La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School

Andrea's Speech

Andrea's Speech

At La Retraite, we take great pride in showcasing students work and achievements. Below, we share Year 10 student Andrea's essay on family YouTubers, and the exploitation of children online. 

Family YouTubers and the exploitation of their children on the internet 

By Andrea Miles Stallion-Orbista

Many people have been able to accelerate their self-made online careers through various forms of content, and it is family friendly content which makes the most ad revenue and does the best on YouTube. Examples of this could be lifestyle, ad reviews, makeup tutorials, vlogs and gaming. Another genre of content that does exceptionally well is family vlogging. 

The Ace Family, The LaBrant Family, 8 Passengers, Jordan Cheyenne. The list of family YouTubers could go on and on and will continue to go on forever with the rise of social media and technology. 

All family channels follow a similar concept of living up to the standard of showing their perfect families, family trips, challenges and the couples being known for their “couple goals”. Well, these aren't the only things they have in common. Yes, there is also the fame, success and the loyal fan base, but there are other things some family YouTubers are known for, and they are the issues and concerns regarding child labour, privacy rights, psychological issues and the exploitation of their children on the internet. 

34% of kids in the US start their digital footprint in the utero with an ultrasound posted by their parents, which is followed by their first words, steps and plenty more of their first everythings with trails of digital breadcrumbs that will follow them forever. Decades ago, before the internet existed, parents would show their kids off by printing out pictures of them to show their friends and family face to face. However, in this day and age, there are multiple alternatives. Parents are now able to store these pictures digitally, and don't need to be face to face with people to show their kids off - they are now able to post these pictures and videos online, for everyone to see. But how much control do these kids have over the rights of their privacy?

A family channel I mentioned earlier was the LaBrant Family consisting of parents Cole and Savannah, oldest children Everleigh and her three younger siblings. They started their channel in 2012 and currently have over 13 million subscribers and 4.5 billion views. The channel started off mainly with couple content of the parents, and only started to see a significant growth when Everleigh, who was around 4 years old at the time, featured in a video. This was the turning point for their channel, and it was clear that whenever she appeared in a video, it would get over 50 million views, which is more than 6 times the number of views her parents would get. They used this to their advantage and started to centre the account around her, seeing digits upon digits of followers and money flying towards them. 

This is how most family channels initially start, and some usually end up following the same trend of using their kids to their advantage. Most of family channels usually consist of two or more kids which is quite beneficial for them as they are what attract the most popularity - the more kids, the more attention and views they are able to make. The LaBrant Family is a perfect example of this. With Everleigh now 9 years old and her third sibling just being born last month, her parents released a statement saying how they wish to pull her out of school as quote on quote “it is good to have an extra pair of hands” to help at home with her siblings and channel. They received an immense amount of backlash for this, as it was one of multiple examples of how they would overwork her and put a lot of responsibility over their young child. 

Another video that has been circulating around the internet for a while now is one of mum youtuber Jordan Cheyenne and her little boy in their car crying his eyes out over the news of his dog having parvo which is a very serious illness and has a high fatality rate. What caused speculation around it was how it was an accidental uncut scene of them posing for a thumbnail, and how Jordan is seen telling her child to cry even more and harder for the camera and to pose in certain ways to look more upsetting. This was incredibly cruel because her child was extremely heartbroken, upset and in pain as it was. Many other family channels have been exposed for doing similar actions and worsening the emotional situations their children were in. This is an example of how some parents take advantage of the vulnerable side of their child, and how it violates the children’s privacy by sharing it online. 

It is their children that get them the views. It is their children that attract the brand deals. It is their children that produce success, fame and have to work long hours of filming everyday straining themselves physically and emotionally. But I guess it's okay, right? Since at the end of the day there's another video of said family doing more challenges and more trips and there is always “entertaining” content for millions to expect. The fact that the toxic side of family vlogging is usually swept under the rug, and forgotten by their beloved fans after that 20 or so minutes of family challenges is not okay. It is damaging in many ways and because most of their viewers are young children, they are oblivious to the suffering and emotional strain their favourite child youtuber goes through on a daily basis behind the scenes.

Many people have expressed their concern for the children, and have tried reaching out to different platforms and YouTube to try to regulate this kind of content and videos posted. 

However, due to technology advancing every day, it is bound to happen that a child who grew up in a family vlogging channel will create their own family vlogging channel for their own kids, and the cycle will repeat itself: another child having a camera be the first thing they see out of the womb; another child having their private and vulnerable scenes shared for millions; another child, who isn't even able to talk yet, having hundreds of Instagram accounts created dedicated to them; and children, who can't stand up for themselves, continuously being put in harmful and dangerous situations for the internet to see and for anyone to take advantage of.

Are we going to continue to let this happen? Are we going to let young children’s privacy continue to get violated by those who are meant to be protecting it? Or are we going to start to realise how damaging being a child internet figure is for the child themselves, and for the young viewers watching at home? We must not let success override morality and stop people treating their children as props rather than human beings - they deserve as much as a normal childhood as every other child. Parents need to be more sensitive on this issue and take into consideration the damage they are doing to their children in the long term. Flesh and blood should not be seen as dollar signs.

This is the toxic world of family vlogging.

Thank you very much for reading. 

Year 10 student