When the internet first came into our lives, it was drummed into us early on to be careful of what you put out into the online world because once it's out there, it's out there. We grew up understanding the importance of private profiles and being mindful of material that could bite us on the backside years later.
In light of this, does anyone else feel like the explosion of OnlyFans flies in the face of everything we've been told to avoid and to protect?
I'm not casting aspersions on anyone selling suggestive material. What I am thinking about is where we take the narrative now with our children. Does potential fame and money outweigh the importance of protecting your online presence?
OnlyFans, in a nutshell, is a hugely successful subscription-based platform where people create content for users at home. It is best known for pornographic content. I have to be careful here because not all content on OnlyFans is pornographic, but suggestive and explicit material makes it a lot of money and can make its creators a lot of money, with over 300 creators having made more than $1m.
Suggestive material isn't exclusive to OnlyFans. You can find explicit content on nearly every social media platform. Apparently, 70 per cent of OnlyFans members are men and 70 per cent of creators are women. Nothing surprising there.
Do we still need to consider our online presence? How creating porn or overtly suggestive material may impact relationships, lifestyles and children in the future? Remember Madonna? She pioneered the publication of sexual material on her terms in 1992, and now she's mostly irrelevant in the shock factor stakes. Could she be an icon to a new generation of people, having made the transition from shock factor to Mum?
Money talks, and people can make considerable amounts off their sexual liberation online. So how do we help our kids be mindful of protecting their online presence in the face of potential financial success, and in the face of people they may look up to taking away the power they hold over their own image? Has the train left the station, and is it just too late to talk to our kids about protecting themselves online? I hope not.
Like any other online platform, parents should understand what OnlyFans is about. Having knowledge of how the online world operates will help us have conversations with our kids about it.
We should aim for open two-way conversations with our kids from an early age and revisit them as and when required. Having these hard discussions frequently and briefly will take the mystique away.
Social media is awash with young people who have earned financial independence through various means, but most of our kids will be dependent on someone else selecting them for a job. Young people need to understand that what they put out into the world can be damaging to them in the future, be it pictures, videos or comments, even if they change their minds later or made them as teenagers, as ex-Teen Vogue Editor Alexi McCammond discovered. Filters don't only apply to selfies.
When talking to your kids, you can discuss what's happened to other young people online as examples of why it's important to protect their identity. It's also important to include other voices in your discussions.
Our children aren't immune to global trends and new ways to share themselves and make money. Unlike being able to close our geographic borders, we can't close the global information highway that reaches our kids.