If you spend any amount of time scrolling through TikTok, then you may have heard about the controversy surrounding the toddler "influencer" account Wren Eleanor.
While the account, which has garnered over 17 million TikTok followers, appears fairly harmless, it's inspired a movement from moms everywhere who now vow to keep their kids' photos and videos off of their social media accounts.
Who is Wren Eleanor and what is the controversy?
Wren Eleanor is a toddler with her own TikTok page largely made up of videos showing the tiny tot doing tiny tot things, and wearing cute tiny tot clothes, eating snacks, and playing alongside her mother, Jacquelyn. The page also appears to be pretty lucrative for Jacquelyn and often shows the two of them showing off their gifted clothing "hauls" from fast-fashion companies like Shein.
So why the movement? There are myriad reasons. First, when you have more than 17 million people following a toddler girl, there are, unfortunately, bound to be some potential predators (or at least creeps who make predatory comments and "fan" accounts) that regularly lurk and comment on Wren's photos and videos.
Second, the astonishing popularity of the account has brought the question of social media, minors, and consent to the forefront of a national dialogue unlike anything ever before. Because no matter how we feel about kids having their own social media accounts, the bottom line is this: Children cannot give their consent to appear on social media.
Over the past month, parents on TikTok have started raising their concerns about the account and about the potential harm and danger associated with having children appear in videos and photos online. Other parents have pointed out that certain videos and photos of Wren Eleanor have been saved tens of thousands of times—by complete strangers. Many parents have also made their own videos highlighting the disturbing comments grown men have made about the little girl, often sexual and predatory in nature.
Many have also said that they are taking their own children's photos off social media, and are taking part in a movement dubbed #SaveWren.
Social media accounts featuring children brings up major discussion over informed consent and exploitation
An account on TikTok that is dedicated to bringing awareness to child exploitation online, Mom Uncharted, has discussed the Wren Eleanor issue as well as countless others in hopes of educating parents.
"Children are unable to give informed consent," Sarah Adams, better known as @Mom.Uncharted, says in a recent video. Adams has grown a following of over 100,000 for her criticisms of family vloggers and other parents running major social media accounts that feature their minor children.
"To all the people who are like 'Oh, my kids like making these videos,'" she continues. "Well yeah, they like attention from mom and dad. They like doing things with you. They like dancing, and hearing funny songs, and seeing themselves on playback. That's what they like. But they're not consenting to you uploading it on a public social media platform to be seen by a potential billion people, not knowing who those individuals are."
"I think this is the start of a conversation, a much larger and broader conversation about accounts like this," Adams recently told ABC News. "This is being used as an example for the larger conversation about our children and social media and the exploitation of them."
"It’s not just one account," she added. "This is a big problem that we have on social media right now."
In terms of Wren Eleanor's account, concerned moms on TikTok say they feel Jacquelyn is not only exploiting her daughter, but is intentionally uploading questionable content of Wren.
One video, which has since been deleted, showed Wren playing with a tampon. Another video shows Wren taking a bath in a bathing suit. Unfortunately, these videos get more comments and "saves" than her other videos, according to Rolling Stone. Jacquelyn is regularly informed by commenters when predatory messages arise on videos of Wren—there dozens of videos that highlight the disturbing comments on TikTok—so it's fair to say she is aware, to some extent, that her daughter's content has been viewed by potential predators many times.
While it may be fair to say, "It's all innocent, and she shouldn't have to take it down if other people are making it not seem innocent"—that's only one way of looking at it. But moms like Adams pose the question: If there's evidence that predators are viewing and using your child's content in an unsafe manner, why use your child for content at all? Especially when you have no control over where those videos end up, or who saves them.
"Once you post an image of your child online, you lose control of it," Adams says. "You are allowing the worst of society access to your child's image. And not everyone is viewing that image through the innocent eyes you see that content as."
Wren's mom, Jacquelyn, has not directly responded or commented on the massive movement surrounding her daughter online. She's certainly not the first parent influencer utilizing her child's image for content and income, and she most certainly won't be the last. Parents who are directly engaging in the dialogue surrounding Wren are pointing out another problem with the major social media presence of minors who fund their parents' income.
“The law hasn’t adapted yet to the current weird realities of social media,” one TikTok creator, @hotweirdgorl, says in a video. “So these kids aren’t protected by child labor laws.”
For regular, non-influencer parents with very tiny followings or accounts (hi, it's me), Adams says if you do share your child's photos online—private is the way to go.