You are here

OnlyFans – what parents need to know

Livestream camera

OnlyFans is one of the fastest growing social media platforms right now. 

The subscription-based service saw a surge in sign-ups during lockdown, gaining as many as 200,000 new users every 24 hours. 

But that growth hasn’t been without controversy – mainly around the large amount of pornographic content on the platform.

Here, then, is a quick breakdown of what it is and what you need to know about it.

Digital parenting advice straight to your inbox

Click here to sign up to our parents’ newsletter, packed with advice, resources, articles, activities and guides to the most popular apps and games

What is OnlyFans?

OnlyFans is a subscription-based social media platform. It stands out from the crowd through its focus on money: users pay a subscription to follow content creators, who in turn take home a large cut of that fee.

Content is varied, with everyone from celebrities and influencers to musicians, chefs and fitness coaches using it, but it’s also very popular among sex workers and adult entertainers.

The company was founded in 2016 and now has around 30 million registered users and 450,000 content creators.

And it’s proved particularly popular during lockdown, enjoying a 75 per cent increase in sign-ups month on month since March.

Why is it popular?

For subscribers, exclusive content for exclusive members is part of the OnlyFans package – and a lot of people are willing to pay for it.

For creators, the opportunity to earn money is obviously the big draw. Earlier this year, a model named Kaylen Ward raised more than $1 million in charity donations following the Australian wildfires by charging fans $10 to see explicit photos.

A New York Times article in 2019 claimed that the platform “changed sex work forever” and there have been reports of some adult entertainers making six-figure sums each year.

Aside from the sexual and pornographic content, plenty of YouTubers see it as a second source of revenue.

Musicians, for instance, are able to link their Spotify accounts to their page, presenting potential talent exposure alongside revenue that music streaming services don’t provide on their own.

While it’s possible for brands and content creators to earn money on other social media platforms, usually any revenue originates from advertising and product placement. In this case, though, the money comes from the users themselves, with OnlyFans taking a 20 per cent cut of any earnings.

OnlyFans also operates a ‘referral programme’, allowing those with larger followings to take a 5 per cent commission of earnings from those who join via their own referral link, for 12 months.

What risks should parents be aware of?

Sex work and pornography is a very popular means of income on the platform, despite not being advertised in the site’s strapline.

Although OnlyFans does provide Acceptable Use guidelines and User Content guidelines, the content posted is monetised by the creators themselves, meaning they are able to post pretty much anything so long as it’s legal.

Although anyone over 18 can sell and distribute explicit content, a recent BBC documentary #Nudes4Sale found that minors are increasingly selling pictures of themselves on the platform.

To share their own content, users must be 18 or over, and are required to provide a selfie alongside photo ID and a registered address. However, concerns have been raised over how effective this process is, with reports of teenagers using borrowed IDs to create an account.

How to talk to your child about OnlyFans

Your child may feel persuaded by the advertised freedom that comes with an OnlyFans account, but the minimum age bracket is there for a reason. As you would normally, teach your child to think critically, and pay attention to the boundaries that the website has put in place.

Regardless of what creators use their accounts for – and what subscribers pay for – a minor bypassing OnlyFans’ age verification process puts them at risk of exposure to the sale and distribution of explicit content.

If your child was to come across something upsetting online, reassure them that they aren't to blame. Let them know they can come and talk to you, and educate yourselves on where to report and get support, should something go wrong.

Image: Loeffler/


Digital resilience: a quick guide for parents

Online sexual abuse and exploitation: where do I report if I'm worried about my child's safety online?

Two-minute tech-check: passwords