The Problem With Turning your Child Into an Instagram Star


I'm not on Instagram a lot, but when I am, one of my guilty pleasures is to check out photos of Sonny, the adorable baby of Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster.

I also like to check in on Maggie, the beautiful baby daughter of my mate Beth, blogger at BabyMac.

And there's nothing wrong with these pics. Everyone loves a cute baby, and these are clearly all candid shots, posted occasionally on their parents' Instagram accounts.

 

But what happens when the babies of Instagram become child stars?

What happens when parents set up accounts for their kids, dress them up in expensive outfits, style them, and hire professional photographers to take photos of them every week?

The New York Times ran a piece on the weekend about Instamoms, those group of American mothers who have turned their young children into child models on social media. 

Take London Scout, who lives #scoutstyle in New York before the eyes of over 110,000 Instagram followers.

The four-year-old poses for two fashion shoots a week, one taken by her mother, the other by a professional photographer. Each requires at least three wardrobe changes.

And then there's two-year-old Taylen of Florida, who also has around 110,000 followers. "Taylen has become a brand," says her mother, Angelica Calad, who is developing a network television show for her daughter.

Here in Australia, we have Pixie Curtis, daughter of publicist Roxy Jacenko.

Pixie has 108,000 Instagram followers, a range of hair bows and accessories, and 'relationships' with several high profile brands.

It is lovely for the parents, I'm sure, to see their child in the spotlight. It is lovely receive free clothes and the occasional cash payment, and to bask in the affirmation that comes with having a famous, cute kid.

But what about the child? What's in it for them? Do they get any tangible benefit from being turned into celebrities?

Remember, a small child cannot choose to become famous.

The choice is made for them by their parents, who have their own reasons for putting their kids in the spotlight. Perhaps they want to enjoy fame vicariously through their child.

Perhaps they want to dress their child in free couture clothing. Perhaps they want money, or tickets to fashion shows.

Whatever their motivation, they are clearly meeting their own needs. And internet fame is so new, the concept of Instagram stars so untested, that we have no idea what the impact may be on the kids. What happens to child stars of Instagram when they grow up? How do they reclaim privacy if they never had it in the first place?

More importantly, what happens to a 'branded' child's sense of self?

How does a four-year-old absorb the implicit message that their value is attached to their cuteness and marketability?

And furthermore, what happens if they want to get off the treadmill?

 All the Instamoms routinely claim that they'll stop doing it 'if it's no longer fun'. But that is much easier said than done. When your child is generating fame (and, often, income), when there are photoshoots and contracts and followers and deals, it's not that easy to say 'Okay, she wants to stop'.

In fact, Heather Armstrong, of the massively popular Dooce, did exactly that earlier this year, and the backlash continues today.

No Instagram account starts off famous. Fame creeps up, and then begins feeding on itself. But fame has costs and consequences, particularly for children who are unable to give informed consent.

I don't think child stars of Instagram are going to go away anytime soon.

But perhaps if parents can give some thought to potential outcomes before they begin to chase the dream, the ex-child stars of Instagram may be better off in the future.

 

[By Kerri Sackville] [Read More] [From  Stuff] [Image From unsplash.com]

 

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