As a parent, I try to be on top of things that are harmful to my kids – like most of us, right? My dad told me recently that as he and my mom were raising my brothers and I, they often told each other that if they were two steps behind us, that was a win. It’s overwhelming to protect our kids from every danger they face but we have to try. Part of what I do is to follow experts on social media who post about online-specific concerns that involve kids and one of these is Officer Gomez of the Meridian Police Department in Idaho. He is a school resource office and internet expert with years of experience working with kids in middle and high school.
Officer Gomez posted about the social media site OnlyFans recently, capturing my attention. OnlyFans is a site where people can post about anything unfiltered, including nude images, and make money (sometimes a lot of money) off of it. This is part of the post:
“As you can imagine there are endless ways for this to be abused. I have seen many high school girls with an Only Fans account or a similar application who feel they can drop out of school and make lots of money selling their photographs and videos. In reality they actually can make lots of money as there are unlimited sexually addicted people out there willing to pay money to see people naked.
“I have already seen middle school girls making thousands of dollars by setting up accounts on these platforms. Parents would potentially have to pay a subscription to even see what is on their kids account. This is very scary and a new twist on an ever evolving global grooming of our children to be sex trafficked.”
Read that again. Middle school girls are making thousands of dollars. You may have seen this recent story about a mom who was making upwards of $150,000 per month off the site and whose kids were expelled from their private Catholic school after she was discovered on the site. If you Google OnlyFans, you’ll find a lot of stories about people who are raking in the cash, especially celebrities. But kids? Well, apparently they make money there also.
How Kids Get on OnlyFans
You need to be 18 to use OnlyFans but Officer Gomez told me kids can easily lie about their age on the app (or literally any app for that matter). FOr OnlyFans, they need to connect some kind of bank or digital cash account. As a 13-year-old, I would have never figured this out but for kids today, they are way smarter.
Here are some ways they’ll go about doing it, said Officer Gomez:
- Some kids talk their parents into setting them up with a digital payment system and say it is a school project or they need it for any number of things.
- Some kids will get an 18-year-old friend, neighbor, or online acquaintance to either set them up with an account or use that of their 18-year-old friend.
- Kids can actually share the digital payment account once it is set up so multiple OnlyFans accounts can go to the same bank account.
- Some adults act as digital pimps for getting funds to under age kids.
Sex Trafficking and Making Money
Sex trafficking and abuse are big concerns when it comes to anything online that your kids have access to. It’s not hard for an adult to pretend to be a kid and interact with minors.
There are two things a person will do if they figure out an OnlyFans account is run by a minor.
“If a person finds out the OnlyFans account is an underage juvenile the person can report it and get the account cancelled or they can sextortion the child for more picture and or videos and or sex,” said Officer Gomez. “Predators often use explicit material from minors to start extorting them for all kinds of things.”
Can you imagine a predator essentially blackmailing your child for photos they posted online? The destruction to this child would be unimaginable.
The money aspect of the site of course would be enticing to kids and people are making off of OnlyFans.
“Once kids make easy money by sending their pictures or videos it becomes very addictive and makes it hard to go to work for $10 per hour when you can make $100 dollars in an instant by sending someone a picture you already have saved on your phone,” said Officer Gomez.
“It’s not very hard to make serious money as there is an endless supply of pornography addicted people all around this world.”
Officer Gomez followed up his initial OnlyFans post with further information helpful to parents:
What Parents Can Do
Obviously staying on top of what your kids do online is important and knowing the other sites out there, like AdmireMe, Patreon and JustForFans, that are harmful is important. But there’s really an endless number of sites and apps that kids shouldn’t be interacting with.
The biggest things parents can do is to have ample family time and activities together, Offer Gomez suggests.
“I ask many parents how much time they spend with their kids vs. how much time strangers on social media spend with their kids,” he said. “If you give your kids strong family values then your kids will have those online as well.”
For my own kids, who are still fairly little, I take them hiking and kayaking and try to spend as much time together outdoors as possible. I make that a priority even though I work full-time and my kids don’t have phones and have no way to access the internet or apps, at least in our home. Knowing all of these dangers is important and admittedly, scare the crap out of me.
Open conversations with your kids are also key, says Officer Gomez. But he leaves us with this last quote to consider:
“If social media raises your kids then you take your chances and the odds are not in your favor.”
Follow him on Facebook here.