children’s photos and videos, there is no denying that what is happening to these children is abuse.

Social media is no longer the safe place to share happy moments and memories of our children’s lives. With the algorithms utilizing cutting-edge intelligence to push out content to just the right hands (or, more importantly, the wrong ones), it is more important than ever that parents be incredibly discerning about what they share of their kids online. Many of us have begun the work of painstakingly removing any photos or videos from our accounts that include our children, and have vowed to never include them in our content again. It’s time for all of us to take these steps.

Making this change doesn’t have to come with shame or guilt. Most of us started sharing our children online in a time when it was comparatively safe to do so. It is okay to acknowledge that times have changed, and that now we need to act accordingly. Perhaps most importantly, it’s time for us to begin demanding that Congress does something to oversee and regulate the depiction of children on social media. It’s clear that far too many mommy vloggers are unwilling to prioritize their kids’ safety over money and fame, and these social media platforms aren’t going to strike these videos when they rake in so much engagement and money.

It is time for laws to be made to protect these children from both online predators, and their parents who turn a blind eye to what’s happening.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

Check out her blog called Compassionate Feminism on Psychology Today to join a feminist conversation centered in openness, empathy, and equity.

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