Whenever I’m on TikTok, I watch content from some of my favorite TikTok moms. I check in on Lena and her jokes, I see if Franklin has started to talk yet and I watch Maia make “babas” for her babies nicknamed “Scotch” and “Vodka.” The rise of #MomTok is challenging the classic YouTube influencer lifestyle.
While I appreciate the authentic portrayals of parenting these users provide, I am worried for their kids’ well being.
In 2020, photos of a woman’s baby daughter wound up on a Russian pedophile website, according to Metro.
The deeper into #MomTok I’ve gotten, the more accounts I’ve had on my feed that are fighting against child exploitation on social media. My innocent check-up on a TikTok baby could be a predator’s fix for the day.
Riada Araes (@riadaaraes) is a childhood sexual assault survivor and uses her platform to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation. In the main video pinned to her account feed, she talks about the concept of “deep fakes.” This is a form of AI technology that allows someone to manipulate images, such as putting a face on a different body. Araes said that the more content there is of a child online, the easier it is to create a “deep fake” of them in a potentially pornagraphic situation.
One TikTok mom is known for posting videos of her daughter in different stylish outfits, most of which look like they were pulled from a 20-year-old’s closet, just in teeny tiny sizes. The user, @wren.eleanor, has received numerous comments on her videos of people asking her to protect her daughter. Meanwhile the other half of the comments argue that she’s doing what she can and we cannot control the people with sick minds.
However, you can limit how much of your child you show online. Why do you think celebrities often hide their kids from the public eye?
When I went to Instagram to search @wren.eleanor’s account, the first few results that came up were for fan pages. This two-year-old girl – along with other TikTok babies – has a fan account. Apart from concerns of child predators, my other fear is how these influencer children will feel when they get older.
When your entire account is centered around your kids, you’re making your kids the influencers. Your kids become your income. Your kids become exploited.
On one hand, I am happy that Maia Knight is able to support herself and her kids as a TikTok-famous single mom, but I can’t help but wonder how her twin girls will feel when they grow up and realize that their internet presence alone is paying the bills.
The first #MomTok user I began watching was Amanda Bouldin (@afterhourswithamanda). Her platform is all about the lessons she has learned from her kids and parenting advice that encourages healthy communication. Her videos are always in a “story time” format, and she rarely includes her children in her content on purpose. You still get an inside look at life as a parent but without the direct exploitation of her kids.
On the opposite end is @lauralove5514. Despite dedicating her account to Montessori practices and respectful parenting, she shows every aspect of her boys’ lives. A large portion of her videos include filming personal moments where her children are throwing tantrums and learning how to deal with big emotions. Though it's helpful to provide examples of how to communicate with your little ones, her kids are so little that they don’t quite understand how these intimate moments in their lives are being shared with 4.1 million people.
Fifteen years from now, I feel like we’ll be seeing an influx of stories about influencer babies reflecting on their childhood. Most TikTok moms that I’ve seen have said that their kids enjoy making videos and wearing merch with their own viral quotes on them. But as these kids stay in the TikTok spotlight, we will eventually learn the long-term impact of #MomTok.