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Five takeaways from the Times investigation into influential kids| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Instagram does not allow children under 13 to have accounts, but parents can manage them, and many do so with their daughters who aspire to be social media influencers.

What often begins as a father's effort to boost a child's modeling career, or gain favors from clothing brands, can quickly descend into a dark underworld dominated by adult men, many of whom openly admit to feeling sexually attracted to children. according to a New York Times investigation.

Thousands of accounts allegedly run by mothers examined by The Times offer disturbing insights into how social media is reshaping childhood, especially for girls, with the direct encouragement and involvement of parents.

Nearly one in three preteens list influence as a career goal, and 11 percent of those born in Generation Z, between 1997 and 2012, describe themselves as influencers. But health and technology experts have recently warned that social networks present a “profound risk of harm” to girls. The researchers found that constant comparisons with their peers and filters that alter their faces generate negative feelings of self-esteem and promote the objectification of their bodies.

The pursuit of fame online, particularly through Instagram, has fueled this often toxic phenomenon, The Times found, encouraging parents to commodify images of their daughters. Here are some key findings.

According to interviews, kid influencers can earn six-figure incomes from monthly subscriptions and other interactions with followers. Some may demand $3,000 from companies for a single position. Large followers seem impressive to brands and increase the chances of getting discounts, merchandise and other financial incentives, and the accounts themselves are rewarded by Instagram's algorithm with greater visibility on the platform.

An estimate by an audience demographics company found 32 million connections with male followers among the 5,000 accounts examined by The Times. Additionally, an analysis using image classification software from Google and Microsoft indicates that suggestive posts are more likely to receive likes and comments.

Some of the male followers flatter, intimidate and blackmail girls and their parents for racier images, and some have been convicted of sexual crimes. The Times monitored separate exchanges on Telegram, the messaging app, where men openly fantasize about sexually abusing children they follow on Instagram and praise the platform for making the images so available.

“It's like a candy store 😍😍😍,” one of them wrote. “God bless the instamoms 🙌,” wrote another.

Meta, Instagram's parent company, found that 500,000 children's Instagram accounts had “inappropriate” interactions each day, according to a 2020 internal study cited in a lawsuit. The platform's policy prohibits convicted sex offenders, and the company said it removed two accounts after The Times flagged them.

In a statement, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said parents were responsible for accounts and their content and could delete them at any time. “Anyone on Instagram can control who can tag, mention or message you, as well as who can comment on your account,” he added, highlighting a feature that allows parents to ban comments containing certain words.

A mother in Australia, whose daughter is now 17, said she was worried that spending her childhood wearing bikinis online for grown men had scarred her. She warned mothers to avoid her mistakes. “I have been stupidly and naively feeding a pack of monsters, and the regret is enormous,” she said. But one Alabama mother said parents couldn't ignore the reality of this new economy. “Social media is the way of our future and I feel like you will be left behind if you don't know what's going on,” she said.

Even the most disturbing images of sexualized child influencers tend to fall into a legal gray area. to comply with the federal definition of so-called child pornography, the law generally requires a “lewd exhibition” of the anal or genital area, although courts They have discovered that the requirement can be met without nudity or transparent clothing.

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