YouTube “Family” Channels: Exploitation or Harmless Entertainment?

I understand the appeal of starting a “family” YouTube channel, and I also understand that it usually comes from a place of goodness- not malice or greed. However, the older I get and the more YouTube continues to deform and change, the more uncomfortable I become with the concept of a family YouTube channel. Let me elaborate and provide some background.

8 Passengers - YouTube
The 8 Passengers family vlog channel (Image source: YouTube)

A “family YouTube channel” refers to a channel that vlogs their day-to-day life as an entire family, so yes, that includes vlogging all of the children and filming their daily struggles and triumphs. I can understand how a family vlog channel could be entertaining or even informative, particularly if the channel is offering helpful advice or insight along the way, but I still truly believe that the cons and the dangers outweigh the pros in this situation. Because, at the end of the day, we cannot ignore the cold-hard facts. Being a YouTuber is a job and a business. Being a family vlogger equates using your children as your JOB and your BUSINESS. Like I said, it may not be malicious, but it is still child exploitation in its simplest sense. 

Let me remind you of the definition of “child exploitation.” According to Justice.gov, child exploitation refers to using children as a “commercial transaction,” both sexually and not. While most channels are (thankfully) not using their children for sexual purposes on the internet, several parents are still exploiting their children for clicks with clickbaity titles, advertisements strewn throughout the videos, and the oversharing of personal moments and interpersonal conversations. If your child is under the age of 18, he, she, or they cannot give consent to be exploited onto the internet for income. Particularly for channels that focus on their infant or toddler children, your child does not even HAVE the voice to say “no” to family vlogging or exploitation. How do you know your child is not going to grow up someday and feel dread or embarrassment over the fact that millions of strangers have watched them grow up and commented on their lives? You DON’T. Stop making these monumental, life-altering decisions for your children who don’t have prominent voices. 

And by the way, some parents DO exploit their children by taking advantage of their sexuality or promiscuity. Take Danielle Cohn, for example. Troubling enough is the fact that her age is already being disputed among the internet- is the thirteen? Fifteen? Nobody knows for sure. Regardless, she is still a minor and her money-hungry mother is exploiting her daughter using sexual thumbnails, titles, and pictures to garner more views and clicks. This includes orchestrating a fake wedding and fake pregnancy- both of which were later proved to be stunts. 

And I’m not the only person who feels disturbed by this. In fact, many articles and videos have been made about this subject, which I will be sure to link down below. One article in particular posted by The Guardian summarized this concern perfectly: “As scripted content, the cost to the child is one of time and effort, but more than that, perhaps, one of perception. Most of these children are young – barely out of toddlerhood – when to perform an idea of cuteness and be made aware of its currency is to usher in early a plague of the age: self-consciousness” (Brockes.)

In recent news, Myka Stauffer, a family vlogger and Youtuber, came under quick fire for giving up her adopted child to a new family. That sentence is horrid enough, but when you take into consideration the millions of dollars Myka and her husband had made off of their autistic adopted son (and then uploaded to the internet,) it stretches from horrid to downright disturbing. Another family channel, 8 Passengers, recently came under fire for the harsh punishments their eldest son has been receiving (and, again, uploaded in full-detail to the internet.) For pranking his younger brother, the eldest son had his bedroom taken away and was forced to sleep on a bean bag for several months. Bad enough is the fact that these punishments were carried out in the first place, worse is the fact that these moments are documented and put onto the internet for millions of strangers to judge and make comments on. 

So what’s the solution to this? It’s pretty simple to me- stop pushing your children on the internet so you can make easy money. If you want to be a YouTuber and share some of the best moments of your life, then that’s fine, but please take into consideration the fact that your actions do not simply affect YOU. They will affect your children, their relationships with others, their self-esteem, and altogether, their development into healthy adults. And what, all for a quick buck?

YouTube parents, do better.