What is OnlyFans? What parents need to know

With OnlyFans reporting an increase in sign-ups since early March 2020, it’s a platform you may have heard about. However, there are concerns about the dark side of OnlyFans. More underage young people are using this platform to sell sexually explicit content of themselves for money.

What’s on the page

What is OnlyFans?

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

OnlyFans’ minimum age limit

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

Concerns about OnlyFans

The British-based site became increasingly popular for people who were unemployed or working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is also increasingly popular among sex workers.

The BBC documentary, #Nudes4Sale, investigated the rise of under-18’s selling explicit adult content online. The documentary found as many as a third of Twitter users who advertised explicit images were under 18. Additionally, 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.” The company asked for “further information on the accounts found in the documentary that may have been linking to such content.”

See privacy and security settings for Twitter.

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.”

See Snapchat’s privacy and security settings.

OnlyFans is also a subscription service. This means to access a Creator’s content, users must pay for it. If a young person has access to a credit card or other form of payment, they may subscribe to someone’s content without a parent knowing.

Learn how to help them manage their money.

What does UK law say?

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

New laws under the Online Safety Bill says companies could be fined £18m or 10% of their global turnover if they fail to keep children safe on their platforms.

Does OnlyFans have any safety measures?

In May 2019, OnlyFans introduced a new account verification process. A Creator now must provide a ‘selfie’ along with their ID in the image to prove their identity. Yet, research showed that underage users used other people’s IDs, creating accounts without a problem. This suggests that the age verification is not strong 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, one 17-year-old girl who said she managed to use OnlyFans for seven months. Although her accounts were repeatedly reported and shut down, she was able to use the ID of an older friend to sign up again. Even though they didn’t look alike, she was successful. Because of examples like this, the site now requires users to pose next to an ID card and then submit a photograph holding it up to their face.

Why would teens want an OnlyFans account?

Teens may want to join as an ‘easy’ way to make money. Reportedly, some Creators can make as much as £30,000 a month. However, teens don’t understand that this is a very small percentage.

Although OnlyFans is closely linked to adult content, other content does not require nudity or sexual acts to make money. Teens may see this as an opportunity for them.

A report by VoiceBox and OnlyFans, commissioned by Parent Zone, explores the idea in great depth.

Ways to protect your child and what to watch out for

    • Reports show that under-18s use fake IDs and family members’ passports to set up accounts. Keep these documents safe and secure where possible.
    • Upon registration, users need to provide their bank details to receive payments through OnlyFans. Ensure you have a parental lock or other settings disabled/enabled to manage access to your or their bank accounts.
    • Underage users may be more vulnerable to sexual abuse. They may not understand why sharing adult content on the platform is harmful. Our report, Look at Me – Teens, Sexting and Risks, found that the likelihood of a child sending an explicit image more than doubles between the ages of 14 and 15.

    Therefore, it’s important to:

    • Have honest conversations early on with them about the consequences of sharing sexual content. This might include talking about sexual predators, online grooming, blackmail or even how police may get involved if they are a perpetrator of ‘revenge porn’.
    • Set privacy controls on their devices.
    • Filter and/or block chosen sites or apps with your broadband provider.

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