The recent Wren Eleanor controversy on TikTok has inspired parents worldwide to re-think their social media habits.
A single innocuous video of three-year-old Wren wearing a cropped tee shirt garnered more than 45,000 saves. Another video, featuring Wren eating a corndog, was saved nearly half a million times.
For many, this begs the question: who are the people saving this video, and why? And by extension, is it safe to post pictures and videos of children on social media?
Who is doing the sexualizing?
The recent Wren Eleanor discourse is centered on the ethics of posting children on social media. This discourse is primarily fueled by other TikTok content creators who posted stitches (videos directly commenting on the original Wren videos) and commentaries offering their views: predominately, that Wren’s videos were saved by people who were sexualizing children.
A certain number of the saves and views on Wren’s videos are because of the controversy brought to attention by other content creators, more still are from people who want to keep tabs on the beginnings of the controversy.
The waters get even muddier when we consider who is really doing the sexualizing: the content creators flagging their concerns, critiquing Wren’s parents for posting the child in a swimsuit, or those saving the videos?
There is no easy answer to this question. But amid the ongoing discussion and erring on the side of caution, parents worldwide are now actively removing online photos and videos of their children to both protect them from potential child predators and ensure they stay safe online.
Should children be posted on social media?
One fruitful area of discussion that has come out of the Wren saga is whether parents should be posting their children online at all. Firstly, there is the matter of consent: three-year-olds, or even 10-year-olds, cannot fully understand the ramifications of being featured in online content.
Even older children have struggled with ‘sharenting.’ In 2019, for instance, 14-year-old Apple Paltrow, the daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow made it clear that she wasn’t happy with an image that her mother posted on Instagram.
Other older teens have very publicly critiqued their parents for posting images of them online. Sonia Bokhari wrote for Fast Company: “When I saw the pictures that she [mother] had been posting on Facebook for years, I felt utterly embarrassed, and deeply betrayed.”
When parents decide whether or not to post their children online, they will do well to remember the advice they give their own children: the internet is forever.
Social media accounts set to public may not be the best place for images and videos of one’s children. There is no way to prevent people who might have ill intent from saving this content.
But what about on a private Facebook account? That’s ultimately down to the parent, with the full knowledge that their children may one day disagree with their decision and that there’s still no guarantee of absolute safety.
Jane is a content strategist at TechWarn, a digital safety advocate for cybersecurity companies. She is passionate about promoting the importance of cybersecurity and digital privacy and is dedicated to empowering her readers to take control of their digital lives.