Industry Voices: Staying Safe Online

An interview with BizParentz Co-Founders Paula Dorn and Anne Henry: Part 2

BizParentz Foundation, a non-profit organization, supports young performers and their parents by providing education, advocacy and charitable support. Created by stage moms Paula Dorn and Anne Henry, BizParentz aims to share information on topics associated with children in the entertainment industry so that families can make an informed decision best suited to their individual needs and experience.  

On Location Education recently had the opportunity to sit down with Paula and Anne to discuss safety and other important issues related to child performers. In part one of that interview, we discussed safety, smart choices and stage names. In part two. we highlight online safety for your child performer. The following is BizParentz advice on keeping young actors safe in cyberspace.

OLE asked, “Actors are often encouraged to have an online presence as part of their branding and marketing. What precautions should a parent take to keep their young actors safe in cyberspace?” 

BP: The advice given to adult actors should be very different than the advice given to young performers.  Yes, we work in an adult world, but kids are, and should be, DIFFERENT.   

 For example, social media presence is a very dangerous thing for children.  That's why we have COPPA laws (kids under 13 should not even be on social media, if you read the TOS to most websites) and why the FBI now has entire divisions set up to deal with it.  There are dangers on the net that simply don't exist for adults, but are very prominent for children.  

Adult actors need to brand themselves.  Kids, not so much. That's because kids change so quickly...there is no time to build a brand before the "product" (the child) has changed into a different product -- they get older, taller, voices change, etc. For this reason, we suggest that parents focus more on obtaining quality WORK, and less on "branding."  

There is a huge myth out there that social media is "necessary" for a child actor's career.  It really isn't.  It is a choice.  If parents choose to make that choice, recognizing the dangers, the very least they can do is the following:

  • Parents should not only monitor, but completely control the child's professional online world.  Parents should have all the passwords, not just be "friends" with their child so they can "monitor.” 
  • Buy your child's name in website form (ex. tiffanysmith.com), and on social media.  This helps deter imposters and fan fiction at your child's expense.  Even if you don't put any content on those sites, claim them, so others don't beat you to it.  
  • Keep professional and personal online profiles separate.  All professional stuff should go through "their people" (aka mom or dad).  Personal pages and private groups should be for real life friends and family and they should be tagged as private.   
  • Only post professional photos.  When you post a photo online, for the most part, it becomes the property of the site you posted it on (Facebook, Instagram, etc).  You need to assume that you will lose control of the photo at that point. Only give away professional photos.  Be aware of the common behavior and fetishes for pedophiles and don't feed the beast.  Example?  No pictures of bare feet, kids in bathing suits, laying on their bed, etc. 
  • Build an infrastructure, a wall, for your online presence in the real world. That means having a PO box to register sites and accept mail, rather than having any evidence of your home address. Use a stage name for your child if you can.  Prioritize getting a real agent and/or manager so that they can handle any inquiries, auditions, and job offers.  Imagine your child is famous and successful -- that level of talent is mysterious.  Be mysterious.  
  • If you choose to interact with people in real life (an acting coach for example, or an agent), make sure you thoroughly vet them.  
  • Do not share where your child is to physically going be in advance, and don't share location of your home or the name of their school.  Share successes AFTER they happen.  Share that you were at the cool new restaurant right AFTER you leave. 
  • Do not buy followers or IMDB Starmeter ratings. These are questionable arenas and once you are on a target list, expect similar businesses to contact you.  Ditto for kids’ award shows, pay-to-play red carpets, online photo contests, online magazines, etc. All of these will put you in the position of "prey" and they will not advance your child's career.  The real industry can spot these frauds a mile away and they aren't impressed.   
  • Know that most college admissions officers now check social media.  Employers too.  Do not post anything you wouldn't want them to see.  Your child may have other aspirations when they get to be 18 and the may not appreciate the online footprint you have created. 
  • Learn to say NO.  Block suspicious people from your child's pages.  Be obvious and present -- let the predators who might be out there know that there is a mama bear watching them.  No job opportunity or networking move is worth your child's safety. 

We highly suggest all parents (showbiz or not) read Gavin DeBecker's book, Protecting the Gift.  It talks about how parents should listen to and trust their instincts.  You don't need to have a reason, or be judge and jury to NOT deal with someone in your child's life.   

 BizParentz is working on California legislation about young performers and social media safety, with the recognition that influencers now include children. For updates on that process, or for more information about BizParentz, visit their web site at http://www.bizparentz.org/home.html.

To read Part 1 of our interview with BizParentz stop by our blog here: Industry Voices: Safety, Smart Choices & Stage Names

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