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A Marketplace of Girl Influencers Managed by Moms and Stalked by Men

A Marketplace of Girl Influencers Managed by Moms and Stalked by Men

This box represents a real photo of a 9-year-old girl in a golden bikini lounging on a towel. The photo was posted on her Instagram account, which is run by adults.

1

wooowww

Mama mia ???????

Love

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Perfect bikini body

?????????????????????

Mmmmmmmmm take that bikini off

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You’re sooooo hot

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Y’all are dogs! She’s a child.

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A Marketplace of Girl Influencers Managed by Moms and Stalked by Men

Seeking social media stardom for their underage daughters, mothers post images of them on Instagram. The accounts draw men sexually attracted to children, and they sometimes pay to see more.

Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and

Published Feb. 22, 2024Updated Feb. 23, 2024, 9:56 a.m. ET

The ominous messages began arriving in Elissa’s inbox early last year.

“You sell pics of your underage daughter to pedophiles,” read one. “You’re such a naughty sick mom, you’re just as sick as us pedophiles,” read another. “I will make your life hell for you and your daughter.”

Elissa has been running her daughter’s Instagram account since 2020, when the girl was 11 and too young to have her own. Photos show a bright, bubbly girl modeling evening dresses, high-end workout gear and dance leotards. She has more than 100,000 followers, some so enthusiastic about her posts that they pay $9.99 a month for more photos.

Over the years, Elissa has fielded all kinds of criticism and knows full well that some people think she is exploiting her daughter. She has even gotten used to receiving creepy messages, but these — from “Instamodelfan” — were extreme. “I think they’re all pedophiles,” she said of the many online followers obsessed with her daughter and other young girls.

Elissa and her daughter inhabit the world of Instagram influencers whose accounts are managed by their parents. Although the site prohibits children under 13, parents can open so-called mom-run accounts for them, and they can live on even when the girls become teenagers.

But what often starts as a parent’s effort to jump-start a child’s modeling career, or win favors from clothing brands, can quickly descend into a dark underworld dominated by adult men, many of whom openly admit on other platforms to being sexually attracted to children, an investigation by The New York Times found.

An 11-year-old girl sits under a beach umbrella in red lipstick and a polka dot bathing suit. With her legs beneath her, she wears heart-shaped sunglasses and blows a kiss.

A 7-year-old girl faces the camera in athletic shorts and top. She’s doing a standing split in front of a wall of roses and a neon sign reading “Hello Gorgeous.”

A 10-year-old girl stands in a garden with hand on hip, wearing a Santa-themed one-piece, a sparkly Santa hat and knee-high socks.

A 5-year-old girl does a standing split outdoors in a two-piece leotard with a white top and hot-pink bottom. Her right hand hangs in the air, and she looks at the camera through pink glasses.

A 9-year-old girl in a white frilly leotard pulls her leg over her head while arching her back.

A 9-year-old girl in a pink bikini top and tight shorts jumps with outstretched hands. She is wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

A 9-year-old girl in a short white top, white flared stretch pants, black heels and red lipstick stares back at the camera over her shoulder.

A 9-year-old girl in heavy rouge and a red two-piece leotard does a standing split outside, tugging her knee above her head.

A 9-year-old girl waves her hands and raises her leg in a pink cut-out leotard and leopard-print heels.

A 9-year-old girl does a standing split in a two-piece, a brown hat and brown high-heeled boots.

A 9-year-old girl in hoop earrings, green sports bra, black sneakers and red lipstick pouts at the camera with her hair blowing.

A 9-year-old girl wearing makeup, jewelry and an orange bikini top and hot pants does a back-bend split outside a garage.

An 8-year-old girl smiles for a headshot wearing a pink denim vest over a two-piece leotard.

An 8-year-old girl does a standing split in red lipstick, heart-shaped sunglasses and a red top with her upper torso facing the camera.

An 8-year-old girl smiles with a second-place award for a dance competition.

An 8-year-old girl poses in a pink bikini, knee-high socks and roller skates holding a giant 8 balloon.

Not racy.

Racy.

Not racy.

Racy.

Racy.

Not racy.

Racy.

Racy.

Not racy.

Racy.

Not racy.

Racy.

A girl in early adolescence opens a lace robe to reveal a string bikini with ruffles on top. She looks at the camera in heavy eyeshadow, making a kissy face.

Classified as racy.

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Super ??

That is such a cute swimsuit!

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I will sleep with you in future. Remember my ID. I fall in love with you. It’s Sincerely. I know you will be waiting for me.

Mom clearly isn’t monitoring the comments section

Absolutely Gorgeous!

??????Very nice

Is this an advert for pedos? This content shouldn’t be posted.

Love that teen body..

Yummie

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Cover up you’re a little girl ?

These are examples of posts from the mom-run accounts. To protect the identity of minors, their photos will be described rather than shown.

To identify the accounts, first, reporters searched for Instagram hashtags associated with child influencers. The Times then wrote a computer program to surface similar accounts they followed.

Only those with more than 500 followers and multiple images of children in form-fitting or revealing attire were included in the analysis.

Reporters used software from Microsoft and Google to classify how suggestive the images were.

Suggestive posts are more likely to receive “likes” and comments, The Times found. On average, as the accounts gather more followers, they draw a higher proportion of males, according to analysis of data from analytics firms.

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