PARENTS, Stop monetizing your kids! Put the camera/phone down!Published 4.20.2017
This is not the usual fodder for this site. when I first started this site, I intended to write regularly about parenting, then seldom did. Mostly because I was still in the process of parenting my young children, and frankly, young parents think they know and understand more than they do. I was the same, but at least I realized it before immortalizing my ignorance on the internet for all posterity.
Both my children are adults now, though their past and future paths were/are very different. In fact, I have the experience of being getting plaudits as a parent if people know only of my oldest, and raised eyebrows (metaphorically) if judged by my youngest. I was the same parent for both — though obviously different situations and circumstances were faced as each aged— they are simply different personalities, both of whom I love and support without reservation. My husband and I parented both as well and as diligently as we could. With that experience, I think I am qualified to comment on the issue of parenting.
With that verbose introduction and deliberately vague background, I want to comment on parents, kids and social media, specifically relating to three example of questionable parenting choices— two online, and one offline.
Living for ViewsWe’ll start online. Youtuber Philip DeFranco highlighted the horrific “prank” videos of a family of five. Apparently, the point of the channel, called DaddyoFive (Do5), was to show how the parents “pranked” their own kids and how the kids react. I don’t think I can do a better job of exposing these awful people than DeFranco did, so I will simply refer readers to his videos. What these parents documented in their videos (now taken down and demonetized, though preserved on other sites because that’s how the internet works) is abuse by any sane definition.
Why would parents even consider doing such a thing? The Do5 parents claim the videos were all faked, and that their children liked the Youtube channel because the money earned (the channel had 750,000 subscribers) bought them nice things. The "edgier" the pranks, the more views and ad money they earned. Money is the answer to the question, which brings us to the second online example I want to highlight.
The Do5 family may have been inspired by the Shaytards, who are a family — I think they claim to be Mormon— who vlogged (video blogged) their family life for years. I learned of their site from my kids, and that’s why I checked them out. I never saw any value to the content so didn't watch much, but plenty of others did. What struck me was the forced nature of many of the videos. These weren’t really natural family interactions, they were occasions created to produce usable video footage.
Based on my limited viewing, family pranking by the Shaytards was occasional and mild, and they always emphasized the wholesome family values side of things. In fact, they were able to sell the studio they set up to help Youtubers get started, Maker Studios, to Disney for a huge sum in part because of their wholesome image. However, the Shaytards did establish the template for how a family could monetize itself and its kids' childhoods.
The Do5 family was simply this absurdity taken to a violent extreme. This past year, the Shaytards announced that they would be taking a year off of the internet, just before the father was revealed to have been sexting with some woman online, and to have an alcohol problem. The Shaytard videos remain online and presumably monetized, but no new ones are being made and comments are disabled on all videos.
My point is this: Whether mild or extreme, using your kid’s childhood as a content creation opportunity is terrible parenting. I will grant that the Shaytard kids seemed to enjoy the experience, they after all, weren’t being subjected to brutal and cruel pranks, however, that is still a dysfunctional way to grow up.
Just to be clear here, DeFranco is not against vlogging family life, he has a vlogging channel of his own. His complaint is limited to the treatment of the kids I am against the monetization of childhood by parental vlogging. I suppose some would argue that the Do5 site wasn’t a vlogging site, it was a pranking site, which is also a genre on Youtube. However, they were pranking their own kids to record reactions, so for me the distinction is meaningless. Kids should not be reacting for the amusement of strangers, period.
Put the video camera down, parents. Find another way to make money beyond exploiting your kids’ childhoods.
Beyond disgustingSo my final example of poor parenting is drawn from a conversation at the pub the other night. WARNING: This time I am going to describe what happened, and it is gross and disgusting. However, I’ve chosen to do because I think it might be the most powerful example of why looking to create content rather than parenting is a terrible and harmful idea.
A young mother at the table related the tale of a friend whose three year old daughter pooped in the toilet for the first time. This is a milestone for certain and reason to be happy for the child. So what did this mother do? Went to look for her phone to take a picture (or video) of the big moment. By the time she returned to the bathroom, the child had reached into the toilet, retrieved the turd and taken a bite. I was nauseated hearing the story and I’m nauseated again writing about it.
Fortunately, the child does not seem to have been harmed, in that she didn’t get sick from the ingestion of her own feces. The child’s mother didn’t think it was funny, thankfully, in fact her response was to vomit at the sight. In the end, the child got cleaned up, and maybe mom learned a lesson?
Would it really have been less of a cherished memory if she’d helped her child off the toilet to finish the process and safely flush before running to find her phone? The good news is that there are no pictures documenting this horror— just the stories she is sharing with friends, who are retelling the whole thing as a gross, but funny joke. I didn’t think it was funny at the pub, and I don’t think it’s funny now. My reaction at the pub is the same as my top and bottom line here:
PARENTS, PUT THE CAMERA/PHONE DOWN! CHILDHOODS ARE NOT FOR CONTENT GENERATION! Yes, I am shouting.