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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Why Parents Are Deleting Photos Of Their Kids

Wren Eleanor is a three-year-old girl who likes to play with her dolls, enjoy treats, and take day trips with her mum. Wren is also a social media child 'star' with over 17 million followers on her TikTok account.

Single mum Jacquelyn Paul started the account as a way of scrapbooking Wren's childhood, but in recent weeks, she has come under fire for exploiting her child and possibly putting her at risk. Known as the "Wren Effect?" this tiny Tik Toker's account has been sleuthed by the community, and they've found some pretty disturbing things going down in the activity on the 3 year old's posts. That amateur detective work has led to many parents and carers deleting all their kids pics from the their social media accounts.

What has got them so spooked?

Kirra Pendergast our CEO spoke to Mamamia's The Quicky podcast about why innocent pics and videos, like those posted of little Wren Eleanor, could be feeding a sick online community.

Listen to the podcast here:

Online sleuths and members of Wren Eleanor's TikTok community noticed some disturbing behaviour and concerning trends on the account that sounded alarm bells.

"This video of Wren in a crop top has been saved 45,000 times," one TikTok sleuth pointed out.

"Wren eating a corn dog at a country fair has been saved 375,000 times."

More TikTok detectives noticed disgusting comments about Wren from men asking if she 'was single' and writing that she was 'a hottie'.

Wren's mum, Jacquelyn, has publically defended her choice to post content about her daughter, sharing a statement on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

In the statement, she said that the safety of her daughter is her number one priority and that as a single mum; the account has allowed her to provide for her daughter and her future. Jacquelyn added that she makes the videos for fun for a couple of hours each week and that after collaborating with law enforcement agencies (including the FBI), she has been advised Wren's likeness does not appear on any inappropriate websites.

Jacquelyn says that she understands there are people with twisted minds who prey on children, but never did she think that a toddler eating her first corn dog at the county fair would be interpreted as sexualised behaviour.

She also said that people have to honour their own decisions, but she did not want others to "mum shame" her because of different parenting styles. She said she is looking forward to making more videos with her daughter.

After seeing what was happening on Wren's account, however, other users on TikTok who share content of their kids took action. Kayla, who has an online following of 130,000 people, spoke to Claire Murphy about the immediate changes she has made.

"I got on Reddit and saw the comments, the screenshots, and the fan accounts that were made for this little three-year-old girl and just the sexualisation of it. It kept me up all night. It really overwhelmed me, especially since I went from having a couple of thousand followers to 130k in three months.

"I'm not going to wait for something to make me sick or scare me. I'm just going to eliminate it before it happens. So as soon as I got that bad feeling, I was like, that's it. And I told my fiancé to do the same, so we made all of our socials private except for TikTok, where we just removed all the videos of our kids, and we will no longer show their faces. It's just too overwhelming for me."

Child psychologist Andrew Greenfield tells Claire that if a parent is considering creating an account for their child, it is worth considering the future implications of childhood fame first.

"Not every single child wants to be the centre of attention all the time. And I think that can certainly lead to self-esteem issues, or sometimes depression or anxiety issues," he explained.

"So I think it's important to be aware of that. And a lot of times, it's got absolutely nothing to do with a child, it's about the parent."

Kirra Pendergast has over 25 years experience in cyber security and cyber safety, and she believes that children should have no presence at all on the internet until they are adults and are able to consent.

"In every single session, I do with students if I ask: 'Whose mum and dad post photos of them online without permission?' They all put their hand up, and you can literally hear the eye roll because they don't like it.

"And it's giving that power back to children and giving them some consent, because we will never know what's being shared on social media. And parents that think their accounts are private need to think about the predators that could be someone that they know within their group of friends.

"Putting your child's privacy first is a huge thing that parents have to consider."

Listen to this episode of The Quicky now on the Mamamia App or wherever you get your podcasts.

Feature Image: TikTok.

CLICK HERE for our new parent cyber safety course - eSafetyHQ. For just $87+GST per year, we will give you all the tools you need to help keep your kids and yourself safe online.

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