Disturbing search detail after mum's TikTok racks up 18 million views
Children are being exposed to social media stardom earlier than ever, with some going viral before they can even walk.
While posting pictures of your children to family and friends can be perfectly safe, in some cases it can lead to disturbing outcomes.
One TikTok account run by the mother of a three-year-old girl has a staggering 17 million followers.
The videos are usually about what the mother-daughter duo are up to that day — from being at home, to trips out and about, with the most recent video featuring the girl swimming in the pool.
The videos seem innocent enough, however some social media users have raised concerns for the welfare of the child due to the fact thousands of people were "saving" the videos to their favourites.
One social media user pointed out that a video of the child in a bath was particularly concerning, it now has over 18 million views, 1.9 million 'likes' and over 59,000 saves. In a concerning comparison, other videos of the little girl doing every day things will see a few thousand saves.
On TikTok, one woman claims a now-deleted video was uploaded which showed the girl holding a tampon, while posed in an "inappropriate way".
When searching for the girl's account, a number of disturbing search options appear showing frequently used terms.
Among them are '[user name] tampon video' and '[user name] crop top'.
Yahoo News Australia has decided to not name the TikTok account, the child or the mother.
Money over safety?
There have also been suggestions the mother has monetised the platform and done partnerships with major brands, while people on a Reddit thread have accused the mother of choosing money over her child.
It's not just a few outliers suggesting something nefarious is going on.
While discussions of whether the mother was exploiting her happened online — other parents took note of the concerns being raised surrounding the three-year-old and it sparked a whole new movement.
Mothers started scrubbing the internet of photos of their own children and spoke out about the platform the mum had built around her daughter – which may have potentially lured in paedophiles.
"Despite knowing the dangers, she insists on posting this much of [child's name], for 17 million strangers to watch, leaving a permanent trace of her image on the internet," someone wrote on a Reddit thread dedicated to the mother and daughter's account.
The problem with child-related content
Nigel Phair spent 21 years with the Australian Federal Police, he led investigations at the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and is now the director of the Institute of Cyber Security.
He doesn't want to tell people how to live their lines online or offline, however, he wants people to think about how they participate online and the risks associated with sharing content featuring or showcasing children.
"The unfortunate reality is, there's a lot of very undesirable people online and the internet has enabled them to get access to images of young people easier as they previously did," he told Yahoo News Australia.
"Once upon a time, if you were a predator, you had to drive the school bus, be the under 10s soccer coach, work at the local swimming pools to get access to children.
"Now you can be a mechanic as you always wanted and get online at various times and groom people and it's just horrible, but it is what it is."
The issue with parents running their child's social media accounts
Parents warned not to post school photos of their kids: 'Disturbing'
TikTok trend involving young children divides opinion: 'Terrible'
Child exploitation on social media goes beyond borders
Cyber crimes and child exploitation on social media transcend borders, however, there are things people can do to protect themselves and their children.
The e-Safety Commissioner in Australia does an "amazing" job, Mr Phair said, the only problem is people don't know about it.
Mr Phair said the whole ecosystem needs to be evaluated surrounding social media accounts such as the mother and daughter's account.
He added it was great that other mothers online recognised there was an issue and acted, but said we need a lot more of those "light-bulb" moments.
"It goes to the leadership across society, whether it's leadership by parents, by schools, by the government, by the platform themselves," Mr Phair said.
"I'm not pointing the blame at anyone. We all need to do much, much better."
Mr Phair warned that while problematic accounts should be called out, engaging with it – or directing others to it – could be giving them what they want in terms of attention and financial compensation.
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