YouTube Star Gets Underage Fans to Create Porn

Jun 21, 2017

As a parent of a tween daughter, the recent news that Austin Jones, a popular YouTube star, has been charged with two counts of production of child pornography was unsettling. Upon reading the formal criminal complaint, my opinion quickly shifted from ‘social media star gone bad’ to a devious predator that used his fame to groom young girls into creating pornography. No high-tech vaults or disappearing messaging apps were used – just their phones, Facebook and Apple messenger.

According to Joseph Fitzpatrick, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, Jones is accused of having underage girls “prove” how big of a fan they are by sending him pornographic videos of themselves.

There is no ‘he said/she said’ drama; when Jones was arrested he waived his Miranda rights and admitted to his role in producing the pornographic videos. Forty videos in total were sent by two girls; below is a highlight of a few facts from an interview between Jones and Homeland Security investigators:

  • Jones used Facebook to have sexually explicit chats with the girls
  • Jones directed them to make videos of themselves dancing in a sexually explicit way
  • Jones instructed them in what to wear, say and do in the videos, including performing sexual acts
  • Jones knew the girls were fourteen and fifteen years old
  • Jones requested that victims send the sexually explicit videos to him either via Facebook or Apple iMessenger service
  • Jones admitted he received the videos and viewed them for his sexual pleasure

Who is Austin Jones?

Austin Jones is a professional YouTube star, who is best known for videos of acapella covers of Paramore, Twenty One Pilots, Fall Out Boy and Justin Bieber with his most popular cover at over 5 million views. He has parlayed his social media popularity to performing covers and original music on a number of tours, in fact, when he was arrested at the airport he was just coming home from his first international European tour. In addition to his 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, Jones has a large following on social media platforms with 228,000 Twitter followers and 300,000 Instagram followers.

This Isn’t the First Time Jones Solicited Underage Fans

In 2015, Jones was removed as a performer from the Vans Warped Tour after 9,000 signatures were received in a petition after it became public knowledge he had requested fans to send him twerking videos. He took a short break from music and social media and issued the following apology:

“I’m embarrassed,” Jones said. “I’d have conversations online with girls that would involve me asking them to create a video of themselves twerking. Sometimes I’d make videos of myself doing some twerk moves in return. Here’s the truth: I NEVER asked them to do anything more than send a twerking video. Nothing EVER went beyond that.”


Fast forward one year later and his requests to underage fans escalated from twerking to porn.

This is Not Sexting Gone Bad, Jones is a Predator

Let me be perfectly clear, this is not a case of underage girls flirting with a YouTube star by sending sexting images.

Jones orchestrated every detail of the video – even how to dance and how to adjust the cameras for a more explicit angle. According to the official complaint, when he was coercing Victim B to produce more sexually explicit videos, Jones would text, “I’m just trying to help you! I know you’re trying your hardest to prove you’re my biggest fan. And I don’t want to have to find someone else.” [Read the full complaint here, but a word of caution, as some parts could be upsetting.]

Sadly, YouTube is still broadcasting Jones’ channel, so his revenue stream continues – even as he is awaiting trial. Facebook, however, has shut down his account and released the following statement the day after his arrest: “We have zero tolerance for sharing or soliciting child exploitative images or videos on Facebook, and we cooperate with law enforcement agencies that investigate these crimes.”

Jones will remain in federal custody for his immediate future and if convicted, he could face a minimum of 15 years and maximum of 30 years in prison. What happened to the victims in the Jones case is more common than you might think. Dr. Charlene Underhill Miller, PhD recently blogged for us on How Online Predators Trick Teenage Boys and Girls into Producing Porn.

Time to Revise House Rules

Austin Jones’ case is a jolting reminder that when we give our kids mobile devices, we need to also arm them with tools and boundaries to keep them safe. June is Internet Safety Month and there is no time like the present to set up some new house rules.

  1. Download a Net Nanny Family Digital Contract.
    Agreeing on rules for social media use, safe online searching, and which apps can be used when is an important first step.
  2. Use Current Events as Conversation Starters.
    Don’t shy away from discussing news events that include sexting or online predators in the news; use it as an opportunity to converse with your child on the warning signs and to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
  3. Install Parental Control Software.
    If your child is online, especially if they have private access to a mobile device, install parental control software. Make sure you select one that includes an option to filter inappropriate content by category that can also send alerts to warn or block when inappropriate activity is detected.
  4. Know Your State’s Sexting Laws.
    When sexting involves a minor, it is considered child pornography. Most state laws carry the same punishment for predators as they do for sexting victims, even if the victim is the original sender of illicit content. Click here to view your state laws.
  5. Remove Inappropriate Images on Social Media.
    If there are inappropriate images of your child distributed online, there are steps you can take to have the images removed. Review our guide on how to remove porn images.

There are two things that are a constant in our lives as parents: (1) technology is constantly changing and (2) as parents, no matter how old our child is we want them to be careful crossing streets and being cautious of strangers.

Parenting in the digital age requires us to be mindful of the “virtual streets” they cross as well and the “friends” they meet on social media that may reside down the street, in another state or country. The good news is that you don’t have to navigate digital parenting alone.