Content warning: This article mentions sexual abuse of a minor.
All parents deserve time for themselves, but it's essential to approach childcare responsibly. If you're depending on an iPad to entertain your little ones, think again — this could lead to several unforeseen consequences, such as exposure to potentially harmful websites or apps.
Take it from TikTok creator Sophie Puchulu (@squishiesophie2), a self-proclaimed former iPad kid who shared her own experience growing up with unrestricted screen time. It's quite heartbreaking, but Sophie tells her story with the intent of encouraging parents and fellow kids to adhere to internet safety guidelines.
A former iPad kid urged parents and kids to follow internet safety guidelines.
In the now-viral video, posted on Nov. 11, 2023, Sophie revealed that she was exposed to adult content at a very young age (8 years old, to be exact) because she grew up with "unregulated internet access."
"I played Bubble Box when I was a kid, which is a very popular gaming website. When I was 8 years old, I got a pop-up ad for adult videos, and I clicked on it as an 8-year-old, and I saw all of that stuff," she said. "Then, when I was 11, there was this anonymous app where you [could] post things ... so I posted some things, and adult men would message me, and then I would send inappropriate pictures back to them. At the time, I had no idea that was weird."
Sophie continued, "I became like a public figure/influencer when I was 13, and my parents had no idea. I kept that a secret for like a whole year. The whole time when I was a teenager, I was always talking to adult men because they gave me attention. But I was also never taught internet safety, not even in school."
In recounting her experience, Sophie revealed that her parents never supervised her iPad usage. When questioned about this decision, they expressed confidence in her ability to navigate the internet responsibly and steer clear of potentially perilous online territories.
"That obviously did not work," she added, disclosing that intimate pictures from when she was 16 years old had been leaked on the internet. "And now this generation that's growing up with all this screen time, not only is it damaging their brains, but they can get exposed to all of this stuff."
Sophie added, "If you're a parent, you need to be checking your kids' phones. It doesn't matter how much you trust them. ... They're going to be mad at you, but you need to teach them, 'If you don't want me as a parent to see it, then you shouldn't be doing it.'"
"I just wanted to use all the attention I'm getting from the recent Paper Star videos to talk about this because it's so important," she concluded. "If you're a parent and if you're a minor, please take this seriously because I didn't."
TikTok commended Sophie for promoting awareness about internet safety.
At the time of writing, Sophie's video has accumulated over 4.4 million views and counting. The viral clip has also received more than 8,700 comments from fellow TikTokers who praised Sophie for using her platform to share an important message about internet safety.
"Came for the paper stars, stayed for the wise young woman giving solid parenting advice," one person said.
A second TikTok user agreed, writing, "I was amazed by your paper stars, but now I'm even more amazed by your maturity. Thank you for sharing this message!"
"As a new parent, I appreciate you using your platform to post this," a third TikToker commented. "I'm always looking for ways I can be aware of her safety [and] I'm grateful to you."
Another fellow parent wrote, "I'm a mom and I needed this so much. I'm so sorry you didn’t have an adult to teach you, baby, I hope you're healing."
"I'm a baby millennial and was raised with unlimited access when I was a young teen," someone else responded. "My parents knew NOTHING and that was the scariest part. Stay safe."
"This is so relatable," another user replied before shockingly revealing that they were on social media at a young age and "grew up with zero regulation/supervision on the internet and had multiple online relations."
"I made some bad mistakes as a teen online and man, I look back, and it's scary that even happened, and it could have been a lot worse," shared another TikTok user.
What do you think? Will you monitor your kids' screen time from now on?