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The children of celebrity culture and our expectations of them

Sophie Turner accidentally posted a video of her daughter, opening a debate about data protection and children's rights on the internet

The children of celebrity culture and our expectations of them Sophie Turner accidentally posted a video of her daughter, opening a debate about data protection and children's rights on the internet

On 1 May, Sophie Turner accidentally posted a video of her daughter Willa, 3, in Stories on her Instagram profile, which is followed by more than 14 million people. It was a strange occurrence, as Turner and her husband Joe Jonas have not shown their children (Willa has a baby sister who was born in 2022) online or in their public appearances. Shortly afterwards came the explanation for this uncharacteristic behaviour: It was a mistake. The Game of Thrones actress deleted the footage and wrote, again in Stories, in black and white: "A few hours ago today, I made a mistake and accidentally posted a video of our daughter on Instagram Stories. We have always fought for our children's right to privacy, and sharing content about them with the public goes against everything I believe in. Our children deserve the right to grow up, learn and develop privately away from the public eye. If I ever post anything with our children again in the future, please know that it is definitely and without question a mistake. I would appreciate it if whoever republished the video on another platform would please delete it."

This small incident and the statement that followed are part of a broader discussion about celebrities' children and the distribution of their images that has recently gained reach and currency, including in Italy. It is a wide-ranging and multi-layered issue that affects not only social networks but also the online and offline press, and thus reporters and paparazzi, and has important economic and social implications on many levels. There are essentially two factions: those who argue that everyone has the right to manage their children's image as they see fit, even by "giving it away" to magazines and the like, and those who believe that the image of minors belongs to them anyway and should not be "exploited" by anyone, including parents and guardians, for economic or image purposes.

Even if we do not deal with the issue of family and mother as influencers and limit ourselves strictly to celebrities, it is easy to see how the problem arises now more than ever and how it is exacerbated by social media. Even celebrities who are entertainers and owe their fame to dancing, singing or acting, among other things, are treated as actual influencers and are expected to have a full and constant online presence, without censorship or genuine moments of privacy. This opens up a discussion about celebrity culture and audience expectations. Between Instagram and magazines, do we as entertainment content users feel that it is our right to know everything about our favourite actor or singer, including offspring? In a time when all it takes to go viral is to post the right content at the right time, and when some people become famous by sharing every moment of their lives on Instagram or TikTok, are we then convinced that total sharing has become an inevitable condition of fame? A price to pay in return for admiration and multi-million dollar contracts? Is this growing trend of publishing one's everyday life on the internet creating inhumane and far-fetched public expectations?

Whatever the answers to these questions, it seems that this trend is unexpectedly backfiring. Turner and Jonas are not the only ones who have made this decision. They are joined, for example, by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, who have four children, the last of whom was born in February 2023. The two have perfectly managed to protect the image of their children by only showing them on very few, carefully selected occasions (such as the ceremony to award Reynolds the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016).

A while back, the pregnant Lively shared a carousel of photos of her pregnancy on Instagram, where the baby bump was clearly visible, writing, "Here are photos of me pregnant so the 11 people waiting outside my house to see the unicorn can leave me alone. They scare me and my children. Thank you to everyone else for the love and respect and for continuing to unfollow accounts and publications that post photos of children. You have all the power against them. And thank you also to the media who have a No Kids Policy. They make all the difference." Ben Affleck had made similar comments back in 2013, pointing in advance to a problem that has only worsened, but of which the public seems to be increasingly aware and whose long reach will only be observable once these children are adults.