As We Talk About Claudia Conway, Let's Remember She's 16

The daughter of former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has earned a social media following for her tell-all posts on TikTok. Now, as news about the Claudia and Kellyanne is raising questions about abuse, experts are weighing in.

Claudia Conway, the teen daughter of former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway, is in the spotlight after posting TikTok videos that accuse her mother of physical and verbal abuse last week. And on Monday, Kellyanne allegedly posted a topless picture of her daughter on Twitter. Here's what parents should know—and what the situation can teach parents and teens.

Claudia Conway's Rise to Social Media Fame

For months, Claudia, 16, has been acting as something of a whistleblower, breaking the news of her mother's COVID-19 diagnosis on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram Stories.

As the situation escalated, the progressive teen has even shared clips of her mom trying to dictate what she says on social media and the two of them arguing about the teen sharing details of her mother's diagnosis. In turn, followers have praised the teen for being so candid.

But while Claudia should absolutely be celebrated for using her voice to stand up for what she believes in, it's important to remember that she's a teen sharing not only politically-charged info but a glimpse into her family trauma.

On Monday, January 25, Kellyanne was accused of posting a topless photo of her daughter on Twitter. The same day, Claudia jumped on TikTok to confirm, in since deleted posts, that the photo is real. Visibly upset, the teen shared that she believed it was an accident, noting, "I'm assuming my mom took a picture of it to use against me one day and then somebody hacked her or something. I'm literally at a loss for words. If you see it, report it." And reported that in the comments, Claudia claimed CPS has been called before, and "they do nothing. She's way too powerful."

The week prior, Claudia posted a series of TikTok videos in which she accused Kellyanne of physical and verbal abuse, according to reposts of the clips on Twitter.

Claudia previously posted on social media that she was seeking emancipation from her parents, citing years of "trauma and abuse."

Clearly, there is more going on behind the scenes than outsiders see on social media. And for a minor in a home where she has said she feels unsafe, the situation is extremely complicated.

We should not assume that adolescents think like adults and consider all that might be happening developmentally and psychosocially with them, says Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist in Wilton, Connecticut. "They are in the process of establishing their own identity separate from their parents, they are naturally impulsive and emotional," she explains. "They are in need of validation and seek it readily as they are trying to figure out who they are. We have to keep these factors in mind." At the same time, it's important to recognize that they can and do often speak the truth, says Feliciano.

This situation is also a lesson on cultivating empathy, critical thinking, and centering yourself when approaching conflict.

hand holding cell phone with Tik Tok app open
Getty Images

What Parents and Teens Can Learn From This Conflict

Parents and even teens engaging with Claudia's posts should ask themselves, "what might she and her family be going through right now?" says Feliciano. "This is one of the most important human traits that we as psychologists are seeing decline generationally with the increased use of social media," she notes.

Parents can also take this moment to talk to their teens about how to respond if a peer is discussing abuse on social media. "If you are a parent of a child or teen who has concerns about their friend's mental health or is worried that their parent may be abusing them, the first thing to do with your own child is to discuss what abuse is and what it can look like," explains Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Ed.D., LPC, BCN.

Capanna-Hodge says signs and symptoms of abuse is a child or teen can include:

  • Injuries that don’t make sense.
  • Withdrawal from friends or activities.
  • Loss of confidence.
  • Sudden changes in behavior or change in grades.
  • Sadness, anxiety or unusual fears, or a loss of self-confidence.
  • Reluctance to leave school activities or friend’s houses, as if he or she doesn't want to go home.
  • Running away behaviors.
  • Defiant behaviors.
  • Walks on “eggshells” around the parent/caregiver.
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide.
  • Provocative behaviors or statements.
  • Fear of being touched.

The next step: You want to walk your child through the conversation they need to have with their friend about getting help, says Capanna-Hodge. "Your child needs to understand that if their friend isn't getting help, things won't get better for them," she points out.

You can also talk to your child about how to care for their friends while caring for themselves, says Capanna-Hodge. "A friend being highly distressed or abused, can be just as upsetting for your own child, so making sure they are talking with and connecting with you is super important," she notes.

Whether your teen suspects a friend is being abused or has seen inappropriate photos that were shared online without the friend's consent, it's important for them to know that they don't have to handle the situation alone. Encourage them to ask for help from a trusted adult, such as the school guidance counselor, social worker, or psychologist, advises Capanna-Hodge. "If abuse is suspected, school professionals are mandated reporters and are required by law to report abuse, in which case your identity can be protected," she says.

If you think a child is being abused, you can talk to someone at:

  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
  • Prevent Child Abuse America: 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373)

The Bottom Line

Although Claudia's following is bound to keep blowing up as the teen continues to use her platform to share her views, anyone engaging with her posts ought to remember that there's much more going on behind the scenes. Claudia deserves a round of applause for her courage, but given the trauma at the root of her posts, we should see them through the lens of empathy as well.

And reminder: Claudia Conway is 16 years old. Social media opens the floodgates for free for all criticism and commentary, but anyone engaging in online discussions about or directly with Claudia would do well to treat her the same way they'd want their teen to be treated online. And that includes not putting the weight of the country's future on her.

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