There’s a new trend hitting Generation Z – and it’s a problem.
It’s called OnlyFans.
On this UK-based website, anyone can post explicit content and set up a paywall for “fans” to access it. While technically the site claims only individuals 18+ have access, many teens find ways to bypass the age restriction.
Unfortunately, this graphic site is gaining popularity among teens and young adults, as many of the content creators have shifted over from Instagram or Twitter, two social media sites that are all the rage with adolescents.
A COVID-19 Phenomenon
You may not have heard of OnlyFans yet.
That’s because the rise of OnlyFans is related to the coronavirus pandemic. Many Instagram influencers, Z-list celebrities, and models, finding themselves in need of extra cash since their usual avenues of income (filming, photo shoots, brand partnerships) have been halted or altered, have moved to OnlyFans.
The more celebrities or social media influencers promote their OnlyFans profiles, the more adolescents check it out.
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According to The Evening Standard, OnlyFans has become “essentially a NSFW Instagram-type platform.”
And, unfortunately, teens are getting hooked. During the pandemic, they’re home most of the day, spending increased amounts of time online. Meaning they’re more likely to have an opportunity to swipe a credit card to follow their favorite stars on OnlyFans. According to Vice, the month of April saw over a seventy-five percent increase in new OnlyFans users, with about one hundred fifty thousand new users every day. Boredom, the economic fallout, and social-distancing regulations might all be responsible for this fast increase. Because all the attention it’s getting now, even a teen who’d never visit porn site might now be drawn to OnlyFans – and it doesn’t help when megastars like Beyonce give props to the site, which she did in one of her most recent releases.
But it gets worse.
Teens Selling Photos
Teens don’t just access the adult content. They set up explicit profiles themselves. Seeing adult influencers cash in, some youth – struggling with their own financial issues – decide to do the same. Using data from Twitter to search for keywords such as “nudes4sale,” the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) found that many underage minors (primarily girls) sell explicit content on OnlyFans.
Though OnlyFans sets restrictions for underage users, many adolescents bypass them. In a new documentary from the BBC, one 17-year-old girl from Scotland admitted she’s been selling nude photos of herself for about a year. It’s now a full-time job.
Of course, OnlyFans isn’t the only place teens take racy pictures and sell them to strangers. Adolescents do the same on Snapchat, using its Premium feature. Many parents already know about the dangers of Snapchat, but many have never heard of OnlyFans, and are not aware of the risks.
The Danger of Influencers
Even if your teen isn’t accessing graphic content on OnlyFans, the danger could lie simply in the fact that they have subscribed to their favorite influencers on the site. Teens may think they are developing real, intimate relationships with these social media influencers that they follow and support — both monetarily and emotionally. They don’t realize that many influencers are highly savvy, business-minded individuals who are exclusively doing this for the income. Excited by the prospect of an “intimate” look into an exclusive, subscription-only club “only” for die-hard “fans,” adolescents with mental health issues may be particularly vulnerable to developing unhealthy and even toxic obsessions with such influencers.
Advice for Parents
Don’t assume your teen would never visit OnlyFans. Even if you know they’d never visit an average porn site, OnlyFans is different. It’s become almost a household name among young, teenage social media users.
Fortunately, there are several action steps that parents can take to keep their teenagers safe if they are worried about their children accessing this site:
- If you don’t have a filter on your child’s laptop or home computer already, make sure you get one as soon as you can.
- Browse your teen’s tracking history. If you see OnlyFans on there, that’s a red flag.
- Scan your credit card for any charges that look like they may be from OnlyFans.
- If you suspect your teen has been on the site, have an honest discussion with them about online safety.
- Talk to your teen, in general, about the damaging effects of pornography.
- If you suspect your teen may be sharing inappropriate or racy photos of themselves online, take action. Remove their internet access immediately have a discussion about child sex trafficking and grooming.
One last thing: don’t be afraid to be the bad cop in this situation. Take a stand and block OnlyFans. Your teen may not be happy about it, but that’s okay. When you keep your teen away from OnlyFans, you’re keeping them safe – and that’s good parenting.