Wren Eleanor controversy triggers social media reckoning

If you haven’t been following the Wren Eleanor controversy, or even if you have, let me catch you up. Wren Eleanor is a little girl with her own TikTok account. On the account, Wren Eleanor’s mom shares videos of the toddler doing toddler things like wearing cute clothes and eating snacks. With 17 million followers, Wren Eleanor’s TikTok is also an “influencer” account, where the toddler and his mother show off clothes given to them by retailers.

After parents began to share their concerns about the account, a debate ensued over photos and videos of children on social media. Parents sounded the alarm when they noticed that videos of the toddler had been recorded tens of thousands of times by complete strangers. Comments from adult men were often sexual and predatory in nature. Parents also expressed concerns about Wren Eleanor being exploited for her mother’s monetary gain. Concerns about Wren Eleanor’s safety and exploitation prompted the #SaveWren movement and sparked a wider conversation about how parents use social media. Wren’s mother called the concerns “false rumours”, assured the public that her daughter was safe and expressed her intention to continue posting videos and photos of her daughter.

Related: Viral TikTok reminds parents to avoid posting certain back-to-school photos for safety reasons

The Wren Eleanor controversy makes us uncomfortable for many reasons. Of course, there are concerns about creepy strangers recording videos of the toddler and adult men posting sexual comments on the videos. For example, videos of Wren eating pickles or playing with tampons have been viewed millions of times and recorded by viewers.

The risk of Internet predators is a very real concern that parents do not take lightly. As a mother, just thinking about it gives me goosebumps and triggers not-so-minor panic. I am certainly not the only one in this case. But there’s another reason the Wren Eleanor controversy makes us so uncomfortable: It’s made us take a closer look at how we portray our own children on social media.

I admit that I had to ask myself some difficult questions. Have I shared stories about my children when they were preschoolers that they might not want the world to know when they are teenagers? Did I post pictures that might embarrass them when they’re in middle school? Are there any photos on social media that my kids might not like when they grow up?

Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes.

The controversy has caused many of us to examine our social media habits, especially as they impact our children. This has sparked a debate about the importance of asking for consent before posting photos or sharing stories about our children. And the question of consent can also become a bit of a Pandora’s box, since young children do not have the capacity to consent even when we ask.

Common Sense Media, a platform designed to help parents navigate social media safely, warns of the lasting digital footprint that is created every time we post a photo or video of our child.

“One day your preschoolers will grow up and they may not want their friends to find documentation of their diaper days online,” the site says.

The controversy has highlighted the tough issues parents face when it comes to social media. The issues of consent, boundaries and exploitation go beyond potential predatory behavior and impact on fundamental issues of privacy for our children. Of course, we want to connect with others on social media, but our limits may not be the same as those of our children. That family photo we can’t wait to share on social media might not be something our child wants to show anyone else, let alone the world.

Consent is not a one-size-fits-all thing and the boundaries change over time. As parents, we must remember it, respect it and teach it to our children as well.

As a new mom, I’ve shared lots of photos of my kids when they were toddlers and preschoolers. When my kids got older, I started asking them if I could post pictures of them on social media. Many times they said no. It was hard not to share a photo that I thought was cute and funny because they didn’t like the way their hair looked or their smile in the photo, but I respected their wishes. And browsing social media lately, I often wonder if other parents are doing the same.

Related: What’s the Harm of Posting About Our Kids on Social Media?

It’s also important for parents to understand that our children’s feelings about social media and what we share on it can change over time. More recently, my children – who are now in middle school and high school – asked me to remove specific photos of them shared several years ago – the same photos they agreed to be on the internet at the time. . My kids told me there was an Instagram account dedicated to sharing embarrassing old pictures of college students their parents shared when they were younger. Because of this, they asked me to make my Instagram account private (which I immediately did).

Consent is not a one-size-fits-all thing and the boundaries change over time. As parents, we must remember it, respect it and teach it to our children as well.

“It’s something to really, really think about as soon as you have a newborn and you’re so excited and want to share,” said Jasmine Hood Miller, director of community content and engagement for Common Sense Media at ABC News. “As a parent, you need to stop and think before you jump on this bandwagon.”

The Wren Eleanor controversy has made a lot of us uncomfortable (raises your hand). Conversations about kids on social media aren’t meant to “shame mom” or blame parents for their social media habits. But it sparked a reckoning of sorts, with parents taking a closer look at their relationship on social media. And while it’s uncomfortable, that’s not a bad thing.

About Madeline Powers

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