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The Missing Half Of The Colleen Ballinger Controversy | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

Colleen Ballinger has been accused of grooming her underage fans, among other inappropriate behaviors. Her sketchy behavior – to say the least – with fans has been documented in videos, tweets, TikToks, and so much more. 

We should acknowledge first and foremost that there’s absolutely no excuse for Ballinger’s behavior toward her young fans. Those fans are now young adults and are opening up about their interactions with her both online and in person. But in attempting to discuss this controversy accurately, we’re neglecting to thoughtfully examine an integral part of this entire affair. There’s a missing half of the Colleen Ballinger controversy – no one has yet to hold any of the parents accountable for their actions, or lack of action, which led to their children being exploited online.

A Recap of the Controversy

The controversy with Ballinger really originated in 2020, when a former fan, Adam McIntyre, released a video titled, “colleen ballinger stop lying,” in which he detailed many of their encounters that were, in hindsight, extremely inappropriate. McIntyre was a “superfan” of Ballinger’s Miranda Sings character, and started an account dedicated to her fandom when he was just 10 years old.

Over the years, Ballinger began interacting more with McIntyre, frequently direct messaging him on Twitter and inviting him into private group chats with other fans. At the peak of their friendship, McIntyre was acting as an unofficial employee for Ballinger, by brainstorming ideas and storylines with her, publishing tweets under her official Miranda Sings account, and reporting back to her on what the public was saying both about the character and Ballinger herself. 

In the 2020 video, McIntyre revealed that Ballinger was obsessed with both her public image as Colleen and the popularity and trajectory of her character. Ballinger asked McIntyre, at age 14, to report back to her about what gossip and celebrity sites were saying about her. She also confided in him and other underage fans about her messy divorce following one year of marriage with former YouTube creator, Joshua Evans, and how the public was responding. Additional screen grabs show Ballinger asking fans in the private group chat about being virgins and what their favorite sex positions were.

McIntyre also detailed how during a livestream with her close friend, Cory DeSoto, Ballinger decided to mail a set of women’s lingerie to McIntyre, reportedly as a joke, with she and DeSoto laughing about how McIntyre’s parents would react. McIntyre, in his video, says that his parents were “furious” about Ballinger giving him the lingerie, but their ire did nothing to diminish Ballinger and McIntyre’s interactions online. Not only that, but after the lingerie incident (which McIntyre shows on camera), Ballinger traveled to Ireland for a show in 2018, and McIntyre arranged for his parents to drive him several hours to Dublin to meet with her privately for lunch.

In a separate incident, a circulating video on TikTok shows Ballinger, in character as Miranda Sings at a show, spreading a fan’s legs open onstage. The girl pictured in the compromising position with Ballinger was revealed to be a former fan named Becky. Becky says that she went to the show hoping to be brought on stage during an audience participation segment, but due to the overly sexual nature of the skit she was included in, she wound up feeling uncomfortable.

The TikTok has now been viewed over three million times, with Becky explaining her side of the story. Becky was 16 years old at the time she was called up on stage with Ballinger to act in a “yoga challenge” skit, wearing only a romper with spandex underneath. Becky recounts how she saw Ballinger acknowledge what she was wearing at the time, but “that didn’t stop her from continuing – in fact, no adult at any point stepped in [during] this situation.”

Things only get worse from there. Another fan and former employee of Ballinger’s, Johnny Silvestri, alleges that Ballinger would share social media star Trisha Paytas’s Onlyfans photos and videos with fans, one of whom was allegedly a 14-year-old boy. Until recently, Ballinger and Paytas were thought to be friends – they even had a short-lived podcast together, which only made it to three episodes because of this controversy – but Silvestri says Ballinger would constantly bully and make fun of Paytas to her fans, even going as far as to host “viewing parties” of Paytas’s pornographic content. Paytas responded to the allegations, calling them “very serious” and “very illegal.”

A New Era of “Parenting”?

Our culture is actively having debates about the exploitation of children. Ballinger, who once held a certain amount of weight and influence in the YouTube sphere, has now lost brand partnerships and hundreds if not thousands of followers. But as we unpack this fiasco, at some point it has to be asked: Where were the parents?

The shocking thing about much of this situation is that the parents of fans who were targeted inappropriately by Ballinger were largely present, not absent, for much of the experiences recounted by their own children. Adam McIntyre, who worked unofficially for Ballinger on social media and who received the set of lingerie sent by her, says that his parents were “furious” when they saw what he’d been sent. In an ideal world, that would have been the end of McIntyre’s interactions with her. He also says his parents asked him to “distance” himself from her after he received backlash on gossip sites. But when an impressionable teenager is getting attention and validation from a celebrity and probably can’t extricate themselves from that on their own, then it’s the parents’ job to set clear, impermissible boundaries with that other adult.

And yet, even after McIntyre’s parents saw that Ballinger had given their 17-year-old son women’s lingerie, they still drove him three hours from their home to meet Ballinger in Dublin privately before one of her shows. Every rational person, parent or not, should look at that and think, how? If this individual has exhibited, at best, extremely misguided actions and, at worst, intentionally predatory behavior, how could you further empower them by leaving your child alone with them, while inconveniencing yourself in the process?

Furthermore, it can reasonably be assumed that parents of fans or at least older adults were present at the Miranda Sings show where Becky was sexualized and humiliated on stage. Even if Becky’s parents weren’t physically with her, a parent or adult should have seen that Becky, being underage, shouldn’t have been exploited like that and taken action. McIntyre, nor any other fans who were taken advantage of by Ballinger, aren’t to blame here. Being minors, they likely had no idea at the time the ramifications her actions would have, nor how it would thrust them into the public eye years later. 

The parents of these fans failed considerably to protect their children.

But that’s why parents exist in the first place. To intervene and do the right thing when these situations happen, and to hold the adult responsible accountable for their disturbing actions. Yet, it’s the kids, now grown, who are having to speak up. While their parents are merely part of the background, they should have been at the forefront of all of this.

We Get What We Deserve

We might think that a teenager or minor child has a “right” to privacy, especially where their social media accounts are concerned. In an era where most parents would rather be friends with their children than actual parents, the idea of monitoring your child’s social media seems unfathomable. But that’s exactly how these kinds of situations originate in the first place.

By now, we know that Ballinger leaned heavily on her young fans for emotional support during her divorce, and even used them almost as minions to monitor her own celebrity brand. We also know that she behaved inappropriately in public with them on stage, in the name of a skit or segment, in character, subjecting them to public embarrassment by sexualizing them. We know that she sent a teenage boy a set of women’s underwear, and later met that same individual and used him as an unpaid social media intern. But now, allegedly, it goes way beyond that. In order to bully another content creator, she shared pornographic material with a minor child. 

This is what happens when we let the idea of children having their own “privacy” take hold. It’s unfortunate to say, but had parents been more vigilant, these situations might have been prevented.

Colleen Ballinger does or did at one time have a certain amount of celebrity status. Adam McIntyre says in one of his videos that his parents were pleasantly surprised she took such a personal interest in her fans. Personal, indeed. Not only did she use McIntyre as an unpaid employee and later as a scapegoat when a social media announcement didn’t go as planned, she opened up to minors about her divorce and emotional instability and leaned on them for support.

The fans who were the targets of this behavior at the time probably didn’t understand the inappropriate nature of it because we don’t expect nor want children to understand what they shouldn’t – that’s for adults to handle and manage. The parents of these fans failed considerably to protect their children, and though the situation is already disturbing, it’s expedient that these fans came forward before something even more serious occurred. 

Closing Thoughts

Our culture seems stupefied at the prospect that children can be exploited online, but at the same time, we denigrate the roles of parents in nearly every capacity – in schools, on social media, in politics, and nowhere are the consequences of this attitude more apparent than in this whole controversy.

It’s understandable that an impressionable kid who’s a fan of a big-name content creator would be starstruck by this celebrity, going so far as to have a relationship with them online. But it’s the basic parental duty of adults much older and more knowledgeable than this child to bring them back to reality, and above all, to intervene before it’s even necessary.

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