Family content creators on YouTube rely on the exploitation and unnecessary exposure of their children to make a profit. Corporations like YouTube are dependent on the public for their income and, therefore, should have a responsibility to protect that public. Grossly displaying children on YouTube, where the most popular channels have millions of viewers, violates this responsibility. YouTube facilitates child exploitation by rewarding these channels with advertising revenue and subscriber milestone rewards.
In an article featured on Teen Vogue, a child star discussed her experience on her parents’ channel with millions of subscribers. She felt that her upbringing was “overshadowed” when she unwillingly became a popular figure. She wanted her parents to know that the damage they inflicted upon her by featuring her in their channel was irreparable. This is the reality for the children featured in the hundreds of popular family channels on YouTube.
Very few family content creators have been banned from YouTube despite clear exploitation of their children. YouTube moderators only flag content when the abuse is especially disturbing and extreme.
Toy Freaks, a channel with 8.53 million subscribers, was shut down due to concern that the children were being endangered. The channel featured the children vomiting, pretending to urinate on each other and suffering through physical pain.
Jordan Matter, a YouTuber with 15.4 million subscribers, featured his 13-year-old daughter, Salish Matter, in thumbnails showing off her body’s flexibility or posing romantically with boys just as young. In one video titled: “MY DAUGHTER’S FIRST DATE *emotional*,” viewers see a young boy go in for a kiss and put his hand around Salish’s shoulder. It’s strange enough for a parent to witness his daughter’s first date, but recording the entire event is disgusting. A father should not be recording a young boy trying to kiss his daughter and allowing commenters to fawn over the pair.
Matter’s content is tame compared to what channels like The Norris Nuts, a YouTube family content channel with 6.36 million subscribers, display. Their most popular video features the 14-year-old daughter, Sabre, panning down the camera to her chest stating “I’m 14 but I look like I’m 8. Like I’ve got no boobs.”
The Norris parents’ voluntarily allowing their daughter to flash her chest for millions of people to see is abhorrent. They are exposing Sabre to child predators because they cannot ensure that pedophiles are not a part of their massive audience.
Furthermore, posting her insecurities on YouTube allows others to weaponize these perceived flaws. The National Center for Biotechnology Information wrote that “adolescence represents a pivotal stage in the development of positive or negative body image.” Children at that age should be working on cultivating their self-esteem, and parents should be ensuring that their children feel secure. The Norris parents, however, clearly value profit over the hateful and predatory comments their children may receive.
The Norris Nuts have also made sure to film every birthday, Christmas, hospitalization and emotional conversation. They even filmed the introduction of the new baby to the family. Beautiful family moments like these have been stripped of their meaning in an attempt to turn a profit. For the Norris children, precious childhood memories and the birth of their youngest sister are going to be clouded by cameras in their faces and their parents’ encouragement to talk to their subscribers.
There is no privacy in this profession, and family content creators’ lives have turned into their careers. Parents putting their children on display to the world for the sake of money cannot possibly be loving or caring. To them, their children are clearly nothing more than a cash grab.
The obvious motive for parents violating their children’s privacy and exposing them to a brutal public is for profit. Following YouTube’s child safety policy, many of these channels are violating YouTube’s guidelines. If YouTube removes monetization and advertising revenue from videos with children under the age of 16, it will greatly reduce the incentive for parents to use YouTube to exploit their children. These parents would lose a large part of their audience and be forced to move to other non-monetized platforms as family content is most popular on YouTube.
Every social media service should regulate family content more strictly to protect minors’ privacy and stop enabling pedophilia. Corporations have a responsibility to ensure that these dangerous invasions of privacy are not occurring on their platforms.
The public has seen the repercussions of child stardom in celebrities such as Demi Lovato and Lindsey Lohan, but at least they were afforded privacy in their homes. Children featured on family content channels, however, have had their entire lives turned into a means for their parents to profit. They cannot come home to escape the struggles of their daily life, because their home lives are publicized for millions of people to see with no room for rest. These parents are destroying their children’s lives before they even have the chance to start.
Stephany Lopez-Cortez is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.