parent opinion

"It's exploitation": Mums, please don't use your kids to promote your MLM business.

A long time ago, in the 1990s, a good friend of mine attempted to lure me into a pyramid scheme. 

He invited a number of friends to what we thought was going to be one of his usual fun house parties - but instead, it shocked the pants off us all when we were forced into a small dimly lit room containing rows of chairs, a screen and an overhead projector. 

Let’s just say the party was a fizzer from the moment a picture of a pyramid graph was projected onto the screen, and he commenced his presentation on how we all had the potential to become millionaires… All of us were forever wary of accepting another invitation.

On Mamamia Out Loud, we talk about a brand of vaccine hesitancy emerging in women of a certain age. Post continues below.

That was the moment, too, I realised that any business model that remotely resembled a pyramid scheme or multi-level-marketing structure was slightly shady, and definitely not one I would ever endorse. 

In December 2020, social sharing platform TikTok updated its user guidelines under Frauds and Scams to include the following: 

We do not permit anyone to exploit our platform to take advantage of the trust of users and bring about financial or personal harm. We remove content that deceives people in order to gain an unlawful financial or personal advantage, including schemes to defraud individuals or steal assets.

Do not post, upload, stream or share: Content that depicts or promotes Ponzi, multi-level marketing, or pyramid schemes.

If that’s not an alert to many that MLM’s are not legitimate businesses, then I don't know how else to state it.

Before the self-proclaimed MLM #bossbabes unleash their venom (or start burning sage or spritzing the screen with essential oils to rid my negative energy) you may find I have a point.

I don’t really care how other parents raise their kids, that’s their business - and I usually mind mine, unless I feel that I should speak out. Especially when it involves children being exploited online.

If recruiting friends, family members and strangers and luring them to join you on your MLM journey, by use of extreme ‘love-bombing’ and manipulation, is your jam, then who am I to tell you what’s right for you? 

However, when you’re using your babies or young children in your posts, reels and IG videos because they’re ‘cute’, to generate and recruit new followers - and for the pursuit of wealth - then that doesn’t quite sit right with me.

I’ve had a few friends who’ve complained to me that long-lost acquaintances have contacted them on socials for recruitment purposes. I’ve even had a couple of random ‘Hey Hun’ DM’s myself, asking whether I’d be interested in joining their wonderful communities, offering me amazing business and lifestyle opportunities, should I opt into the world of Network Marketing. 

So me being me, rather than deleting the messages instantaneously, I did some research.

This lead me to a number of social media accounts run by women with babies and young children, with visually appealing homes, looking eerily similar due to their use of neutral filters and earthy tones, selling a lifestyle and a community of friendship within these network marketing 'business opportunities'. 

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"When you’re using your babies or young children... to generate and recruit new followers - and for the pursuit of wealth - then that doesn’t quite sit right with me." Image: Getty.

They try so hard to subtly influence/guilt you toward the ‘right’ products to buy. Incredibly, they are ‘experts’ without even having any qualifications, and they tell you repeatedly that every product you are currently using is ‘wrong’. Then they demonstrate what the ‘precise’ products to use are - and too often they are using their children to do so. 

After so many people lost their jobs during the pandemic, it’s easy to see the appeal of starting a business from home. All you need is a starter kit and a mobile phone. For women in particular, many of whom are already at home with babies and young children, I know first-hand how isolating being a stay-at-home-mum can be at times. So I can completely understand how a network marketing model - using social media as a work hub, and making friends from the comfort of your own home - is going to seem attractive if you’re feeling at all vulnerable.

But if you do choose the MLM path, perhaps leave your children out of your business marketing strategy by not publicly exploiting them on social media to recruit and sell products for your own financial gain.

We have a duty of care toward our kids, particularly within the online world - so unless you have your children’s permission, and they are aware of the purpose you are using their images and video content online for, it's best to keep them out of your MLM business until they truly understand what they are partaking in.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and writer. You can follow her on Instagram.

Image: Getty/Mamamia.

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