Defend Young Minds Staff
August 10, 2021
You’ve heard the stories, and now as a parent you need to know: What are the dangers of OnlyFans? Is it as bad for minors as it’s rumored to be?
Yes it is. When a social media website makes the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s 2021 Dirty Dozen List, it’s time to sit up and take notice. We’ll help you defend your kids with 4 simple tips.
What is OnlyFans?
The British-based social media company came on the scene in July 2016 and has grown exponentially since 2020.
The idea behind OnlyFans was to “develop a site where creators could monetize their content free of advertisers.”
The “creators” included photographers, YouTubers, models, actors, and others involved in the creative arts. Unfortunately, the site also immediately attracted sexually explicit content.
Making money on OnlyFans
Unlike Instagram or Snapchat, creators on OnlyFans can set up their site behind paywalls for their “fans” or followers to access. Here’s how it works:
- Monthly subscription services for users to access their account.
- One-time fees for access to additional live-streamed or special content.
- OnlyFans takes 20% of payments in exchange for hosting creators’ content on their website.
The website has an online earnings estimator to help creators estimate the potential earnings they can make. For example, according to the estimator, if you have 5,000 followers and charge a $4.99 monthly subscription price, you could earn anywhere between $241.00 to $1,247.00 per month. This range depends very much on what percentage of your followers subscribe to your content, and does not include income from “tips” and “private paid messages.”
What attracts kids and teens to OnlyFans?
1. A chance to make “easy money” from their hobbies or creative pursuits.
Traditional jobs in retail, hospitality or fast food have been disrupted by the pandemic and lose their appeal next to the promise of making large sums of money working from home. But in reality, it is difficult to make significant money on this platform.
One creator found that “…it’s more challenging and time consuming than she expected, and less financially rewarding.”
It’s a full-time job…Fans want to see you posting daily. You’re always churning. You’re always taking pictures to post. -Creator on OnlyFans
2. A chance to gain popularity or acceptance.
Kids naturally want to fit in with their peers and be liked. Research has shown that the “likes” from social media are quite intoxicating to young and impressionable minds.
OnlyFans is yet another venue for kids to get the “rush” from being popular, but with the added bonus of making money from it. The desire to connect with others is natural and desirable. But the need for love, acceptance and security cannot come from a screen, regardless of how many followers or “fans” one might have. Helping kids and teens connect with their community, classmates and co-workers can build their self-esteem and skills more meaningfully.
What are the dangers of OnlyFans?
The list is long, but here are our main concerns:
1. OnlyFans is known as the “porn capital” of the pandemic.
The number of users exploded from 10 million in 2019 to over 100 million users in January 2021! While there are legitimate content creators who post their fitness tips or cooking videos, the site is known primarily for its pornographic content. And the site does not filter out creators’ pornography, making it unacceptable for kids and teens.
2. Images and videos can be leaked from private accounts.
Once leaked, these images and videos can be used for sextortion or circulated around the Internet or other porn sites for everyone to see. These are nearly impossible to fully remove, creating a negative digital footprint that will follow their creators as they look for jobs, apply to colleges, etc.
3. Users harass content creators with increasing demands to “do more,” irrespective of whether they began their account with sexual content or not.
It’s no secret that child sexual abuse has spiked during the pandemic. Many schools were closed and kids were home and online, giving traffickers more time and opportunity to target kids. OnlyFans is the perfect place for traffickers and predators to find kids and then solicit sexual content from them.
4. Minors still find their way to OnlyFans, despite the 18+ user age policy.
To enforce this policy, users are asked to pose next to an ID card and submit a selfie posing with the ID next to one’s face.
OnlyFans also requires creators to provide bank details in order to receive their payments. To make purchases, users need to use a credit card. OnlyFans does not currently support payments from mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay. This makes it more difficult for minors to have accounts without the permission of an adult.
But despite OnlyFans’ efforts, there are many minors who still manage to get around the 18+ age restriction.
A recent investigation by the BBC uncovered numerous instances of minors selling their own sexually explicit content on OnlyFans.
Here are some examples of what they found through interviews with police and school officials:
- Seventeen year-old “Leah” was able to set up an account using a fake driver’s license in order to sell explicit videos.
- A British 14-year-old girl used her grandmother’s passport to open an OnlyFans account in order to sell explicit images.
- A 16-year-old student bragged to her high school career counselor about the money she was making from posting her pornographic images on OnlyFans.
- A 12-year-old girl was reported to have used OnlyFans to contact adult creators and asked to meet up with them.
Because of the explicit content, there is no official OnlyFans app on the Apple Store or Google Play Store. Therefore, the site can only be accessed on a browser (Chrome, Safari) by typing in their website’s URL. This is a good thing! But it also means you aren’t going to prevent your kids from being on OnlyFans just because you haven’t given permission to download the app or have age restrictions on their phones.
Kids will delete internet histories or use ‘Incognito Mode’ or ‘Private Browsing’ to access sites like this. You need to block the website from any device your kid uses. But realize they could still use a device out of your control to access the site (like a friend’s phone).
Note: Any “OnlyFans” apps on Google Play or Apple Store are fake or just support apps developed by fans of the website. As with any app, downloading these can compromise your device’s privacy and security.
Take action to defend your kids
Given all the issues involved with OnlyFans, we simply cannot recommend this social media for kids and teens. Here are 4 things you CAN DO to defend them against OnlyFans:
1. Have a conversation about the dangers of OnlyFans
Ask your kids what they already know about OnlyFans and build on that. Kids who are growing and testing their identities apart from their families will be attracted to the idea of making money and attracting followers. It can be an irresistible combination. Especially when they see so many celebrities using this platform to further their careers.
- Explain how this platform is used by sexual predators to promote sex trafficking and sextortion.
- Talk about your child’s digital footprint and how things they post online can never be fully erased.
- Discuss healthier ways they can earn money.
- Install an internal filter by talking to your kids about pornography. Don’t know how to start the conversation? Check out these resources:
- How to Talk to Kids About Pornography: Quick Start Guide
- The best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of books
- Brain Defense® Digital Safety curriculum
2. Make empathy a part of your porn prevention toolkit
Research shows a startling decline in empathy among kids. This is not surprising. Young people are pressured to measure their worth and success by capturing the perfect selfie and being admired by thousands of followers. Empathetic kids are better equipped to
- reject pornography and its harmful lies
- avoid creating and posting sexual content of themselves or others and
- resist the temptation to focus on likes and followers
3. Be ok with saying no
The combination of money, sexual material, and the desire for attention makes OnlyFans very dangerous for kids and teens. For this reason, we don’t recommend this social media platform for minors, just like any social media for kids under the age of 16 or even older. Here are some tips:
- Block OnlyFans on all devices used by minors
- Disable Incognito Mode or Private Browsing
- If your child wants an OnlyFans account, use the talking points above to help them understand how the risks outweigh the benefits. And be ok with saying no, even if it upsets them.
- If your child already has an OnlyFans account, check out this article by Colin Kartchner coaching parents on how to have a conversation with kids about deleting TikTok–the same principles apply!
4. Enlist allies
Having a sympathetic “third voice” to help you in defending your kids is powerful. Harmony Grillo is one such voice. As someone who worked in the commercial sex industry and now helps other women find a way out, she has an insider’s perspective that can help your older middle schooler or teen learn from her experiences.
Her video on the realities of OnlyFans is worth watching together with your older kids! (Note: There are no graphic descriptions in the video.) One powerful testimonial in the comments section sums it up:
Thank you. You just saved me. I almost tricked myself into thinking I’d start a music only account. But I deleted it. I don’t want to willingly walk into a mental trap and have trauma.
To sum it up, at its best OnlyFans is a place to share knowledge about the things that interest your child–but it’s generally not going to be good for their mental health as the promises of making money fall short and the pressure to produce more content and attract followers is high. At its worst, it will expose your child to pornography and may even encourage them to create their own sexual content.
Help–my kid saw porn!
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Defend Young Minds Staff
July 5, 2021