“My parents’ biggest rule is, like, I’m not allowed to have any public social media accounts,” Romy Mars says in a video she posted to TikTok.
Ms. Mars, 16, the daughter of the filmmaker Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars, the frontman for the band Phoenix, promptly deleted it. But the video was posted on Tuesday to Twitter, where it garnered more views than the “Last of Us” season finale.
The 49-second video is being hailed, with varying degrees of irony, as a nouveau cinematic masterpiece. Ms. Mars said her goal was to make pasta with vodka sauce but admitted she had to Google the difference between onions and garlic. Before introducing her babysitter’s boyfriend and stating that her “parents are never home,” she nonchalantly confessed: “I’m grounded because I tried to charter a helicopter from New York to Maryland on my dad’s credit card because I wanted to have dinner with my camp friend.”
It’s unclear if the video is a cutting work of self-satire or an accidental window into the life of a particular kind of jet-setting teen. However, this hoopla may be what Mr. Mars and Ms. Coppola — a celebrity offspring herself, the daughter of the director Francis Ford Coppola — were trying to avoid. It is all a good case study in what happens when celebrities allow (or don’t allow) their children to post to social media, especially amid the public’s hunger for so-called nepo baby content.
We asked Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media at the University of Alabama, about why there was so much public interest in this particular video and how social media has been handled by other nepo babies, including the spawn of Kim Kardashian and Kellyanne Conway.
How are you seeing celebrities approach their children’s use of social media?
There are three different camps. One is the outright ban: Don’t get on social media publicly, even if you’re old enough to have an account. This is what we saw with Sofia Coppola’s daughter. A second camp is the mitigated approach, like the joint TikTok account that Kim Kardashian and North West have. That gives the parent a little bit of oversight and access to the content that the child is posting. And then the third camp is the unchecked accounts, where the child has a social media account of their own and can go rogue. This is what happened when Claudia Conway, the daughter of Kellyanne Conway, posted on TikTok about political views that were drastically different from those of her mother.
Why might a parent, like Kim Kardashian, make a joint account with their child?
Parent-child joint accounts are not very common. For one, North is too young to have a TikTok account, which is why she does it with her mom. But North’s TikTok account also seems to keeps people interested in Kim Kardashian because it shows a side of her that we don’t always get to see. At the same time, we are also viewing North as, inevitably, a celebrity in her own right. Her whole life will have been mediated either through her parents’ reality TV show or through her social media presence. It’ll be “Keeping Up With the Kardashian Children on Social Media.”
Do you think the outright ban can backfire?
Having been a teenager long before I was a scholar of social media, I think that any time your parent tells you not to do something, you immediately want to do it. Even when you try to do an outright ban, their friends are going to have social media. I tell all my students: We can’t be afraid of social media. It is here. It’s not just that we have to learn how to live with it; we can use it in ways that are helpful, beneficial and safe for us.
How do you think celebrities will be approaching their kids’ social media accounts five years from now?
I think we’re going to see a lot more supervision of the children of celebrities online. These children may wind up with their own social media managers earlier rather than later in an effort to make sure what they’re posting isn’t harmful to their parents or to themselves.
Why did this video blow up?
We have a celebrity kid who actually hasn’t been in the public eye much, which added to the mystery. Even though the ridiculousness of trying to charter a helicopter with your dad’s credit card is completely foreign to most of us, I think people resonated with the idea of being a teenager whose parents wouldn’t let her leave the house. In the realm of teenage rebellion, this was actually pretty wholesome — but people will be asking her about vodka sauce for the rest of her life.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
It Happened Online is a column in which we explain very particular bits of news enabled and amplified by social media.
Geordon Wollner contributed reporting.
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