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Lil Tay controversy raises concerns about exploitation of young influencers


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Lil Tay controversy raises concerns about exploitation of young influencers

Lil' Tay controversy raises alarming questions about exploitation of young influencers

Social media influencer and rapper Lil Tay is alive and well, says a report by TMZ. Just a day after rumours of the 14-year-old’s apparent death plagued social media, the teen rapper’s family provided a statement saying that she is safe.

The rumours of her death first came from the rapper’s social media, in which her team seemed to confirm that the rapper had passed away. The original post reporting her death, which they have since deleted from her Instagram account also mentioned the recent passing of her older brother, stating that both deaths were under investigation. Following the post, some people online expressed doubt as to its veracity, as her father and former manager would not confirm her death, and several police departments contacted by media outlets did not have reports of her death. Now, Lil Tay and her brother are both reportedly alive – claiming that hackers had made the post on her social media account. 

Lil Tay – whose real name was Tay Tian – rose to fame at the age of 9 as the “World’s Youngest Flexer” that rapped and showed off a lavish lifestyle across social media. She garnered 3.2 million followers on Instagram in a short span of time but hadn’t posted on the account since 2018.

In 2019, Lil Tay’s social media accounts became inactive after a custody battle between Hope’s mother Angela Tian and her father Chris Hope. A real estate agent, Angela Tian reportedly lost her job when they found that she used empty houses for Lil Tay’s videos. Her brother Jason Tian also had an alleged involvement in making her persona and success. Lil Tay repeatedly insisted that her mother and her brother had nothing to do with her social media presence – but many have called out her parents for ‘exploiting’ the 14-year-old for money and fame.

In the age of social media, it’s commonplace for young people of this generation to have their triumphs and travails documented on the Internet, with a digital footprint that follows them from platform to platform over the years. But the lines between personal and public have immensely blurred – and it has allowed for newer ways to exploit. 

Many children of former influencer parents – most of whom grew up with their lives documented in family vlogs for YouTube, have come out in recent years denouncing social media and their families for using them for content. Even today, on Instagram especially, there are hundreds of accounts of children – whose parents run their accounts, and bag sponsorships under the guise of ‘cute, harmless, content’ without really assessing the risks of having deeply personal information out in public.

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Even if the parents try to control the amount of attention and keep creeps at bay – there are many ‘fan accounts’ that also pop up, over which parents have no control. Once you post on social media, the simple truth is that it is extremely hard to put boundaries to its reach. More than half of the world now uses social media – that’s 4.80 billion people – and creeps, stalkers or any other strangers who could mean harm to these children are bound to seep through. 

The controversies surrounding Lil Tay only serve as a stark reminder of the complex interplay between social media, fame, and the lives of young influencers. It sheds light on the dark side of the digital age – where children become unwitting subjects of online personas crafted for likes and sponsorship deals.

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