Parents cashing in on kids

kids on a rock
Laguna Beach picture of my kids from around 2001.

My daughter shared an article with me that she thought I’d find interesting for my blog. It’s from Teen Vogue — which she said is not behind a paywall — and has more interesting articles than fashion like “What’s hot for summer.”

In “Influencer Parents and The Kids Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content” by FORTESA LATIFI, I learned about parents who cashed in on their kids on social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”

When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents. Once she doesn’t live with them anymore, she plans to speak out publicly about being the star of a YouTube channel. She’ll even use her real name. Claire wants people to know how her childhood was overshadowed by social media stardom that she didn’t choose.  And she wants her parents to know: “nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.” 

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/influencer-parents-children-social-media-impact

It would be easy to judge these parents as monsters. But, I am thankful Instagram and TikTok did NOT exist when my kids were young. Wait, I’ll retract my statement and call it exploitation of children. I guess that’s being judgmental, right?

I had Facebook when my kids were growing up and my pages were an embarrassing brag-site of my amazing, marvelous kids! It’s nauseating to look back on.

As my daughter got older, her friends would bully or tease her about awkward tween years’ photos I posted. She asked me to NOT post anything about her without permission. I mostly followed her wishes. Maybe slipping up a few times.

Although I look negatively at parents who use their children as cash cows, like I said, I’m glad it wasn’t something I had an option to do. Unlike TV and movie parents, there are no protections for kids who are content on their parents’ social media sites. The article goes into detail about how contracts with TV and movies have protections for children and they get money put into a trust.

By the way, I also didn’t think it was right for swim parents to put pressure on their swim kids to earn college scholarships. I had a weekly column about swim parenting HERE. Too much pressure, period. However, if a scholarship did happen, that’s icing on the cake of all the valuable lessons and friendships gained through sports.

I look at the harm social media has done to our kids who grew up with it. Suicide, depression, anxiety and eating disorders are running rampant. I wonder how these teens are doing who were used as influencers since toddlerhood?

I have a weekly zoom call where we talk about all sorts of current subjects. We are a variety of ages, religions and a spectrum of political persuasions. One of the topics we’ll talk about next week is social media and our youth. Here’s A LINK to a Surgeon General’s Advisory from the Department of Health and Human Services that I received from the group yesterday. In the article is a pdf from the Surgeon General.

What thoughts do you have about parents using kids as influencers on social media? What thoughts do you have about the affects of social media on our youth?

Thoughts about social media and kids

kids and their dog
My kids at the beach with Angus our best dog ever.

My kids are three years apart in age. They had different experiences with social media growing up. I think “My Space” appeared when my son was in junior high and he didn’t have a smart phone. Kids in his class got in trouble for bullying and posting content that wasn’t considered appropriate.

If I remember correctly, my son got his first iphone for high school graduation. Facebook, My Space and whatever else was popular back then wasn’t a significant part of his life.

My daughter on the other hand had friends with iphones as early as third grade. I think we held off until she was 13 or 14.

At the pool, whether it was swim practice or meets, before the advent of smart phones, the kids would all hang out together under pop-up tents and play word games, cards or Catchphrase. The high school kids would play alongside the middle and elementary school-aged kids. I loved that about swim team.

By the time my daughter was in high school, everyone sat like robots on their iphones. There was bullying going on between teammates sitting yards apart. Nobody talked or laughed like they used to.

Now I’m seeing reports from the CDC, prestigious medical centers and doctors that social media is harmful to kids under a certain age. Although most social media sites restrict use to kids under 13 — it’s a well known fact that 10 year-olds are using social media sites.

Here’s an excerpt from an article called Protecting kids from social media’s harms by Stephanie Whiteside:

(NewsNation) – How young is too young for social media?

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is saying 13 years old is too young for social media accounts. Under U.S. law, sites that allow those under 13 to create accounts have to abide by stricter policies around data collection and privacy.

Research has shown social media can be harmful to kids and teens who are still developing their identities, damaging mental health and even impacting brain development.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/protecting-kids-from-social-medias-harms/ar-AA16U7sg

Legislation is being considered that would ban social media use for those under 16 years old. It’s much like banning the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes to under 18 or 21.

What are your thoughts about legislation and social media? Should it be up to individual parents? Or would it help to make social media against the law for younger than 16?

Why I deactivated facebook

Here I am at a wedding Friday with my new friend.

We drove five and a half hours to a wedding Friday. If it wasn’t for my dear friend’s daughter, I don’t think we would have made the trip after driving nine hours home from vacation the weekend before. But we did it. Yes! I’m tired!

I wore a bright print dress in blue, green and white. When we first walked into the wedding crowd, I spotted a woman wearing the same dress! I waved to her and she walked over and we laughed.

“You know it’s reversible,” she said.

I had never met this person before. She is related to the groom and I am friends with the bride’s family.

We were interrupted by our husbands who informed us it was time to take a seat for the ceremony.

The wedding was lovely. It was held outside near San Diego at Mt. Woodson’s Castle — a stone mansion built in the 1920s that’s now a wedding venue.

After the ceremony, I bolted to the bathroom and flipped my dress inside out. Now I was wearing black with white polkadots!

I saw my new friend and she said “You didn’t have to do that!” I asked my husband to take a picture of us. I wanted to share it with a high school friend who sold me the dress. I thought she’d get a kick out of how the reversible dress came to the rescue.

I posted the picture on Instagram and tagged her. It automatically posted on facebook.

One of my other high school friends commented on my pic in a very suggestive way. It was creepy. It made me want to take the photo down. Then I thought, I rarely use facebook, I’m reading all sorts of negative things about facebook in the news. Let’s be done with it!

That’s why I deactivated my account.

It’s not deleted. I can restart it any time. The only reason why I would do that is for the years and years of photos that are housed there. I may want to download them. Then delete it for good.

Do you use social media? Why or why not?

Tweeting to the choir

Of all the social media platforms, I spend more time on Twitter than others. I rarely use Facebook. I use Instagram occasionally. But I look at Twitter every day. It’s my way of keeping up with current events. By seeing what’s “trending,” I learn about earthquakes, elections and breaking news. I also look up how my sports teams are doing and can find out almost instantly if they are winning.

I follow a few writers and other people I like on Twitter. I never comment or get involved in the many Twitter feed fights. My WordPress shares my blog posts automatically to Twitter and I get a few readers that way. When I wrote for SwimSwam weekly, I’d retweet my stories they tweeted as well as other ones that caught my interest — like my daughter’s college swim team results.

In a short snippet from Investor Business Daily (IBD) on their To The Point page, under the Trends column I read:

Tweeting to the Converted

Most Americans do not use Twitter, and of those who do, a minority of active users produce nearly all the tweets, a new study finds. A quarter of U.S. adults use Twitter, and among users, the most active 25% produced 97% of all tweets, a study from Pew Research Center finds, confirming similar findings in 2019. Among highly active users, most tweets are either retweets (49% of the total) or replies (33%), with original tweets just 14% of all posts…

IBD A2 To The Point, Week of November 22, 2021

I would have added a link, but this newspaper is one of our old-fashioned paper types that lands on our driveway.

My takeaway from the article above is that people who take Twitter as a pulse of the nation shouldn’t. It’s a tiny slice of the pie and most likely doesn’t reflect anything more than the opinion of a very vocal few.

What is your favorite social media platform? Do you use Twitter to follow news, sports or current events or are you hands off?

Tweet of Oct. 21 Elizabeth Wickham blog post. What's healthy and tastes good.
For my plant-based friends, this post offered a tasty recipe. This is what my tweets from my blog look like.

Defaults can change social media

Live now sign on bookshelf
A bookshelf of my favorite children’s books holds a sign reminding me to live now.
Get off social media and into the real world.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal, I learned that some of the addictive aspects of Facebook Instagram and the other social media sites can be fixed. Like eliminating “likes” is an option. You can also stop push notifications for up to eight hours. You can even limit data collection.

How? Read this article called “How to Fix Facebook, Instagram and Social Media? Change the Defaults” by Joanna Stern linked below. It shows screen shots of where to find the defaults and lists a bunch of things parents can do to limit their children’s addictive relationship with social media. Some of these I’m going to do for myself, too. Stern also discusses legislation that’s in the works for social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Default settings in our social-media apps were designed to benefit companies and their bottom lines. What if regulation pushed them to benefit us?

Quick homework assignment: Open Instagram, tap the head icon at the bottom right, then the three lines in the top right corner, then Settings, then Privacy. (Almost there, I promise!) Tap Posts and switch on “Hide Likes and View Counts.”

A few of you hopefully followed along. Most of you probably ignored me like the airline’s automated call system when I scream, “Representative!”

That’s OK. You’ve proven my point: Most people don’t change the default settings in their social-media apps—or any apps.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-fix-facebook-instagram-and-social-media-change-the-defaults-11634475600?mod=life_work_lead_pos5

I for one haven’t looked at the defaults in any of my apps. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do unless you want to delete them from your life forever.

What are your thoughts about changing defaults in apps and social media? Is it something you’ve done before? What do you think is most useful for you or your kids?

WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

I read an interesting article today about Instagram and teen girls called “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Internal Documents Show.” Written by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharama for the Wall Street Journal, the article says that social media may become the youth generation’s tobacco companies.

Waffles the pug. Waffles has his own Instagram account wafflezworldwide.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Isn’t this scary? I feel like someone’s unleashed Godzilla on the world. What will we know 10 or 20 years from now? Hopefully, we will move beyond social media and get back to in person interaction. I think if I were a parent of younger kids today, I wouldn’t let my kids have a smart phone, but stick with the flip phones or dumb phones. I didn’t get my kids smart phones until they were in high school.

Another thing I found troubling with this article is that Facebook has done internal studies for several years and they know Instagram has issues at its core. But they downplay them to the public. Our congress and senate have asked for Facebook’s studies and they do not comply with the requests.

Here’s more from the article:

In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects on teens, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

The features that Instagram identifies as most harmful to teens appear to be at the platform’s core.

The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” the research states.

What are your thoughts about Instagram and other social media? Do you spend much time with it? Do your kids or grandkids? Do you notice a change in how they feel after they use social media? I find I’m using it less and less.

Should parents monitor their kids social media?

blond brother and sister at Laguna Beach.
My children before there was a thing called social media.

Social media is not going away anytime soon. I’ve read articles where 95% of kids from age 12 to young adults use Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Those are the preferred apps. In an article called Are you OK? | Teens and social media posted on KING TV5 in Seattle, there’s lots of good advice for parents .

By now we all know that social media can cause depression, anxiety in kids as well as adults. What’s really scary is not only cyber bullying but this shocking statistic: 90% of human trafficking begins on social media.

I discovered that in an article called Mesa-based company creates app to monitor children’s social media in simple format by Georgann Yara on the website AZCentral.

There’s an app developed by two men in Arizona that allows parents to monitor their kids social media sites. Here’s a bit of the article:

Years before they met and launched Cyber Dive, a social media monitoring tech company geared toward parents, Jeff Gottfurcht and Derek Jackson were well aware of social media’s powerful and dangerous side.

Gottfurcht is the first person in the world to summit Mt. Everest with Rheumatoid Arthritis. When he returned home from that trip in 2011, he saw a news story about a young girl who was humiliated and bullied on social media after word got out about her being sexually assaulted.

Around the same time, Jackson was across the globe in the Army 1st Special Forces Group, where he spent time in Kuwait, Jordan and Syria. He was an intelligence officer looking into how U.S. adversaries and radical insurgents used social media to recruit members to their cause and perpetuate propaganda.

In 2019, the two got together and formed Cyber Drive because of that story about the girl who was victimized on social media. They created an app to help parents get meaningful information about their kids online activity, while still allowing children independence.

Here’s how it works:

The software covers all platforms and the free membership option includes monitoring on indicators like recurring themes in language, dangerous or suspicious online activity and emotions indicated by analysis of their data. The $5 monthly premium membership allows greater access to features like friends lists, posts and Google searches. ‍

When parents sign up for either membership, they must enter their child’s email address. Then, their child receives a message explaining that someone will use Cyber Dive to monitor their accounts. Parents are encouraged to discuss this with their child before signing up, Gottfurcht said.

Parents use the app for different reasons. Some for safety concerns while others want to have a closer relationship with their children. You can visit Cyber Dive’s website HERE to find out more.

It sounds like a great idea to me. But do you think teens would figure out away around it? Do you think it’s a good idea to keep tabs on teens social media and why or why not?