‘Stop bashing’: Mums defend Insta sharing
At just three years old, Ralphie has more followers on Instagram than both his parents combined, but he doesn't even know it.
He has amassed a fan base of almost 20,000 followers, joining popular puppies and influencers that flood feeds daily.
The "influencer" has earned thousands of dollars thanks to his parents, mother Stacey Woodhams, 29, and Adam Waplington, 30, who both create content on Ralphie's behalf. They have featured clothes and toys gifted by companies who have been keen to work with the little boy living northeast London, in Essex.
"As a family, we never dreamt of the opportunities Instagram would open for us," Miss Woodhams said.
The proud mum has been sharing her child's life on social media since he was born, but it comes at a cost. For every nice comment or message Ralphie gets, she says the account also attracts messages that are nasty and vile.
The young family has been accused, via the little boy's Instagram page, of using their child as a crash-grab or opening Ralphie and his sister up to predators. But Miss Woodhams says it's no different to the dangers in a public shopping mall.
"We need to stop bashing parents as the 'monsters', or their parenting choices," Miss Woodhams said.
Critics have pointed out that Instagram strictly states a user must be over the age of 13 to create an account while the United Nations convention states every child has the right to privacy.
"Of course children have a right to privacy, but what we're doing on social media is no different to any mother or father proudly posting pictures on their Facebook," Miss Woodhams said.
She says "sharenting" is her right as a mother and has defended her "right" to build a social media presence for her son, and now newborn daughter.
"We made a decision that was right for our family… that is no one else's business," Miss Woodhams said.
Unfortunately that decision has attracted toxic trolls that are unforgiving and relentless. The family tries not to take it personally and remind themselves that they are simply doing their best.
"There is no rule book on how to parent and bring your children up, and as parents to Ralphie and (their daughter) Boux we feel sharing some photographs of their happy childhood and us as a family with our followers isn't harming them or anyone else," Miss Woodhams said.
She's not alone.
Brisbane mum Sapphiroula Condoleon, 24, had an Instagram account for her son before giving birth. While trying to pick a name she checked to see if the account name "Georgii" was available on Instagram. Creating content with her husband they've gained 3000 followers for their five month old, Georgii.
"I won't do nudity. I know it's innocent but there are people out there that are just weird," Mrs Condoleon said. "I keep where we live and all of that private."
She says she's a proud new mum wanting to boast about the joys and juggles of parenthood.
"I think people are too uptight. Like it's good to be careful 100 per cent, but I don't see any harm in sharing pictures as long as they are respectful," she said.
Each post is made with her son's future in mind, she said. Once he's old enough she plans to hand over his account for him to continue or deactivate.
Experts have expressed concerns for the future adult that a child influencer will become, warning that a frustrated mother ranting about bed wetting or supermarket tantrums to thousands of strangers could be damaging.
Mrs Condoleon says it's a possibility she has considered carefully.
"I don't post anything that I'm not comfortable sharing or anything that would be negative. I'm sure his monthly baby pics won't come back to haunt him," said Mrs Condoleon.
Her recent research has found that certain hashtags accumulate images which could be pockets and put aside by paedophiles. If a picture contains #beachbaby in the caption it will be added to a collection that predators could easily find.
"There's all kinds of seedy paedophiles looking at that page," Dr Orlando said.
She warns that by the time a child reaches primary school age on average 1500 photos of them will be online, and stresses with each one of those posts parents need to seriously consider the worst possible outcome from hitting publish.
Miss Woodhams has banned family and friends from sharing images of her children on other pages. She claims that is for their safety.
"Everything we share is filtered and vetted to ensure nothing with regards to their safety or now and then location is compromised," Miss Woodhams said.
Miss Woodhams says she's able to provide a future for her family that is financially stable. She says working with brands and companies offers them a kickstart with savings and even a career.
"We know we are only attempting to give our children the best possible life full of fun experiences and a head start financially in life in an already tough world," Miss Woodhams said.
Over his three years Ralphie has been gifted prams, clothing and toys galore. He's been involved in ad campaigns and has a brand that his parents promote. Miss Woodhams believes they couldn't offer the experiences and memories they've had without the platform.
However, Doctor Orland warns there is an added cost. She says there's a risk the task of getting a quick snap could turn into an obsession, cutting out elements of childhood.
"Does their life become about getting that great Instagram shot? You have to be very careful because kids need a lot of free time. They need support. They need your love," Dr Orlando said.
Miss Woodhams admits there's a lot of work that goes into a post before she hits publish. Companies provide her with briefs, free samples and tight requirements. The family are at the forefront of a new marketing style and need to form the right relationships with professionals that have the right intentions.
"People think Ralphie's made to work 13 hours a day posing for photos and a lot comment on how he looks 'miserable' in most pictures, but this is because he doesn't even know I'm photographing him," Miss Woodhams said
Ralphie is a happy little boy enjoying amazing day outs, new toys all while still having time to get his hands dirty on the playground, Miss Woodhams says. He gets to be himself in his own home with his family capturing photos of him. He's never forced.
"Tell me who hasn't asked their child to say 'Cheese' for a picture?" Miss Woodhams said.