What is OnlyFans? What parents need to know

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With OnlyFans reporting a 75% increase in sign-ups since early March, it’s a platform you may have heard about. However, concerns have been raised about the dark side of OnlyFans, and that underage young people are using this platform to sell sexually explicit content of themselves for money.

What is OnlyFans?

OnlyFans is an online platform and app created in 2016 where people can pay for content (photos and videos, live-streams) via a monthly membership. Content is mainly created by YouTubers, fitness trainers, models, content creators, public figures, in order to monetise their profession.

What is OnlyFans’ minimum age limit?

According to the OnlyFans policy, users must be 18 years or older.

What are the concerns raised about OnlyFans?

The British-based site has become increasingly popular for people who have become unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also, it’s popular amongst sex workers.
A recent BBC documentary – #Nudes4Sale investigated the rise of under 18’s selling explicit content on not just OnlyFans but Twitter and Snapchat Premium. The documentary found as many as a third of Twitter users advertising explicit images with hashtags “nudes4sale” or “buymynudes” are under 18, according to an analysis by facial recognition technology. Worryingly, a large number of underage creators use social media to sell nudes in exchange for money and gifts.

Twitter said it has “zero tolerance for any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation,” and asked for further information on the accounts found in the documentary that may have been linking to such content.”

Snapchat told the BBC: “We strictly prohibit accounts that promote or distribute pornographic content. We do not scan the content of private accounts, but we continually look for ways to find and remove these accounts, including discussions with other platforms like Twitter.”

What does UK law say?

The UK law states that you must be over the age of 18 to sell or distribute explicit content. There currently is no legal requirement for online platforms to monitor explicit content that could have originated from underage users. This means that the creator of the content and the person that buys it would face criminal liability if any action was taken.

However, this may change in the future as the Online Harms White paper sets out to introduce legislation to tackle harmful content online.

Does OnlyFans have any safety measures?

In May 2019, OnlyFans introduced a new account verification process that a Creator now must provide a ‘selfie’ along with their ID in the image to prove their identity. However, from our research and that of the BBC’s, underage users have used other people’s ID’s and have created an account without a problem – suggesting that the age-verification is not robust enough.

In a statement to the BBC, OnlyFans said: “We constantly review our systems to ensure they are as robust as possible.
If we are alerted to any underage individual who has gained or tried to gain illegitimate access to the platform, we will always take immediate steps to investigate and suspend the account.”

However, a particular case where a 17-year-old girl says she signed up aged 16 – although it took her several attempts to set up a profile after it was repeatedly reported and shut down. She used the ID of an older friend, even though they didn’t look alike, and managed to use OnlyFans for seven months using various profiles.

Why would teens want an OnlyFans account?

There is an appeal for teens to join as an easy way to make money and that some don’t actually need to be naked in order to make ‘easy money’ from the site. There’s also this enticement that Creators can make as much as £30,000 a month, but not knowing this is a very small percentage of Creators that actually make such an amount.

Ways to protect your child

Our recent sexting report – Look At Me – Teens, Sexting and Risks, revealed that between the ages of 14 and 15 – the likelihood of a child sending an explicit image more than doubles. So, it’s important to:

  • Have frank conversations earlier on with them about the sharing explicitly sexual content and the consequences of this, e.g., sexual predators, online grooming, blackmail, or even a police offence if they are a perpetrator of ‘revenge porn’. ThinkuKnow has a great parents guide.
  • Set privacy controls on their devices.
  • Filter and/or block chosen sites or apps with your broadband provider. If you have Sky, check out the Sky Broadband Shield protection how-to guide – designed to make the internet a safer place for families.

For more advice, please check our advice from our expert panel here.

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View our latest report ‘Look at me – Teens, sexting and risks’ in collaboration with Youthworks, on sexting.
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