Parents are now spending serious time and effort get their kids’ images online from the time they are toddlers. Even before they can start walking, these kids become infant “style hackers” – basically, paid models for clothing companies – as their parents post their photos on Instagram and other social media sites. Some parents have even quit their jobs to do this full time:

“Many of these posts are sponsored by retailers, such as the Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s natural-baby-product brand, or eBay. Wixom said that these companies accurately represent her Los Angeles–based family’s values—which means you won’t see @ministylehacker promoting CBD oils, diet pills, or anything Collette thinks her kids would be embarrassed by when they grow up. When Collette started @ministylehacker, she was working in yearbook sales. Now she makes her living by working with an agent, brokering partnership deals (Wixom declined to share her fees for sponsored posts), and packaging her family’s life for Instagram and YouTube.”

Clothes is just the tip of iceberg. These children are also used to promote toys, foods and even kitchen appliances. Instagram has been particularly influential in bringing to the fore this new form of advertising:

“Since the early days of mommy blogging, kids’ everyday lives—and the merchandise associated with them—have been common internet fodder. As the popular platform for documenting one’s life shifted from textual blogs to the more visual medium of Instagram, it became easier to make money through simply sharing a picture of a child and a product rather than presenting a narrative around parenting itself, Crystal Abidin, a digital anthropologist at Australia’s Deakin University, told me.

Though a photo might appear simpler to create than a long narrative blog post, complex preparations go into packaging a kid’s life for Instagram. “When the money came into play, the visual aesthetic, the vocabulary, and the processes of capturing parenthood on social media greatly changed,” Abidin said. “With the rise of the influencer industry en masse, instead of the stories of children going through the process of trying out the products with their moms, they have been reduced to props.””
There is big money being made by some of the parents but as you can imagine this sort of commercialising of your children’s lives might not end well. In fact, the rise of this phenomenon itself is an interesting commentary on how many of us struggle to understand the ethics underpinning what we do in life:

“The ease with which fun with kids can easily become work leads many Instagram parents to draw careful boundaries. Foos told me that she took a step back from social media after she woke Vada up one day before school to take a picture. “That just didn’t feel right,” she said. Foos and Vada took a couple of two-week posting hiatuses at the start of the year to reset. Dedukaj said she once canceled one of Laerta’s appearances because she thought she was putting too much pressure on her daughter.

As these kidfluencers age—and age out of their parents’ vision of their life—what will become of their platform? Princeton Cannon, a 10-year-old from Atlanta, is aware of the work involved in making his Instagram pop: the photo shoots, the exclusive events, the outfit selection. (Princeton receives thousands of dollars’ worth of clothing to model on his feed.) “He says, ‘Do you think my fans would like this?’” Keira Cannon, Princeton’s mother, told me.”

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