Is the TikTok Horse Filter on Babies Funny or Cruel? An Expert Weighs In

It's a horse (filter), of course. But babies don't know that, and it's making them cry. Is it really a joke if not everyone is laughing? An expert offers her take.

Mother and baby taking a selfie
Photo: Getty Images

There are some helpful parenting tips that circulate social media from time to time, like how to get sunscreen on a wiggly kid. Then, there are some controversial and downright bad ideas, like tossing a slice of cheese at a baby's head ortricking a little one into thinking they bumped their noggin, with inevitable crying to follow.

And now, another TikTok trend (where babies are the butt of the joke) is going viral, and it's supposed to be funny. But the babies aren't really laughing. It involves a video filter that stretches your face to look like a horse. Check out social media, and you'll see plenty of examples of the trend with baby after baby crying as they look at the camera, watching their caregiver morph into an animal.

One recent video also posted on Instagram got mixed reviews. Some people thought it was funny.

"This is hilarious! So funny," said one person. "OMG, this is gold," wrote another. "I've re-watched this a thousand times already," someone else said.

For others, once was enough.

"Do you love your child? Please don't scare him anymore," one person commented. "Poor baby. You can actually see the fear in his face," another said.

"Why do people love to see their babies terrified?" someone else asked.

It's a question Becky Reback, head of parent/family coaching at Evolved Education in New York City, asks herself, too.

"I know the intentions aren't with malice most of the time," Reback says. But she's not a fan. "I think the whole thing about making kids cry and upset and then posting about it is mean, personally."

Some older kids who understand the difference between real and make-believe may get a kick out of it. Reback says that every child will develop at different paces, but the earliest a little one may grasp that the horse filter is pretend is about 2.5 to 3 years old.

One rule of thumb if you're set on using the horse (or similar) filter to elicit a reaction from a child? Take them to a professional sporting event. Reback says that, if your child is interested in (and unafraid) of the mascots, there's a solid chance they'll be amused by a video filter.

Still, however, "you have to know your kid," Reback advises.

Regardless, she also urges parents to be careful what they post on social media. While a child may not remember crying as their parent's face transformed into a horse, they may not appreciate seeing it years later.

"These posts live forever on the internet, and it can be embarrassing to kids…one day," Reback says.

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