I have always felt conflicted about family and couple's channels on YouTube. They are the epitome of oversharing online, yet everyone seems guilty of consuming their content in some capacity — myself included.
But what is really behind the fascination with this popular type of influencer?
Is their content really that entertaining, or is the obsession with documenting one's life and sharing it with millions of people just self-absorbed and even borderline disturbing?
I still have not made my mind up, but what I do know is that when children get roped into this kind of content creation due to their influencer parents, that is when society is confronted with a much bigger problem.
Accusing family channels of exploiting their children for views is nothing new, so why is it particularly relevant today?
In 2019, the notorious LaBrant Family, the ultimate embodiment of your picture-perfect Christian family channel, faced severe backlash after they pranked their six-year-old daughter Everleigh by telling her they planned to give away her puppy on April Fool's Day.
As a result of the prank, Everleigh erupted into tears, which millions of people watched for "entertainment." This rubbed viewers the wrong way. Why would parents use their child sobbing to grow their platform?
The video has since been deleted, and the couple apologized publicly. But now, there is a new wave of YouTube couples who are becoming parents. Some channels that come to mind include Matt and Abby, DELLA VLOGS, Jatie Vlogs (all with more than one million subscribers) and many more, which I will reference.
These couples must decide whether to involve their children in their content, and when making this decision, they need to consider mistakes that have been made in the past.
For example, now 18-year-old Chris McCarty worked with former Rep. Emily Wicks (D-WA) to introduce a bill to the state legislature that would protect minors "featured on for-profit family vlogs" after their own mother had overshared their life when they were a child.
The bill would ensure that parents set aside a portion of revenue for their child as well as giving that child the ability to request that content with them in it be removed (certain parameters must be met).
Clearly, not all children want their parents to post them online, and it is important that social media parents factor this into their decision instead of assuming that their child is OK with it.
The New York Times just released a video showing children confronting their parents about "sharenting" and explaining to them why they are not comfortable with it. This is important because "sharenting" is not only an inherent invasion of privacy, but it can also put the child's safety at risk.
A single mother turned influencer opened up about her parenting regrets after she posted her five-year-old daughter on her social media, which resulted in inappropriate comments toward her daughter and death threats.
After this, the mother said she "would have never posted my kids."
While we wait for official legislation to step in and protect children, it is clearly up to parents to make the right decision. And let us just say that there is a wide variety of different reactions.
Influencer couple Tricia and Kam recently welcomed a newborn daughter to the world and have already begun to share her life extensively online, including her first laugh, bath, flight, shots at the doctor and night routine.
But the couple takes sharing their child to a new level. They use her in "pranks" against each other (which they had previously done as a couple), including pretending to leave her unattended in the car and at home.
This seems to make light of a horrible situation, in particular, parents leaving their newborn in the car "alone," causing approximately 38 children under the age of 15 to die from heat exhaustion after being left in a vehicle unattended each year.
On top of this, Tricia's and Kam's daughter is a newborn with essentially no decision-making capacity whatsoever. You can argue that a teen might be able to make a more informed decision, but their newborn is completely unaware that she is being used for YouTube entertainment.
And this introduces a very different approach to integrating one's child into their social media content or not introducing them at all.
For instance, influencer couple Julie and Camilla announced in a YouTube Short that they would not show their future child's face online. Julie says in the video, "It is actually quite simple ... our kid won't be able to consent until they are at a certain age."
And that is what it truly comes down to. Even if your influencer child does not encounter something extreme online like pedophiles or death threats, they cannot consent to their lives being broadcast on social media, especially when they are a toddler or newborn.
Other influencer couples are also starting to discuss the implications of this and reflect upon what they are doing instead of mindlessly posting their child all over the internet.
For example, in an episode of Matt's and Abby's "Unplanned Podcast," Matt said, "It's largely up to the creators to set their own boundaries ... doing the best job as a dad doesn't always correlate to doing the best on social media."
In the episode, the couple revealed that they have decided to limit how much they will show their children online after considering the consequences.
Ultimately, the job of parents is to think about the consequences that a child does not have the ability to consider and make decisions on their behalf in the child's best interest.
A parent can understand the power of leaving a digital footprint on behalf of their child, and if they think that is in their child's best interest, they should think again.
Sara Eschleman is the opinions editor of The Daily Targum.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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