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‘Mommy-ran accounts’ and the dangerous paedophile rings preying on kidfluencer content

By Francesca Johnson

Mar 5, 2022

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Do you ever wonder how in the world child stars on Instagram have followings of hundreds of thousands if not millions? If you can see past all your envy at the shiny brand deals and the sponsorship galore on their pages, you might notice they say ‘Account run by Mommy’ in the bio. I decided to take a closer look and what I found horrified me. Introducing the horror that is the ‘Mommy-ran account’.

In the digital age, everything is content—from teens train hopping on TikTok and participating in trash streaming abuse on YouTube to silent streams that send viewers into a serene sleep and mukbang content creators slowly killing themselves for clicks—the list of opportunities to go viral seems endless. As a result, this means that the line between what is ethical and what isn’t often gets blurry, especially when the content in question includes other people than the main creator. Today, we’re going to think of the children and investigate the bizarre and dangerous world of mommy-ran accounts.

While some might argue that TikTok has an educational value that differs from formal education in a beneficial way, it’s also important to note that the platform is yet to have found a successful approach to dealing with its problem of children being exposed to harmful content. With potential predators and even paedophiles hiding behind their screens, child safety is a concern many have on their mind, especially parents. Simply speaking, it’s dangerous to have children online in any capacity, although there are known ways to safeguard their experience as much as possible.

But what happens when the very people who are supposed to protect their children are the ones putting them in danger (either knowingly or unknowingly)?

The world of mommy-ran accounts

Between aesthetic moms and mommy managers that have found ways to make money out of their little darlings on Instagram and TikTok, there are also the mommy-ran accounts—profiles of kidfluencers where their parents (usually mothers) are behind the wheel.

SCREENSHOT talked to one mother and content creator to gain some insight from the community in order to understand more about the harmful circles operating around mommy-ran accounts. Speaking to Sarah Adams, otherwise known as @mom.uncharted on TikTok, I was horrified by the world she uncovered hiding in the follower lists of mommy accounts: paedophiles and predators.

As a married mother of two children, Adams shared that she is “fascinated by the evolution and state of parental public oversharing.” She described her content as “focused around parental public oversharing—think family vloggers or influencers who have turned kids into content.” I can certainly name a few, I’m side-eyeing the ACE Family here.

The content creator  also wanted to talk more openly online about the concept of ‘Sharenting’ (the practice of parents publicising content about their children on internet platforms). “I’ve also incorporated child safety, online sharing practices, and sharing stories/articles related to the topics I discuss,” she added. Asking Adams why she chose to investigate mommy-ran accounts—since it’s a very dark rabbit hole to fall into—she explained that they fell into an intersection of her content around child exploitation on social media.

Adams’ primary predicaments with these accounts fit into three categories: “One: the exploitation of children for fame and financial gain, two: privacy and consent—children cannot give informed consent [as well as] their right to privacy infringed upon and three: the disregard, or lack of knowledge on the dangers/potential consequences, for the child’s online safety.”

Some are uncomfortable with these accounts posting so much content. For example, one of Adam’s videos covers the epidemic of children being filmed sleeping, in the middle of breakdowns and intimate milestones or purposefully disrupting them from their routines in order to make so-called ‘entertaining’ content. Though Adams maintained that it is well within a parent’s right to post what they want of their children, she clarified that her issue lies with the “belief that children also have a right to privacy.”

“I do not think strangers on the internet should be privy to so much information and have so much access to your children. We are unaware of the long-term effects or potential consequences to having our children’s lives played out online for the public so as parents—we need to err on the side of caution and be mindful of what we post,” she continued.

Adams’ concern lies in those yet unknown long-term consequences. Years of being forced to be a fashionista, a brand rep for money and a constant vehicle of sometimes distressing content creation must impact a child negatively, right? “I think the long-term effects have yet to be seen other than the issues of privacy, consent and safety,” she first told me.

But the video creator  seemed to share the same sentiment I did, that being judged purely for physical, aesthetic or any aspects of your life that are out of your control will most definitely have an impact on a child. “Being thrown into the world of materialism and consumerism at such a young age is bound to have some effects on a child’s psyche,” Adams explained.

Are mommy-ran accounts knowingly baiting predators?

Moving on, we dived into the deep end and started to peel back the curtain on the predators: the most terrifying side of the world of mommy-ran accounts. “They aren’t hiding over on the ‘dark web’, they are active and present on all the social media platforms and currently there is no effective way to remove them from [those],” Adams divulged.

Furthermore, it’s simple for them to lay in wait undetected and manoeuvre past safety blocks. “It’s easy for anyone to create an anonymous account with a photo of a puppy or a stock model and curate a whole private account of minor accounts they follow,” she continued.

@mom.uncharted

A hashtag doesn’t seem so innocent once you know who is following it 🥺 #socialmedia #influencers #fyp #fy #parentsoftiktok #protectthechildren

♬ Forever - Labrinth

In one viral video of Adams’, she brought up the use of emojis, hashtags and words—some of the most commonly seen being ‘MAP’ (for ‘Minor Attracted Person’), ‘69’, ‘drp’, 🍕—and I asked her to expand on what they signify.

“This was a new discovery for me so I am not overly familiar, however, people in my comment section on that video have stated a variety of symbols and words they use to identify themselves. The blue swirl, which is the 🌀, is one I was informed of by a fellow TikToker that stands for ‘looking for/interested in young boys’. Cheese pizza (🍕) has the acronym ‘CP’ which is covert for ‘Child Porn’.”

Furthermore, brands should let kids be kids and move away from working with kidfluencers or individuals who are exploiting their children. “There are amazing mom accounts that don’t or seldom feature their children and the brands should focus on collaborating with those individuals,” she stated.

While it doesn’t look like mommy-ran accounts will be going away anytime soon, Adams and others online are starting to call them out. And about time too. With her content, Adams remains assured in her mission to unveil the dangers of child content on the internet for other parents to be aware of. “My main goal is to present a different perspective on public parental oversharing in an attempt to have parents pause before posting and think, ‘Do my kids really need to be here?’” Adams finished off.

Introducing Nikocado Avocado, the YouTuber slowly killing himself for views

By Jack Ramage

Feb 26, 2022

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Some people quit smoking for their New Year’s resolution, others join the gym. YouTuber Nikocado Avocado, however, has the aim of hitting 400 pounds (just over 181 kilos). Chances are you’ve seen the famous mukbanger’s content recommended by the YouTube algorithm—known for his aggressive outbursts, his jarring persona and gluttony.

It’s the fuel that’s propelled him to stardom. It’s his identity, his brand—from KFC to Burger King, you name it and over the five years of his YouTube career, he’s eaten it. It’s what makes Nikocado Avocado (real name Nicholas Perry) stand out among the sea of countless other mukbang content creators. Let’s just say, if mukbang was pop music, he’d be Beyoncé.

Yet despite his success on the surface, Nikocado Avocado’s journey has a darker underbelly—a story of addiction to engagement that is leading him to an early grave. To understand how he got to this point, we have to look back.

The story of Nikocado Avocado

Only half a decade ago, Nikocado Avocado was a vegan vlogger living a modest life in Colombia. At the time, he weighed between 150 to 160 pounds, a stark contrast to his weight now, which is approximately 350 pounds. On 5 October 2016, the first of many mukbang videos were uploaded to his channel—and while he made the decision to start eating meat, he would still maintain a relatively clean diet.

At the time, the content creator stuck out like a sore thumb in the mukbang community, as in the beginning, these types of videos were almost entirely dominated by women creators. During his early career, Nikocado Avocado would almost always include his pet parrot in his videos while he ate—a novel and slightly absurd characteristic which would assist him in standing out from the crowd.

In the early stages of his mukbang career, he seemed to be relatively unscathed by his diet. According to research on the psychology of mukbang videos, this type of content impacts the “viewers’ perception of food consumption and thinness because mukbangers who were very thin and slim consumed very large portions of food and did not gain weight.” This is no doubt a spell which Nikocado Avocado found himself under—claiming to be a long term fan of mukbang videos, it’s plausible that he was convinced he was immune to obesity caused by mukbang eating.

This was short-lived, however. When he weighed himself in May 2017, he’d gained 50 pounds. The problem is, instead of seeing this as a genuine health concern, he instead integrated it into his content with the goal of gaining both more weight and more views. In another upload titled “I’m getting fat & don’t know why,” he would state that his weight gain was “a medical mystery” that it was just “water weight” or “stress.” 

By the time he hit the 300 pounds mark in April 2020, his mindset had visibly changed. No longer was Nikocado Avocado claiming any ambition to change his ways—instead, he’d claim he passed the point of no return and that it was easier to embrace his weight for views rather than going through the effort of losing it. This only amplified his viewership—as his weight continued to grow, so did his ad revenue.

By April 2021, with more than five million subscribers across six channels, he’d earned enough money to move into a $2.3 million penthouse flat. A comment left on the video announcing his new move states, “enjoy your house bro. You got not much time left.” It encapsulates the dilemma Nikocado Avocado faces: the exchange of health for money. Or, on a deeper level: the exchange of health for meaning.

Why do people enjoy watching mukbang videos?

But how has the YouTuber amassed such a vast and loyal fanbase? According to Kagan Kircaburun—a psychology researcher at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) who specialises in behavioural addictions online and is the first academic researcher into the addictive behaviour of mukbang watching—the answer is not black and white.

“According to our research, there were many reasons why people watch mukbang videos. We pinned down six main reasons why people are drawn to the videos: entertainment; sexual gratification; obtaining healthy eating gratification; discovering different foods—particularly Asain cuisine; using mukbang to escape from real-life problems or unpleasant feelings; and, finally, to watch their favourite YouTuber,” Kircaburun told SCREENSHOT.

That said, the researcher also added that, in some circumstances, mukbang watching can have therapeutic value. He recalled a time when he interviewed a woman who watches mukbang videos to help her deal with the symptoms of anorexia. “It made her feel relieved, reducing anxiety and helping her eat,” Kircaburun noted. “Listening to the sounds of eating, as well as watching the facial expressions of mukbang creators, can also have a therapeutic effect for those dealing with eating disorders,” he continued.

This echoes the views of mukbang video creator Rammseth Mukbang, who noted that watching someone “eat a certain meal can soothe people who are on a diet—like they are ‘eating in spirit’. I’ve had feedback that my video helps people after a stressful day. We are entertainment, but there is also a human touch… We bring comfort to viewers, we make a positive impact.”

Emily, a 26-year-old student living in Philadelphia—and self-proclaimed “lover of mukbang”—highlighted how it was the “relatability and human aspect” that draws her to mukbang content. She shared that she often watches mukbang videos while eating too and that “reading the comments helps me feel like part of a wider community.”

This is also something Rammseth Mukbang touched upon, describing the online community as “flawed yet beautiful.” In his experience, there is a significant disconnect between larger and smaller creators. “Bigger channels naturally move away from the community. Between smaller channels, you develop some fun banter and real connections. You all want to grow, so there is a sense of camaraderie.”

Like with most things in life there are always two sides to the coin—the good always comes with the bad. Mukbang is no different. Kircaburun warned that there are numerous ways in which watching this type of content can lead to unhealthy behaviour. Not only can the videos “affect someone’s eating and table manners negatively,” it can also lead to “some adolescent and young people becoming obese as a result of watching the content for a long time,” he explained.

“Making these videos involves consuming a very high capacity of food, some creators are professional eaters. But young people see this and think it’s normal. This can lead to a warped perception of food quantity and ultimately obesity,” Kircaburun added. Nikocado Avocado’s story is an embodiment of this, a reflection of the impact mukbang making can have on the health of its creators (and viewers too). A hyperbole and amplified reflection? Perhaps, but a reflection nonetheless—and something which urgently needs addressing.

On one hand a success, on the other a death sentence

“On one hand it’s a success story, at least from a marketing perspective,” noted Paul Smith, CEO of Baked Bean Marketing—an online marketing agency that specialises in managing high profile influencers—when speaking to SCREENSHOT. “In five years, he’s amassed almost three million followers and hundreds of millions of views.”

But at what cost? It’s clear Nikocado Avocado has bitten more than he can chew. Smith added, “On the flip side, he’s 300 pounds more than he weighed when he started making videos. You have to ask whether all that money he’s generated from this brand is worth it? Let’s not kid ourselves, a lot of this is about money—but is it worth the health implications? That’s the burning question.”

Given the fact that obesity is linked to more than sixty other chronic diseases, the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. So why does he continue to grow bigger? Smith described this as a snowball effect—a damaging cycle caused by YouTubers “all fighting for the same view.” He explained, “You make one video mukbang video today where you eat a certain amount of food. Tomorrow, to keep up engagement, you’ll have to put out a video even better than that. In Nikocado Avocado’s case, for instance, it’ll be a bigger portion of food. It’s a never-ending spiral.”

This is on the mind of every online content creator. It’s the toxic nature of the internet that, unfortunately, keeps us all hooked—tapping into our primal drive to keep growing engagement and, ultimately, feel valued. The Nikocado Avocado case can be likened to clout-chasers hungry enough for views to throw themselves on top of trains for TikTok views or fall off cliffs for a selfie.

This isn’t a secret either, social media apps are designed to be like this. Often in our mind’s eye, when we think of social media addiction, emphasis is placed on the consumer, but it impacts creators too. Akin to the addictive behaviour of doomscrolling, Nikocado Avocado (and most similar YouTubers sacrificing their health for viewership) are showing tell-tale signs of an addiction disorder. With Nikocado Avocado’s story in particular, his deadly habits have been cemented through an unmistakable brand: with extravagant, violent freakouts and a merch empire of T-shirts that read “you made me do it” or “it’s just water weight.”

An addiction to food, views and meaning

Smith “absolutely” believes that this snowball effect can breed addictive behaviour. “If you make three to five thousand pounds from advertising revenue—sometimes five to twenty thousand—off the back of your videos, ask yourself: would you stop?” And I agree. It’s easy to paint him as the perpetrator here—an individual who has damaged his health through the consequence of his own actions.

But that viewpoint is narrow-minded. Instead, it’s better to think of him as the victim—a person who’s dug himself a hole he can’t escape from. This rings true when you consider how his diet is not just drastically altering his body, but his mind too.

Behavioural science experts believe that “all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever “a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction.” Nikocado Avocado has created a situation where his habit of eating vast quantities of food in front of a camera has turned into an obligation. To treat such an addictive disorder requires a multi-level approach: from personal support to specialised training. But to what extent should YouTube and similar social network channels step in—and do they at all?

Luckily, the internet isn’t as Wild West as it was 15 years ago. YouTube does have policies that every content creator has to abide by otherwise their videos will be removed, but these are nowhere near as stringent as those on traditional television networks, Smith further explained. “It’s a completely different ballgame to mainstream television. I believe there should be more control over what’s posted online. YouTube doesn’t take action 95 per cent of the time—unless it’s explicitly dangerous—so where does it end?”

Perhaps it’s the mere-exposure effect, but from researching his journey over the last few months, I’ve developed a soft spot for the guy. Indeed, Nikocado Avocado is the manifestation of modern-day internet culture—the good and the bad. He represents how new media, unlike traditional TV, has allowed any creative who sees a gap in the market to make a success of themselves, just with a camera and an internet connection. On the other hand, he embodies the worst of what digital culture has to offer: an addiction to engagement which can lead to a death sentence. Until measures are taken, from outside sources and Nikocado Avocado himself, he’ll continue to eat himself into an early grave… One mukbang at a time.

 

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