Problems With Youtube Families

Abby Cohn and Brooklyn Stevenson, Staff Writers

While the internet is a place meant for people to express themselves, when is the line crossed and when they are not only expressing themselves but expressing for others nonconsensually?  It is no secret that controversy has riddled all sectors of the enormous social media platform, Youtube; however the growth of the social media platform has given rise to a new, darker, more public reality for the creators and their families.  “Family video blogs or vlogs” , as the videos or style of subchannel are often coined, feature child exploitation through family content publication. 

Growing popularity of these videos allow creators, often the parents in this context, to profit off of their outputted content. Although legal, the effects and complications of openly publicizing minors can be consequential and harmful, not only because of the external risks, but even physical, psychological, intrapersonal, and emotional impairments that may result from such exposure.  Family content on the internet can be detrimental to the members due to the negative psychological effects on the children, the child’s lack of awareness of the liabilities of their online appearance, as well as the overarching child exploitation that they are forced to endure, and therefore needs to be regulated.  

The actions of  popular YouTube parents may result in catastrophic effects for their children.  With the parent’s attention primarily focused on views and their outputted content, the child may become what one could only compare to the muse of a damaged child star.  The child may become desperate for some attention and may begin displaying signs of physical, emotional, and psychological damage such as age regression or start lashing out. Psychology Today mentions,”Children at different ages display behavioral changes that might indicate that they are at risk. Those between the ages of 2 and 8 might exhibit the following signs of stress: regression (displaying infantile behaviors, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting), depression, crying, anxiety, clinging, and temper tantrums.” Unfortunately, there are many more mental illness risks than the ones mentioned above and not many of these disorders receive treatment due to the parents being in denial about their child being mentally troubled.

Along with the horrible psychological effects, the children in question are unable to consciously consent to the actions they are being required to perform because they cannot fathom the consequences that may result from their appearance.  Darker concerns of pedophila, online harassment, and even interpersonal/intrapersonal safety issues often arise for children in the media because of their lack of awareness of the above mentioned dangers.  In fact, according to a student organization at UNSW, notable families of Youtube fame have admitted to this, stating “The Ace family has an Instagram account for their eldest daughter that has almost five million followers. These videos reach millions of people and even if they are all well-intentioned, it is still a violation of the child’s privacy and are uploaded without their consent. Even the family has admitted that they attract stalkers, meaning that some of their audience is a potential threat to their daughter”. Typically it is the parents responsibility to ensure their children are protected from those dangers; however, by encouraging or forcing their children to participate in online content creation, they are doing the exact opposite.   Without the support of the parents to prevent these risks- to protect their children- the child in question has virtually no safeguard against the dangerous world surrounding them.  In fact, the parents provoking such attention for their family makes their children more vulnerable to the threats of the world both current and future.  Adults are completely oblivious to digital footprint, and the consequences of such are beginning to reveal themselves in a tragic fashion.  This makes it clear that maturity cannot save people from themselves or their actions in the digital world, meaning that minors should take extra precaution when unknowingly making their mark on a world of unimaginable danger.  The lack of safeguard, in addition to the artificial encouragement to partake in online activities could be damaging to the child’s future reputation and endeavors. Everything on the internet is permanent, and no matter how hard one can try, the content one projects into the world can and will follow them for the rest of their lives, an unfortunate reality the children of these “family channels” must endure.

The children of these YouTube families are the main source of views, likes, comments, subscriptions, and income. The parents are completely aware of this and will exploit their children in the media for money. Some forms of exploitation include constantly filming the child’s daily activities, creating a social media page to post pictures of the child, and even filming their child when they are sick or experiencing a medical emergency. On June 5th, 2022, famous YouTube family, the LaBrant Family, made a video of their son experiencing a febrile seizure. A febrile seizure occurs when a child is experiencing a high fever, these are relatively common amongst young children and can be easily treated by medical professionals. This does not deny the fact that they can be painful and extremely scary, but thankfully very little damage occurs from one. Cole and Savannah LaBrant, filmed their son having a seizure rather than providing care and even filmed their son being wheeled into an ambulance. They made the whole ordeal sound like their son was experiencing a life threatening seizure, even though this seizure is easily treatable.  Absurd events like these are clear examples of the unethical extent the parents of “Youtube families” are willing to go to in order to profit off of their life experiences.  

The entirety of this issue serves as a reminder for the responsibility of the viewer when supporting content creators through engagement.  Audiences should hold the creators accountable if and when they contribute to such a despicable issue in order to prevent the normalization of child exploitation in the media.