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March 1, 2023 61 mins

There's a difference between posting a picture of your child on social media and making a business out of posting content about your child. Bridget Todd joins us to talk about some new research around the detrimental impacts and consequences of using children to get clicks and engagement.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha and welcome to Stephane.
Never told your protection of iHeart Radio, and today we
are once again thrilled, so ecstatic, joyful to be joined

by the amazing world traveling bridget I love the introductions
you all give. They won't they like truly warm my heart? Yes,
well you warm our heart by being here, especially when
you're doing so much other stuff and you are coming

at us from a different location. Correct, that's right, I'm
coming from you live. Well, not it won't be live
when people hear this, but live for right now from
Mexico City, Mexico, where it's nice and warm. Yeah, it's
lovely here. It looks lovely. You've got like a like
healthy light glow coming in behind me. Where we're staying

is like has a lovely view and like all the
different monuments and stuff. And then there's I didn't know
that Mexico City is so mountainous, so it's like a
really it's kind of like being in California, like a
beautiful view. But then skyscrapers. Yeah, ten out of ten
can recommend. Yes, So you're having a good time. Can
you give us some highlights, some food? Maybe that you've had.

Oh yes, everything I've eaten has been amazing. Honestly, it's
so One of the reasons I wanted to come to
Mexico City was because of the food. I've been told
that you could go to like Michelin Star, super Bougee
restaurants and get a delicious meal in Mexico City if
you wanted to, or just get like, you know, cheap
tacos on the street and that would be delicious. And
so I've been eating all the things, lots of street tacos,

which are great. Something else I like is they take
breakfast very seriously here. I am a breakfast person. I
really like that. So lots of good breakfasts items. Yeah,
so far I've I've I've only been here since Saturday,
so it hasn't been that long. But looking forward to
eating all the things. Yes, oh yes, say you've been
there almost a week, so yeah, I think you've gotten
You've gotten some variety. I'm sure you're gonna have a

whole lot more. But that's I'm very jealous of, like
the breakfast because I'm sure it's all spicy and delicious.
There's something about a savory, spicy breakfast. It does it
really doesn't want it. I'll be there. Save a couch

for me, Save a couch. Yes, yes, as well. We're
looking forward to checking back in more food updates hopefully.
But yeah, thank you so much for taking the time
to join us from a different city when you haven't
been there. That loan oh always a pleasure. And my
own podcast, There Are No Girls on the Internet is

on a hiatus, so I feel like in this time
where I'm not podcasting, having an outlet where I and
be like I saw this thing on the internet and
I have to talk about it with somebody has been
great for me. So thank you for having me. Yes, absolutely,
And the topic he bought today is fascinating and such

like a big one and one that we have discussed
a lot on the show recently because we've been kind
of on a tech streak on the show and not
to like, not to put words into anyone else's mouths.
But I didn't grow up with social media. I got

it late college. I would say it was the earliest
that I got. Some friends of mine got it when
I was in high school, but I was kind of
a late bloomer, as they say, And I know it
sounds kind of like back in my day, but I'm
pretty thankful for it, honestly in a lot of ways.
And this this kind of new phenomenon of all of

our lives, but especially in this outline bridget of children's
lives being on the internet is fairly new and in
a lot of ways kind of disturbing, a little unsettling.
I did want to ask before we get into this
conversation both of you, what was your kind of experience

with social media? And also, and you can pass on
this one because I know it's kind of a fraught subject.
Does your family follow you on social media? Oh? What
a good question. Well, you know, we just before we
got on here talked about the fact that I am
from the generation of beepers and that the Internet was

not a thing until I almost got into college. Essentially,
like at the tail end of everything. The beeper was
due to my job and at my first job out
of college, I was a child abuse investigator and those
systems were getting online, were you. I was still in
the time when we were doing everything by hand. Essentially,

that was where I am. The technology and social media
was fairly new for me. I think outside of college
I had like MySpace, and Facebook. I dabbled at first,
and since then I'm like, Okay, I like the social
media thing. But I am also very grateful, especially seeing
what my nieces and nephew have gone through with social media,

which they are gen zer so it's a whole different level.
I do have family that follow me. I do not
like it, and now a post less because they follow me. Yeah. Say,
we were talking about how the first time I met you, Samantha,
you this was just a couple of years ago, you
had a beeper on your person the first time we
met in person years ago. Yeah, my relationship with social media,

I Anny, I'm kind of like you, Like, I am
so glad that I came of age in a time
where social media, Like I'm glad that what I was
doing on social media or like the early days of
my Internet usage is not still around behunt me or
at LEAs Scott, I hope not. So. I was using
things like live journal when I was in early high school.

And I remember I was in college when we first
got Facebook, and before Facebook, it was my Space, so
like I was like a scene kid and so college,
like my Space dominated my college experience. Like that was
like how you understood and kept up with my gross
scenster hipster friends in college. But it's funny because even

though I was dabbling with social media back then, it's
so different than it is today, Like it like it
doesn't even feel the same thing. I guess it technically
was social media, but the implications were so different than
I mean, back then, you were spending hours making it
so that when you go to your MySpace page it
has like falling stars and an AutoPlay panic at the

disco song that nobody can pause. But it was stuff
like that, and it was social media, but it was
so different than today. The question of whether or not
my family follows me on social media, I don't allow
them to follow me on social media. This could be
along our conversation, but I feel like I've kind of
accepted that my social media and digital presence is not

actually who I am in real life, and so you know,
you should really be thinking about, like when you post
on social media, like who is your audience? Who is
this for? And so who I actually am that the
audience for that is like my friends and family, people
who knew me in real life, my online persona, if
you will, that's not for my friends and family. That's

where people who are interest that in my podcast, interested
in my content, that kind of thing like, And so
I draw like pretty clear distinction between the two. Like
I almost think of my social media or my like
digital self as like my avatar for my real self.
And I don't like the idea of the two kind
of the two world's kind of overlapping. So I try
to keep a very clear distinction between my friends and

family IRL and my social media persona, which I don't
see as my real self, If that makes sense. I
know I probably sound like somebody who just took a
huge bong rip. I swear to god, I have not.
You know, that's pretty fascinating because I think that says
a lot to the reality of social media when you

say it like that, there is a persona and there's
this whole level of understanding that there's a difference between
the person and what's seen on screen in different accounts
and different platforms. And I know, as we're talking about
the subject you're bringing, which I have a lot of opinions,
so I'm really really excited and a lot of concerns,

just as being in child welfare, but in that level
of what we see and what is posted, and who
has control of what is being posted. Absolutely, it's so complicated.
And I think it's complicated for me as a grown
woman in my thirties. I can only managine how much
more complicated it gets navigating this as a young person.
So I know that I came on the show quite

a while ago to talk about Francis Hogan, the Facebook
whistle blower, and what she her whistle blowing revealed about
what Facebook and Instagram knows about how social media negatively
it impacts young girls. And so that was a conversation
that we had. But this conversation is a little bit
different because it really asks what happens when it's not
the you know, teen or the child getting on social

media themselves. What happens when it's the mom or the
parent who is kind of forcing I use that word
in quotes, forcing their child to be part of their
social media content, part of their social media persona. And
so on my podcast, there are no girls on the Internet.
I did this fascinating interview with this woman, Sarah Adams,
and she runs the TikTok account mom Uncharted. She told

me that she calls her account mom uncharted because social media,
if you think about it, it's really like this uncharted
territory for parenting, and we really do not know how
social media will impact our kids. If you want to
listen to the whole interview, check out my podcast It's
It's she's a really fascinating person, but her social media
account is dedicated to explorations of kind of mom influencing

and like mom run accounts and all the different ways
that parents. It's honestly, it's usually moms use their children
for content on social media. She told me that social media,
you know, the dynamics around it have changed so quickly,
not that long ago. If I was to say something like, oh,
sharing your kid on social media, you might think that
means like posting a cute picture on Facebook where your

great aunt or your uncle or something might like it. Now,
kids we're not even really old enough to understand what
it means, not to mention, not old enough to consent
to it, can have their most intimate or sensitive or
embarrassing moments seen by millions of people on social media
platforms like TikTok. Right, as we've said in a lot

of these past episodes, this is sort of an iteration
of things we've seen before. This is going to also
kind of age me. But my parents wants in a
video of me as a kid to America's funny as
some videos, But that's like very different, Like they weren't
going to make money off of it, right, But what
were you doing in the video? Never you mind? I

was alternately like so enamored with a frog and then
terrified of the frog. It's just like it wasn't that funny,
but I thought it was very funny. But then it
became like you know, reality TV, and we've talked about
those things before as well, of like kind of the
dance Mom's situation. And then now it becomes what we're

seeing on social media where people are making money off
of this content of their kids, where the kids can't
consent to it, where it will probably never be able
to be fully erased if that's what they wanted. If
that's what they wanted, And then I know we're going
to talk about this later, but there's kind of all
these achy issues around, like paras social relationships people develop

with these kids, and what do we do about that?
Like is that the platform? Is it the parent that's
posting this content? Like all of these questions that come
from from what it like one level can seem like, oh,
this is just a cute video of this kid falling
over something, but on, but when you dig deeper than that,

there's just all of these other questions exactly and you
put it so well right, Like, just to level set,
I don't feel like every parent who shares content of
their kid is is created equal here, Like, there's a
pretty big difference between you know, sharing the occasional family
vacation video or like cute picture or whatever with your

friends on social media or even the wider Internet. There's
a difference between that which I think most people do
and is like fine and running a business that generates
income from relying on an audience of millions of people
engaging with your child, right, And there are so many
questions that you just kind of alluded to and reasons
for why we should sort of be asking questions about

what that is doing to our kids. One of the
things that I think is unique about social media and
technology in general is how quickly it moves. Things just
move really quickly, and I think that when it comes
to our kids and the impact on our kids, it
would behove us to not move really quickly, would behove
us to take a minute, pump the brakes and do
some real deep thought about how we want our children

to be showing up on social media and whether or
not it's actually good for them psychologically, emotionally, and whether
or not it's actually safe like in the real you know,
in every implication of the word, like sometimes it is
not safe to share so much of your child on
social media with strangers. You know, first there might be
a negative psychological impact on kids. I really wanted to

find I was like, oh, I'm going to get some
good media research on this. But as the uncharted part
of Sarah Adams's TikTok Names suggests, there kind of isn't
a ton of good research out there about the way
that being used for content by your parents would impact children.
And that's partly because it's just so new. Morgan sung

over at NBC. She's one of my favorite Internet reporters,
and she's really been following this beat of young people
who have been kind of turned into content by their parents.
So Morgan spoke to Lindsey Cooley, who was a light
since clinical child psychologists, who said that because social media
is so relatively new. There is not really a lot
of clinical research on the long term effects of what

she calls growing up online, but lately, some kids who
did grow up with parents who shared every aspect of
their lives on social media are starting to speak out.
Morgan Thong talked to Cam, whose mom used to make
content about their life. Kim said that their mom sharing
every single detail of their life had a real negative
impact on their mental health, and eventually they kind of

stopped being open with their mom about whatever they were
going through because they knew this is just going to
wind up being shared on the internet with her followers.
Cam is immunocompromised and would spend a lot of time
ill or sick, and rather than like being there for them,
Cam says that their mom would just be filming these
filmingns for content. So at times in their life where

they were sick or stressed or going through something difficult,
their mom would be there with a camera in their face, right,
And I think that's the way you phrased it, of like,
you know, using kids for content, of like then you
become something like a tool to get clicks, as opposed

to like a child that needs care and needs help
and needs respects, and how damaging that absolutely would be
if if you start to feel like, oh, it's just
like my tears are just a way for you to
film something and get people to watch it. Like what
what would that do to you? Like that's very damaging?
I think yeah. And it's actually as an adult, like

speaking of that sort of distinction between my social media
life or my digital life and my real life. I
don't really share a lot of my like real life
on social media, and in part it's because of that
tension that you just named. If I have something in
my life it is really truly meaningful to me, I

am really uncomfortable with the idea of that being content,
of that being something to generate clicks, of that being
something that's going to have a number attached to it, like, oh,
three hundred people liked that my grandfather passed away or whatever.
Like I'm I really am not comfortable with that personally,
and so I tend to keep big or meaningful real

life moments off of social media because of that, because
I don't like the idea, and I'm like, no shade
to anybody who doesn't feel that way, this is just
how it feels. For me, it just doesn't feel right,
and I think for me it feels like it is
does a disservice to how meaningful those moments truly are
in my life. I don't want to see Mark Zuckerberg's

engagement metric on the back end of something that was
like deeply meaningful to me in my real life. That
seems the cheap and that feels a little bit cheap
to me, I guess, yeah, And it is interesting because again,
we are adults, and if you want to post that
content and you're contenting to yeah, you're so you can
consent to it. Then that's one thing. It still feels

strange because that's a whole separate podcast, but kind of
still like, oh, here's this sad thing. I have to
like it because otherwise they're gonna be mad. I didn't
like it, Like there's like this kind of social dynamic
around it that feels odd because then you're like, well,
I'm liking this thing. That's really sad, but if I
don't do it. But I do think that, and please

don't come at me, listeners, but I do think like,
in the same way people sometimes use like pets or
puppies to be like Oh look, how cute. Click on
this content. Here they are people are using their kids
like that, like see here's my life. Here's this like
view of my life, and like, oh, what did my
kid do today to get these clicks? And if that

is like, oh, my kid is very sick and I
am going through a hard time. Please, you know, give
me these likes, give me this engagement. It does become
pretty murky, right. You know. It's interesting too as we
were talking about the levels, like you're talking about social
media etiquette, which has been a conversation like how do
you go from this, but also how social media has grown,

Like when you think of the initial Facebook, it was
literally to connect with college friends for me, or your
past friends or high school friends that you haven't seen.
So you may be updating so I might get a
picture of my old high school friend who had a
child and oh how cute. And it wasn't necessarily about
getting likes and looks. It's just hey, I'm updating you
about my life, even to the point that like wedding announcements,

funeral announcements were done on Facebook. I'm on Facebook still
to remember people's birthdays and to get an event advice
because a lot of people used to use that as
the way of getting invitations or birthday parties or even
sometimes weddings, which is really odd. But the level that
we have grown to is this genre of TikTok. TikTok

is not a thing you can do private, and you
can do small content, but it really is a race
to see what can go viral and what can make
money and what can get sponsorships. And it's changed vastly
from what an elder millennial light myself knew it as
to what it is today. But because people are learning

things so fast or getting access to things so quickly,
the etiquette has been kind of lost or lost in
translation perhaps, and it's become a point that for the
Gen Z years and I guess newer millennials, what are
those younger millennials baby millennials have seen this as a
norm and don't didn't realize until maybe just recently, as

the younger generators who've been on social media all of
their lives since their birth have started to call it
out that this was normal and in competition and a
way of possibly making a living, and it's just kind
of made this whole culture completely different from what it
was even three years ago. Oh my god, that's that's
such an insightful point. And I do think it is

like it is not just human nature. It is a
little bit, it's some of it, but it's also exactly
what you said, I think. I think it's algorithmically generated
platforms where whatever is extreme or over the top or
whatever gets more attention, and platforms like TikTok, where that
is the currency is like that, that's what gets engagement.

Is is that attention And so you have people, so
that's that's like its own thing. When you add in
kids to the mix, that it just kind of has
the potential to really be so fraught. Like I remember,
it was some YouTuber I don't know her name off hand,
but she was kind of like quote unquote canceled because

she was known for being like a YouTuber who showed
her family and her family pet passed away, and so
she was making a YouTube video about how her family
pet passed away, and I guess she accidentally uploaded the
unedited footage where her child was very like genuinely authentically

upset and crying and the parent was, rather than consoling
this child, trying to tell the child to contort his
face so that it would be really so it would
be like a really extreme picture of them crying, because
she knew that if you use that image of an
extreme close up of like a distorted face who's experiencing

extreme emotion, if you use that for the thumbnail on YouTube,
it gets more engagement. If you ever look at YouTube
videos and you're wondering, why do all the thumbnails have
people making really weird over the top faces that nobody
really makes in real life, it's because they have figured
out that the algorithm rewards videos that include faces like that.
And so while this child is experiencing a genuine response

emotionally to losing their pet, mom is like, oh, make
sure that you really give me a good cry face
so that my YouTube video about this performs well. And
so I think it's not just our or as humans,
it's also platforms that are prompting people into behavior that
they would not otherwise probably do if not for the

way that platforms kind of encourage us to do this.
Do that makes sense? No, yeah, absolutely, I think again,
like the Squeaky Will gets the Oil type of thing
where you see the most dramatic or the most over
the top, like one of the things that's really thriving
on TikTok is people calling out other people for cheating
or thinking they're cheating if you're so and so I

just saw her husband here talking into this girl like
that's been a big thing and it shouldn't be as before.
Like there's a part of this, like, yes, let the
women know so they can get out, but it's also
purely for entertainment, for the numbers, for the likes, And
then as we see with these children, more and more
shocking things that people think is okay, I know a

YouTuber as you were talking about another YouTuber family, we
talked about this recently. Actually, in one of the episodes
you came on, the couple adopted the child just for
the sake of saying, where good people and adopted this child,
come on this journey with us, and then all of
a sudden, the child disappeared, and everybody, look, what the
hell just happened? What did you do to this child?
And it's the same way as we've seen several the

couple who did the experiment with their two young boys saying, hey,
we're gonna say that one of your brothers died. Your
pretend brother died, just go along with it so we
can make money. And this was a whole experiment on
the kids for entertainment. The audience is supposed to know
that this is a joke. We're just testing the kids.
Let's see how the kids react. And it was so

traumatizing to watch these kids pretending like they're lying but
questioning why we're doing this, and then having it filmed
and everybody saying, what are you doing? This is so
mentally damaging to your child. But you're doing this for
the sake of TikTok to show what So the example
that you brought up earlier, the family, the YouTube family

that adopted a child, they're gonna We're gonna return to them.
They make a little surprised guest appearance in this episode.
I think you're right. I think that there is I
honestly think it goes back to something that you said, Sam.
I think it's a situation where because the Internet has
moved so quickly from where it was when I was

updating my MySpace profile in my dorm room in college
to today, that wasn't that long I'm old, but I'm
not that old, right, That wasn't that long ago? And
where we were then and where we are now are
completely different. So it's moved so quickly, and I think
it's a situation where not like the cultural norms around
what is and it's not acceptable, healthy, okay to do

a good idea to do whatever, those have not kept
up with how quickly the technology has moved, and so
we now can film our kids inside of our house
and quickly uploaded to TikTok or YouTube and get a
million views. Our society has perhaps not progressed to a
place where it's like but would and I would argue
that our laws have also not kept up with that.

And so I do think there's something about the speed
with which the internet has changed, it become so ubiquitous
in our lives that we have not pumped the brakes
and allowed for cultural norms, societal norms, the law to
all catch up to where we are right now, and
especially the fact that kids are involved. We absolutely should
be taking the time to be a little bit more

introspective and slow down a little bit, to have a
cultural reset about what is it is not okay when
it comes to filming children for strangers online, right, And
it kind of always reminds me of the thing that
I had to tell kids as Snapchat and all those
different things were existing, again reminding them you may think
it's not on the internet, but it's on the internet,

so just as a reminder, but also the government is
very quick to use things like this to go after
the margin laws communities, and that's a whole different conversation,
I know, but having to try to explain to both
parents and two children, like, hey, you posting this picture
of your half naked child is actually can be considered
child porn and you can be arrested on a felony,

and then being completely shocked, and then having also letting
the kids know, hey, you just sending it yourself, even
though you're doing it with your quote unquote consent. As
a minor, you don't have the ability to consent. But
it's only going after specific things and specific morality rather
than what the root of the problem is with the
social media. Oh my god, same I This is kind

of a non sequitur I had, but the most like
weird conversation with a stranger on TikTok it was for
whatever reason, I get surfaced a lot of content about hallucinogens.
Like hallucinogens drugs. TikTok thinks I'm very interested in like
expanding my mind. And there was a woman who is
a woman look like a woman of color to me
talking about how she enjoys using mushrooms and it's like, oh, like,

come follow me from my beautiful day on mushrooms. And
it did look like a beautiful day. Like she's at
the beach, she's like going for a swim. Looks fantastic.
That she goes to her car and it's like she's like, oh,
I had to drive home. And I was like, honey,
this is a video. You're a woman of color, and
this is a video of you admitting to a crime.
Like this is not me judging you or me saying this,

but it is me knowing that. Like I've seen people.
I've seen people who are going through like contentious marital
situations to get CPS called on them. Like I've heard
horror stories of people who just uploaded stuff to the
Internet without thinking about it, and then they lost a job,
they lost a scholarship, the courts got involved, and somebody
else was like why why is that the first thing

that you jump to, And I was like, I understand that,
Like it sucks, and I like, I don't want to
be the person to have to tell you this and
like rain out of your parade from your nice day
that you were trying to show what the internet. But
I want to be the person that tells you the truth.
And the truth is that especially for people of color, you,
I mean, nobody should have be admitting to a crime
on video. But that's just like and that there, do

what you're gonna do if you're not hurting anybody whatever,
but like be smart about it, Like, don't have this
new era of social media where we don't necessarily have
the cultural norms firmly established anymore, the guardrails, if you
know what I mean. Don't let that false feeling of
freedom make you think that we actually do have freedom online,

especially if you're marginalized. I would that is just like
a rule of thumb. Don't admit to crimes on the Internet.
That's just like, I don't care how much engagement it
gets you. That's just an overall But as you're saying
for the person who's like, why do you have to
go to that like pessimistic view, And I know I'm
always joking about the fact that I'm pessimistic, but the
reality is it's really privileged for someone to not have

to even worry about it. That's the problem. The problem
about this is I have been on this side of
where I see police officers, I see court systems actually
go after specific individuals because they've profiled them from jump
and then find the social media accounts and use every
bit they can from that because they're profiling once again.
And that I know we use that as just generalized

terms in the bigger picture, but it happens on social
media as well, as well as the fact that there
was a perfect example of this dude who's really big,
TikToker got really big because he got he was funny.
Everybody loved him. He thought he was just hilarious. He
just cuts into a video and then tells a random
fact that was his whole thing, and then people found

and dug into his earlier post where he brings his child,
where the child says all this homophobic and racist comments,
which obviously was taught by him, and he's encouraging it,
and everybody's getting pissed at both the child and him,
and this is what he's done, not realizing that he
was going to blow up. But that's the consequence. It's like,

not only have you ruined your own reputation, you've already
ruined your child's. Oh my god. And it's like I
could only see that as like a parenting fail. If
your kid heard you using and repeated that and you
knew that was behavior that they were exhibiting, that is
one thing. Then being like I should film this for

the internet because it's funny. That is I guess that's
what I'm saying. I'm not being very eloquent about it,
but I do think that we are in this point
where I don't know that people universally understand that not
every moment is okay to be shared on the internet.
And you know, I would I would hope for that
parent in that situation to be like, we need to

have a conversation about what is and it's not okay
to say the fact that this parent was like, Oh,
get the camera, this is gonna be great put this
on the internet. That really tells me that I think
that we are in a place where perhaps people are
not asking the question of should I be filming this?
What are the consequences? This is gonna be good for
my kid? Like I think that we just need to
have a little bit more introspection about what we share

to the internet for strangers and absolutely, and again, it
is this layer of safety that people think, because they
don't people's reaction, they just record it and move on
with their day until the consequences happened, that they're safe
to do this. And maybe they're thinking they're being relatable
or maybe they're trauma bonding with people, which is in itself,
like why are you doing this, and it's doing at

the expense of a child, thinking maybe I don't know
if it's legitimate or if it's a ruse saying that
I'm just trying to teach you. I'm just trying to
share our you know, our downfalls and I'm trying to
be real. But it's again at the expense of a
child's emotions and trauma. So that exact thing is the
reason why I wanted to talk about this because I

had a moment where I saw this video on TikTok
and I have to say it like, I was personally
triggered by this this TikTok that I saw, and it
was this video of a black mom who was washing
her black child's like braids, right, and so this so
she had a camera setup where it was holding her

child over the sync to like scrub her scale. And
this little girl was like maybe she's like seven or eight.
She is bawling her eyes out. She is so upset. Right.
And so I'm a black woman. I have braids now.
I have braids for most of my life when I
was a kid, Like a lot of black women, my
hair has been something that is like a complicated thing,

like a lot of black women have complicated feelings about
their hair. And I have many a memory of crying
while getting my hair done, crying while getting my braids
taken you know, taken out or put in, And I
remember quite viscerally what a vulnerable position that I was
in in those times. I'm not saying that like moms
shouldn't do their kids hair if they cry, but I'm

saying I remember that being an emotional experience for me
that I was very vulnerable in. And I think a
lot of black women know what I'm talking about. And
so this child is sobbing while while this is happening,
the mom is like everybody, millions of people that are
going to see how you're acting right now, and the
little kid is like, what do you mean, and she's like,
I'm filming this, And a little girl starts crying even

more and she's like, why are you filming this? And
her mom is like, I'm filming it for a hair tutorial.
And even though this is a little kid, she's pretty
she's pretty sharp. She says, why don't you film a
hair tutorial on your own head? And it just broke
my likeing something about watching that video of like I
remember what it was like to be in distress. Now,
I'm not saying that was like a traumatic experience for her.

Kids cry for all kinds of reasons all the time, right,
we were all kids once, we remember, but she's clearly
in distress, even if it's temporary distress. And so her
mom talking to the camera in this moment and being
like millions people are going to see this in the
moment really just made me sad. And the mom was
saying like, oh, well, Like in the comments of this TikTok,

she was saying like, well, I want to show other
black moms out there how you deal with a stressful,
hair washed day or and other people who were supporting
her were saying like, maybe she's looking for a community
of moms and wants to build community in solidary young line.
I could sort of see that, but ultimately, the number
one responsibility of a parent should be to create a

safe environment for your kid and all of this other
stuff like I can understand maybe sort of kind of
wanting to demonstrate, like, oh, here's how I, as a
black mom gets through a tough hair washing day. But
those are strangers. Your responsibility when your child is in
distress is to provide a safe environment for that child
who cares about these these strangers in your head that

you are thinking about entertaining or whatever via this content.
And that's kind of what I'm talking about, like how
we reached a point where folks have kind of forgotten
that your number one responsibility is to your child and
to create a safe environment for that child, even if
that means that this community of fictional moms looking for

support might have to get at someplace else, right, And
I know, as you said at the beginning, there hasn't
been a lot of research in this. I know I

read one article about how things like this does a
road like the trust a kid has and their parents,
because if it's like they can kind of sense, oh, well,
they're doing this for some other reason, or there might
be a trick behind this, or they might be trying
to manipulate an emotion out of me for someone else.
But also, something that I wanted to go back to
that you wrote about was this idea of feeling like

there's a invisible audience. Yeah, I found mis fascinating, so
Lindsay Cooley, the licensed clinical child psychologist that spoke Tom
Morgan Song at NBC. Coolly said that adults whose formative
years were shared online may never grow out of experiencing
what she described as the invisible audience. Basically, we've all
kind of probably felt that the invisible audience is this

kind of adolescent ideal, but everybody is paying attention to
you and like scrutinizing your behavior at all times. Now,
most of us probably felt that way at one time
or another in our lives, but we usually grow out
of it as we mature and become more self aware
and get a deeper sense of self. Lindsay Hooley says
that kids who are always being filmed for content might

have a harder time breaking out of that mindset because
they essentially grew up on a stage. They grew up
knowing that they had to perform and turn it on.
And so if that is your everyday lived experience, you
might have a much harder time growing out of that
phase when you think that everybody's looking at you, when
you are feeling like everybody is scrutinizing you and feeling
like you're being perceived with eyes on you all the time.

And really I can kind of understand that, Like I
can understand why four kids who who are constantly on
the stage of the internet, why that would then be
a hard thing to kind of break out of. Yeah,
and that's another issue here is the issue of privacy.
And as we also mentioned at the top, these parasocial

relationships that people can form with children who again probably
never consented to any of this, right, Yeah, that's something
that I find really interesting, I guess I'll say, is
this the way that adults on the internet can form
these parasocial relationships with kids they don't even know, you know,

And I the one ahead, I kind of get it, right,
Like they've been let in on these very intimate relationships
with these kids, and so I can understand forming a bond, right,
and how that line of what is it is not
appropriate and what you are and are not entitled to
can become blurred. There was this mom influencer on TikTok
recently who decided that she was going to stop showing

her kids on social media after sort of providing quite
a bit of content solely about her kids, and her
followers were upset, but they weren't just like they weren't
like cool, as your kids do what you feel as best.
They were not happy about that, and they felt really
entitled to see and interact with these kids they don't
even know, right, And so I remember this was around

Christmas time when this influencer announced that and one of
her followers made a video that was like can we
at least see the children for Christmas? Like I just
want to see them for Christmas? And how they could
not accept that they were not going to be able
to see and interact with kids that they didn't know.
And it might I don't feel like all of these
people have bad intentions or anything, but it is absolutely

not healthy for an adult stranger to feel entitled to
see kids that they don't even know, Like that's just
not healthy, you know. Of course I have to go
real dark with it as you're being very kind and
be like these are not they just really like these
kids and they think the relationship is adorable. But here's
the prime example of where we can talk about grooming

and what happens when these relationships over these young kids
become sexualized by the audience or by the followers and
not necessarily being done by the parents. That they may
be completely innocent of it, thinking that they're playing cute
little dress up matching mommy type of look, which is
often a thing, but this becomes a real dangerous road

of grooming and a sexualization of young children. Just I
know there was one specific woman who went through a
young girl's accounts meaning they were probably really young, maybe
with a parent, showing what kind of followers these accounts had,
and they were typically form more examples like Middle Asian

men commenting about how beautiful they are and how all
these things are, like how good they looked in this
outfit or all these things, and how concerning it is
that the parents aren't realizing that compliment is not cute.
It's not a cute compliment and you shouldn't sit there
and like them and say thanks for supporting my child,
which has been the response. And it is so dangerous

when you see that this is becoming normal exactly. So
I do think that there are people out there that
are just like, oh, I just love this baby, and
I have slipped into an unhealthy fixation on this baby.
Perhaps not badly intentioned, yes, but you are so right
that that that there are people for whom they do
have bad intentions. And it is about sexualization and greaming

and it's gross, like it like what I'm what I
want to talk about today is like just the tip
of the iceberg with how dangerous and gross this stuff
can get, because truly it's just like very dark. Um,
there is a trend called role playing. No, not dungeons
and Dragons, role playing like that. Uh, this is what

people Annie and I met. You were like, oh, so
this is a This is the trend that I actually
have not heard of until I researched for this episode,
where people on the internet will steal photos of other
people from social media and make new fake accounts of
these people with like made up stories and identities. Now,

sometimes this can be like mostly harmless other than the
fact that like it's not cool to be taking pictures
of kids from the internet, but like some people are doing,
it's just it's not it's not necessarily harmful. But in
other cases, some of the backstories and like fictional situations
involving the identity of children and the pictures that they

are using are sexual and so there's this influencer Katie
Rose Pritchard. She told Good Morning America that one day
that she discovered all these social media accounts made for
each one of her kids, but they were actually strangers
pretending to be her, like very young toddler children typing
in like baby voice in camptions on Instagram. She told

Good morn America that she noticed that among these role
playing posts on social media, they used hashtags like kid
RP or baby RP to indicate that's what it is,
and that there's like a massive community of people doing this,
some of whom are describing obviously sexualized fictional situations involving
her toddlers, and probably unsurprising, she was enraged and horrified,

and I think, you know, there's so many different avenues
to this, but one is that it's obviously a social
media platform accountability issue. Katie Rose Pictchard said that she
reached out to Instagram to have this content taken down,
and then at first Instagram told her that people making
fake account of her kids and putting them in these
sexual fictional situations was not against their community guidelines, but

eventually she kept having her followers report the content and
Instagram did eventually take it down. So she decided that
she was going to stop posting pictures of her kids
on social media, even though she was an influencer and
this had resulted in brand deals and partnerships and all
of that, but that it just wasn't worth it because
she was like, even though Instagram eventually did the right

thing and took these pictures of my kids down, who
knows where they could be. She was like, I'll never
know how far their pictures traveled, what dark corners of
the Internet her kids' images are on, and that is
really scary. Yeah, And you know, just to add a
wrench in this whole thing is with the ideas of
deep fakes and AI technology, which takes straight from content

from the Internet, there are so many disturbing things that's
out there. Just knowing half of that and that being
faked and what it's being used for. And again there's
no loss to truly stop this. This is kind of
like the freedom of speech. As long as you're not
violating that child and you're doing images that resemble and

say this is not truly then all you have to
do is alter something. And it can't They can escape
the log because there is no law for it. And
with the realization that once you put it on the Internet,
there's no ownership, true ownership, as much as you would
like to think there is, there's no true ownership to
the content that you are posting. Yeah, to your point
about deep fakes, mom Uncharted on her TikTok has talked

about again, it's so dark that I hate to even
go there, but like there are marketplaces for deep fakes.
People have been like, here's an image of a person,
not always an adult, sometimes it's a child. I would
like to see digitally manipulated, like AI generated images of
this child in sexual situations. That is a thing that happens.

And I know that it is dark, and it's like,
on the one hand, you feel awful when someone's like
posting up cute picture of their kid being I'm like, well,
did you know that this could out wind up on
a marketplace On the dark side of the Internet, but
I have to say the truth. It's like, it's like,
what is happening? And I think it's a reason why
more and more influencers are and people in general are

keeping their kids off of the Internet. Like I don't
have kids, but if I was a parent, I don't
think I would put my kids on social media. I
just I think that with all that I now know,
and I didn't always know this, I know this from
research from now that I know all the different, really
dark up, gross corners of the Internet out there, I

just feel like it would be a safer bet to not, Like,
I don't know what it would give me to introduce
that into my kid's life. And this, you know, this
is a growing thing these days. The influencer that I
was just talking about, she wrote on Instagram. I can
be angry at Instagram all day long and nothing will
change until we change. Instagram is not to blame for

the exploitation of my children. I am. They have no
responsibility and usually come back with we have no control
over what our users posts. They simply do not care.
And it's I think that Instagram is really abdigating responsibility here.
But on the other hand, Katie is not wrong about
this that like it really, if platforms aren't going to

do anything to keep young people safe online, they should
an absence of them being leaders and doing what they're
supposed to be doing to keep kids safe, we have
no choice but to act. And I know that that
is like, it should not be that way, But if
platforms are going to allow the kind of dark stuff
involving kids that they do allow, we have to be

the ones who are making good decisions to keep our
kids safe. Right Well, obviously, as you said at the
very beginning, as a parent, your first responsibility is the
safety of your child. It should be, and that's that's
kind of the intent to begin with. And so even
though yes, you may not be doing any of these
dark and despicable things you're like, I've I keep talking

about it, but like I have had nightmares of the
darkness that happens to children, unfortunately, because of the things
that I have witnessed personally, Like, that's just a thing
that will always be ingrained in my head. It is
terrifying as awful, and I hate that that's a part
of my psyche and that that's part of the thing
that I share with people, But it is really naive

to believe that everything is sunshine and puppy dogs, because
I would love that, that would be amazing. That's why
I can't watch dark things because I don't want to
live in that world. But I've seen it, and you know,
as you've researched more things, it gets uglier and uglier.
And as Instagram should be held responsible for some things,

it is also again the parents' responsibility at the very
jump for to protect a child, and unlike it sounds
like this one influencer did an amazing job in trying
to backtrack because you don't think about that. It's an
amazing it's a great thing to not have to think
about that, but then when your face with it, to
realize you need to do some damage control. But there's

those out there who as long as they get the money,
as dark as that seems, it doesn't seem to care,
and there's no law to protect the children, it seems exactly.
So this is something that really bombs me out, grosses
me out because you might be thinking, like, surely parents
are not knowingly making money off of their kids content
being served up to adult creeps. But I'm sorry to

report that that is what is happening with some of
these like mom run accounts. Sarah of Mom and Charge
told me that she sees these mom run accounts of
young girls a sensibly a platform to share their daughters
like modeling pictures or like gymnastics pictures. But when you
click in, as you were saying, the people who are
following that page are grown men. The people who are

saving the images. So if you post something on TikTok
or post something on Instagram so you can see who
saves it, the people saving that are grown men. And
when you click into these profiles of the people following,
oftentimes it's like not it doesn't take you know, a
detective to see like, okay, this is an image of
a grown man. Who are they following accounts like hot

young bikini girls things like that, Like it's pretty clear
what's going on. And then these men will leave comments
on pictures of their kids that are like wow, what
a hot picture, and mom will go in and like
that comment, right, And so it's sort of this weird
thing where it's done under this kind of like plausible
deniability of like, oh, it's just a modeling page, like
you're the one sexualizing my kid. But come on, like,

you you know what this is is. I've even seen
some of these accounts go so far as to sell
images of like you want to buy a photo set
of my daughter's gymnastic pictures or even buy their used clothing,
like we know, like we all see what's happening. They
can they can hide behind this is a modeling thing,

you know, this is you know whatever, It's clear what's
going on. You are making money from exploiting your kid,
and that is just what's happening. I think, at the
very least, let's just call it what it is. Don't
dance around it, don't use this this plausible deniability. Everyone
knows what's going on. Cut the crap. You know. We

recently did an episode on YouTube and this is a
very similar situation happening where there are videos of young kids,
mostly young girls, and getting several comments like this from
grown men. And as we've been alluding to this whole time,
there aren't specific laws in place to protect kids from this. Correct,

that's right, And so when you think about it, it's
kind of weird that there's not right, Like when it
comes to kids making money off of their labor we
have all kinds of rules and policies and regulations in
place here in the United States. You know, media companies
that work with kids for like films or commercials or
modeling or whatever, they have very strict labor laws like

I used to do, like child modeling and child acting
when I was a kid. Like they have very very
specific labor laws. But the Fair Labor Standards Act, a
nineteen thirty eight law that addresses excessive child labor, and
the California Coogan Act, which protects child actors. Neither of
those have been updated to include children online, like the

children of influencers, children who are being used as content.
And so it is definitely a situation where our technology
has advanced quicker than our laws have because they're currently
zero laws that in the United States that regulate how
children work on social media and how they can appear
in ads on social media that generate money, but that
actually might be changing soon. Morgan Sung reported that an

eighteen year old college student named Chris McCarty wanted to
advocate for kids rights to privacy after learning about that
influencer Mica Stelfer, the one who you might recall we
were just talking about she wanted to adopt a special
needs child. She did adopt that child, extensively shared intimate
content about the health needs of her adopted child before

deciding that those medical needs were too much and having
him quote rehomed. As she put it, well, that inspired
Chris McCarty to start advocating for the way that kids
are used online and like advocating for protections for these kids,
McCarty started to say quit Clicking Kids, which is described
as an advocacy and education site to combat the monetization

of children on social media, and when Chris was a senior,
they could emailed like a bunch of lawmakers and eventually
ended up working with Representative Emily Wis to craft HB
sixteen twenty seven, which is a bill that would protect
quote the interests of minor children featured on for profit
family laws by requiring the parents of kid influencers to
set aside part of that revenue from their content into

a separate fund so that their kids could access them
into adulthood. And it would also grant the children of
influencers the right to request the permanent deletion of their likenesses, names,
or photos from any Internet platform or network. That provided
compensation to the individual's parent or parents in exchange for
that content, and so platforms under this new legislation, platforms

would have to take reasonable steps to permanently delete video
segments of such children. That was one of the things
that like in researching for this episode and reading the
accounts of young people who were the used solely, like
they were the sole focus of their parents content. One
of the things that they say is I can't delete
it from me. I had no choice in the matter.

I was not able to consent. And now when you
google my name, all this stuff, intimate stuff comes up
about me, intimate stuff about my health, my body, my life,
all comes up, and there is no way to remove it.
And so I don't know how this legislation will shake out.
I'll keep you posted, but I do think it's it's
time that we really had our laws and our norms

catch up with where we are technologically. And I think,
you know, I think I think it's time. You would
think that we would have learned through the child actors stuff,
all the young actresses that had either the money stolen
or gone through so much abuse, all those things that
you would you would have thought, yeah, we would learn
from those mistakes because some of these young kids making

multimillions of dollars, so that you would think that with
that kind of revenue, which is which is rare, but
those are the ones who arguing the money, are the
younger kids at this point in time, that we would
actually found a way by now that would protect these
kids because inevitably they're the ones who kind of bring
it to bring it to as it is, like we're not.

It's not the older people who are creating these new
things and new new trends and new ways of communicating,
as the younger kids who are doing this and learning
how to do it better and or being used for it,
like it's one of those things they like it should
be for them, So why wouldn't it are automatically protect
them Exactly? Like I love cute kids on the internet

as much as anybody else in a healthy way, but
like corn Kid, I don't know if you guys remember
corn Kid. He was just like adorable little kid who
was interviewed at a state bear eating corn and who
was like when I had it with butter, everything changed
and he was like an overnight sensation. And I remember
thinking like, oh, what happened to Corn Kid? How is
he doing? And Corn Kid is quote retired, And I

just loved that, you know, somebody in his life was like, hey,
this you we've had this overnight unexpected viral fame, but
you can retire. You know, this doesn't have to be
something that you, you know, do, This doesn't have to
be something I think I think I did say that
he was on cameo, But this doesn't have to be
something that you you know, make your entire identity and

you're just a kid, you don't you don't have to,
you know, decide to go into internet social media stardom,
entertaining strangers because you had this one viral moment. And
so I really really hardened me to see that somebody
in his life gave him the space and the language
of being like, oh yeah, I'm retired as corn Kid
to make a choice for himself and protect his protect

his identity a little bit, protect protect his peace, because
I do think, like, yeah, the Internet is forever, and
I really feel for these kids who don't get a
choice in becoming these Internet stars and have to live
with it for life. And I think, you know, I
do think the tide is turning a little bit. I

think that we're seeing more and more one more and
more children who were used in this way as content
speaking up about what that experience was like for them.
And I think we're seeing more and more influencers stop
showing their kids on social media or do so in
ways that are a little bit more thoughtful. Right, So
you'll see influencers not showing their kids face or including

their kids and their content, but just showing their hands
the back of their head, so that it's not just
you know, performing on command for the entertainment and monetization
of your platform. Right. And you know, I think it
cut people took a page out of those big celebrities
who realize who lived in the limelight. We're like, we're

not putting our children through that, and go through everything
to try to cover at least like protect their identities.
And I've done so much better recently. I mean not some,
but you know, and then they're learning this is could
be really damaging, like you said, and that corn kid
so cute. He literally I think they asked him much
later after everything went viral, like what are your friends

think of that? And they're like, my friends don't know.
They don't know anything about this because the parents did
such a great job in keeping him isolated away from
all of that because they didn't want him to be scrutinized,
made fun of or any of that. Because so many
of them because he kind of I guess is it
a mame was the amazing gifts? Maybe eventually became that
that so many of those goods who were gifts or

memes were really humiliated as adults. Yeah, Like I think
it was BuzzFeed doing a series of what happened after
these people became memes. They actually have a really good one.
If you remember the girl this is gonna maybe date me,
and people who are younger gonna be like, what are
you talking about? The girl who was photographed with pigtails
and in a headgear holding goosebumps books if you if

she is a very her story is very fascinating. But yeah,
it's like these these people that we see on the internet,
and because we're engaging with them through a screen, we
can kind of forget that they're real people who have
to go on to live real lives in the real world,
or they don't just exist frozen in time. In this
meme where we first encountered them. They are real people. Yeah, her, Well,

as always, this has been so informative, Bridget. Thanks for
bringing it to our attention. Thanks for making the time
to come on. And I'm sure we'll update on this
one because clearly we all have a lot of thoughts
about this, so we would love to come back to
this one. Well, where can the good listeners find you? Well,
you can find me over at my own podcast. There

are no girls on the internet. The episode that we
did with Mom uncharted super interesting. She's just a really
interesting person. I would definitely recommend checking it out. Can
follow me on Twitter at Bridget Marie, on Instagram at
Bridget Marie in DC, or on TikTok at bridget Mixed Podcasts. Yes,
love it, love go check all of those things out
if you haven't already, listeners, and yes, thank you again, Bridget.

Can't wait to do this again next month. Update on
the food as well. Yeah, maybe we'll do it from
Mexico City, but you all come visit. Oh, I would
love it. I just heard an invitation. I'm coming. The
bags are getting backed, the bags are getting hearted in Mexico. Oh,

I can't wait. Well, listeners, if you would like to
contact us that you can our emails, Stuff Mediami, Stuff
at ihartmedia dot com. You can find us on Twitter
at Moms of Podcast or Instagram and TikTok at stuff
on Ever Told You. Thanks as always to our superproducer
Christina the best, the best, and thanks to you for
listening stuff one Ever Told You subjection I Heart Radio.
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