Recently, a Thai netizen shared a video from an American TikTok content creator named Jessica, who wanted to warn parents of the dangers in posting videos of their children on social media platforms.
TikTok account of Wren Eleanor @wren.eleanor
The video mentions the TikTok account of @wren.eleanor who has a massive following of 17.4 million people. Eleanor Wren is an adorable three-year-old whose videos are posted by her single mother, Jacquelyn. Most videos are of Eleanor doing children things including eating, dressing up and hanging out with her mother.
However, videos of the toddler took a controversial turn as users took notice that the most viewed, saved and bookmarked videos were seen as suggestive in nature with the mother being accused of exploiting her daughter.
Among the most viewed videos were those of the child taking a bath (1.9 million views and 60,900 saves), eating a pickle (2.7 million views and 44,000 saves) and wearing a crop top (3.8 million views and 45,500 saves).
Moreover, some male members of the platform posted "duet videos" where they appear to sexualise the blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler. People also came across many offensive and disturbing comments that men left on videos of the child.
Jessica noted that on her own TikTok account, she removed a video of her 12-year-old daughter in various gymnastic poses after noticing it was saved numerous times. She then checked her daughter's private Instagram account and found that an account called fun.testicles was among her followers.
Jacquelyn Wren was widely criticised on social media for possibly putting her child's safety in danger and that she was exploiting a child too young to give consent.
The controversy has spurred a discussion among TikTok moms on what kind of content of children should be shared, and it prompted many mothers to delete videos of their children altogether.
Many Thais enjoy posting photos of their children because of pride and to show the world how cute their children are. Some celebrities show every step of their children's lives from the womb to teenage years. Some parents film their children while they are crying or under some form of duress. Posting these videos is so common that parents fail to consider their children's privacy.
Thus, when singer and influencer Gavin Duval and his wife Pumpui Pantipa chose not to reveal the face of their baby boy on social media, many people criticised them. Gavin said in a TV interview that he intentionally will not show his son's face on social media because as a public figure he has a hard time handling negative comments. Gavin, who rose to fame as a teenager, said any post on social media will create a digital footprint that he cannot erase, and his responsibility to protect his child was paramount. Pumpui also posted on Instagram that she will wait until her son can make his own decisions before asking him for consent to reveal his face on social media.
It was a surprise to see a couple who respect their child's rights receive negative feedback from the public. They should be praised and held as an example for other parents to follow. Gavin said he was concerned that if he reveals his son's face, strangers will want to hold him just because he is a celebrity's son. His concerns point to the fact that many Thai people do not understand privacy. Many people assume that parents, especially celebrities, do not mind when strangers show affection to their baby or understand the potential pitfalls of having their child in the social media spotlight.
Even though the Eleanor Wren story originated in the US, I hope the case will help Thai parents realise there are paedophiles in our society. Google news about paedophilia in Thailand, and many stories will pop up. Overexposure on social media leaves our children vulnerable to these potential dangers, as well as lead to unnecessarily cruel comments that could damage their self esteem. While we adore children's pureness and innocence, we must be vigilant in protecting them. Parents need to monitor their children's social media activity closely or keep them off it entirely.
Suwitcha Chaiyong is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.