The Dark Side to Family Vlogging

Family vlogging is extremely present in the YouTube community, but for those who don’t know what it is, it’s when parents film the families’ day-to-day lives, focusing on their children in particular, and upload it as a vlog (virtual blog).  While it sounds like a cute idea, there are in fact many debates over the issues that come with this type of vlogging. Typically, vlogging involves an individual choosing to share parts of their everyday life and uploading it to the Internet. However, when it comes to family vlogging it is the parents choosing what content to upload or not upload. This leads us to the first debate around this subject: is this type of content consensual?

 

By this, I am referring to the debate over whether young children can be fully consenting to be filmed in such abundance. In legal terms, in the UK it is the parent or legal guardian who consents to their child being filmed until they reach the age of 16. But is this fair? Many people have started to question this due to the high level of public exposure that is involved with family vlogging. And to make matters worse it is the everyday life of a child, not just once or twice. Therefore, it begs the question of whether these parents should be allowed to consent on behalf of their children? Moreover, even if these children agree to daily vlogging at the time, they are simply too young to understand consent. To add even more confusion to this debate about consent, the age restrictions for having an account on YouTube alone is 13. We can clearly see that there is a huge grey area surrounding this issue. How is it safe for a child to be famous on YouTube when it is not safe or legal for them to have their own YouTube account?  

 

The second question I would like to address is the issue of exploitation. Many people have recently come out to argue that this form of vlogging can be parental exploitation. As these parents are basing their channels on their children, they then are relying on their children to keep the views and subscribers coming. For those who don’t know much about YouTube, the views and subscriber counts are what gets a YouTuber their paycheck. So the more interactions they get from their audience, the more money YouTube will pay them. For most of these family vloggers, their sole paycheck every month comes from these channels. Ultimately, it's clear that in some of these channels their success is completely relying on their children, not the parents. This begs the question of whether these parents are using their child?

 

To make things worse, in recent years there have been quite a few scandals involving family vloggers. In the past few months, many non-vlogging YouTubers (such as ImAlexx, Atozy, and Angelika Oles) on the platform have been speaking out against a video by a YouTube account called ‘ACE Family.’ The video in question involves him filming his wife’s young sister buying a phallic-shaped lollypop, whilst laughing. The ACE Family have received lots of backlash for this video as many feel that it is unfair to upload this content involving an innocent two year old – who just simply thinks it is a regular lollipop.

 

However, the scandals just get worse and worse from here. A couple of years ago, people from all over the Internet began to speak out against a YouTuber called ‘DaddyOFive’. As many of his videos were based on the mother and father of this channel ‘pranking’. I say the word prank here loosely because, like most people watching these videos saw, these were not comedic pranks but actually abusive behaviour towards their children. It involved screaming, swearing, hitting, pushing, and even getting the older children to hit the younger ones. Philip Defranco was the main YouTuber who spoke out against this channel; if you want to see what he said on this subject I will link it down at the bottom[1] (Disclaimer: These videos of DaddyOFive’s content are extremely triggering to watch, especially if you have been a victim of abuse in the past). This ultimately, leads to a Court case[2], resulting in two of the children being taken out of their custody. Their channel was then terminated from YouTube in July of 2018.

 

Thankfully, in recent years YouTube – particularly after this DaddyOFive case –has been working on these issues by promoting more child safety rules on the website. [3] However there is still more work to be done, children are still at many risks even without any scandals. Children on these channels are at risk of having serious mental health issues, getting bullied, and even being at risk of child predators. This stems from the abundance of information about a certain child’s life being uploaded to the Internet in the forms of vlogs. If these children are being filmed every single day (or even every few days), a parent will have to take some serious precautions to make sure that their child’s information does not end up on the internet –which can be nearly impossible to stop. It is not just critics coming out against family vlogging; even family vloggers themselves have started to speak up about the troubles they have gotten into themselves.[4] An example of this is Allison Irons, a YouTuber who took down all her videos which included her children after she realised that her videos had been shared to paedophile websites. I think this example clearly shows that children shouldn’t be growing up on YouTube, and family vloggers should take more proactive steps (like Allison Irons) to protect their children if they are going to continue to film them.

One last point I would like to discuss on this topic is what will the long term effects of these vlogs have on the children involved? I’m sure in a few years time, many of these child stars will want some of these videos taken down, as it will embarrass them. We don’t actually know what the long-term implications of family vlogging are, because it is such a new form of vlogging. However, we have seen similar cases in the past where young Hollywood stars have grown up and due to their intense childhoods have gone through things no child should ever have to. We have seen this with Macaulay Culkin[5], Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and the list goes on and on. It is clear to see that from these examples that it’s not fair to put children in the public eye whilst they are growing up.

 

In the meantime, I advise you to make sure that the content on YouTube you are watching is safe for both parties. Don’t get me wrong; some content on YouTube of children is perfectly fine, and children are everywhere, so it would be crazy to suggest that we take them all off of YouTube.  Instead, make sure the YouTubers you are watching are good role models of parents. There are many examples of this such as SprinkleofGlitter, Philip DeFranco, and Lasercorn. These YouTubers involved their children in some of their videos, whilst also maintaining their child’s safety. Hopefully, with viewers and content-creators alike working on this issue, in the near future, these issues surrounding family vlogging on YouTube will have stopped.