We all post pictures of our children online. I’m guilty of it, though is “guilty” the right word? Guilty implies that you’ve done something wrong. And though I don’t think it’s wrong to share a photo of my child on Instagram with my followers on my account that’s not private (knowing full well that anyone can do whatever they want with that photo because the internet is an ugly place) I do think boundaries are important.
This is an article I wrote for the New York Times about children who are Instagram sensations. This isn’t just how their mothers describe them. They are legit famous. These children have over 100k followers on Instagram. It’s no joke. And their mothers, who run their accounts, have become new social media stage moms.
The goal here for the parents is to make their children famous. To make a career out of it. One mother told me that her daughter is “a brand.” Another parent told me “It’s like [my daughter] had her own little paparazzi.” The parents are also making money through these popular Instagram accounts by working on ad campaigns with clothing designers. Their children dress up in a brand’s clothing and mom posts the picture on Instagram; in return the parent receives money or gets to keep the clothes for free.
Child stardom is nothing new, but as a number of experts told me for this article, parents are taking big risks in creating these Instagram feeds for their children because there could be potential risks.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, told me: “It really boils down to someone’s values and whether or not you want your child to grow up thinking of himself or herself in terms of how famous he or she is, versus having more pro-social values.”
At the end of the day, each parent will decide what’s best for their child. That’s how parenting works. Even on Instagram.