Every morning, Zoe deletes messages of men sexualising her daughter.

10-year-old Ava has 14,000 followers on Instagram. She makes about $500 a month in brand deals, and gets a lot of free stuff sent to her by brands. 

But being a 'kidfluencer' on social media comes with a very concerning dark side. 

In the DMs and comment sections of her daughter's account, Zoe is regularly fielding sexually explicit comments directed at her pre-pubescent child. 

"The first time I ever received one I felt sick to my stomach," Zoe told Four Corners. 


Zoe spends time every morning filtering comments and blocking users, and has put safety measures in place to protect her daughter (ones she doesn't insist on for her other children), like not allowing her to catch the school bus or go to the local shops alone. 

"It's just a bit more riskier with Ava being on a social platform," she explained. 

She is worried that a pedophile could potentially fixate on her daughter, and has had lengthy conversations about the risks with her husband. 

"We've gone through the pros and cons and talked to Ava as the end of the day, she loves it. As a parent, I think we are vigilant and aware at all times, but we keep going because social media is what she loves."

Commander Helen Schneider, who runs the Australian Federal Police unit tasked with fighting child exploitation, isn't just worried about kids with big followings. 

As she told Four Corners, "My concerns, whether it's child influencers or anyone who is posting, is you are undoubtedly placing yourself in a greater risk bracket that offenders will obviously gravitate to users that are easy to access".

"What we're finding in the seizure of devices and the large amounts of data, is often innoxious pictures of children or non sexualised photos of children that are caught up in this child abuse material," she added. 

But the industry isn't going anywhere and Zoe and Ava's experience isn't isolated. Four Corners' report highlighted other 'kidfluencers' dealing with the same thing. 


Jerome has 97,000 followers on Instagram. His feed is full of closeup pictures of his face, scenic shots showing off cool clothes and the occasional picture with a friend, or his mum.

He's four. His account is run by his model and influencer mum, Nina Gonthier. 

Jerome and his little brother Atlas feature on her account too, but Nina's account only has 72,000 followers making Jerome the bigger success if we're talking numbers. 


He earns $20,000 a year through collabs and brand deals, 90 per cent of which is being put aside for him to use when he's older. 

As far as Nina is concerned, she has been doing everything in her power to protect her boy as his following grows grows. 

"As a mother I believe in doing everything possible to protect him and doing everything safely, so not posting when they're topless, or in a nappy where images can be doctored.... Or taking photos of particular streets where you might be sharing any form of location," she told ABC Four Corners.

But as Jerome's following grew, his mum noticed something sinister. 

Other accounts were stealing his photos and posting them as their own. Some were even claiming he was their child. Nina DM'd them, but they doubled down. 

"[It was] horrible. Especially when they're taunting me saying 'he's my child' when he's sitting right next to me. What do they get out of it? It's frustrating but there's really not much I can do," she said. 

Then it got even scarier.

Watch: A snippet from Four Corners Kidfluencers special.

Video via Four Corners

Nina was alerted to a US adoption agency website using her son's images. The website looked legitimate and had a contact address in America. The 30-year-old found several photos of her son on the site, from various ages. 

"I felt my heart sink. I pretty much started crying to be honest, I got goosebumps all over my body, like how has it gotten this far? I felt horrible, as a mother you want to protect your child and I felt that was out of my control now," she told Four Corners.

But despite these experiences, Nina doesn't plan on stopping her son's account anytime soon.

"It's a big learning curve....[But] I love it, he loves it...I suppose it's up to him if he wants to continue it, and I am being extremely careful and protective of him right now," she explained. "I love what I do, and he's a beautiful boy and I am very proud of him which is why I am continuing to do it".

When pressed by Four Corners about whether it was something that her son actually wanted, Nina was adamant. 

"I never force him into anything. For him, a photoshoot is him going to play and we just capture what we can.

"I am doing the best I can to explain in detail what we're doing, so he's comfortable with it, and I am his mum, I know best. At the end of the day it's up to me, if I believe I am protecting him while doing it, that's the best I can do," she said.


Bobbi is now 15, but has been on Instagram since the age of seven sharing dancing content. Her account grew to 250,000 followers. 

Speaking to Four Corners, Bobbi's mum Kym admitted she at one point was spending hours a day trying to vet new followers and block accounts who were sending through sexual comments. 


In Bobbi's eyes, her mum did a great job at protecting her. 

"I would never have even known about that stuff," she told the program, adding that being a kidfluencer helped set her up for the future. 

"In the dance industry, social media is a really important part. It's helped me get out there and get noticed."

But do the pros outweigh the cons? 

According to US court documents, Meta estimates about 100,000 children on Facebook and Instagram receive online sexual harassment every day. 

Australia's eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant told Four Corners, social media platforms could do more to protect these children online, but ultimately, "They're all driven by profit motive, and sex has always sold".

"We actually need them to be … proactively building safety into their platforms rather than profiting from the sexualisation of children," she said.

For Kym, Zoe and Nina, they believe they have the balance right. 

"I know what we're doing. Bobbi knows what we're doing. She's safe, in my eyes," said Kym.

"I believe I'm doing everything possible to protect him and do it all safely," said Nina.

Feature image: Four Corners. 

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