The digital age of child exploitation for entertainment content
How would you feel after realizing that details of your life—or an entire narrative of it—were shared online without your knowledge or consent? The increasing popularity of family vloggers and mommy bloggers, who choose to exploit their children’s lives to make digital content for their growing platforms, has transformed this hypothetical question into a reality for kids all over the world.
The level of exploitation these children experience will vary. Some family vloggers will not feature their children as the main event. Others will dedicate their entire channel to their children. On many occasions, parents will humiliate their children to gain more views.
Legislation is one of the most common protections from exploitation. Unfortunately, the laws implemented in the mainstream media to protect child actors and children who participate in advertising don’t apply to kid influencers who lay in the gray area between work and home. The lack of laws in the United States that directly protect the right of children on social media has enabled many families to take advantage of this situation by uploading videos of their children on the Internet before they are old enough to give consent.
In 2020, France created a law that gave kid influencers the same level of protection as child models and actors. To increase the accountability of their parents, the United States should also create regulations that will further protect these children.
The constant need for new content within these social media families has been expanding to new ideas of child interactions for views, such as emotionally neglectful pranks or harassing children with questions. Within YouTube channels, most parents have their children posing for a thumbnail, but a line needs to be drawn when it comes to the child’s emotional and physical pain.
Most children featured on family channels and mommy blogs are not old enough to give consent to their daily lives being filmed, published, and almost manipulated to receive views from an audience. As the platforms are typically run by the children’s parents, it’s understandable to allow their parents to provide consent for them. Unfortunately, these parents show an overall disregard for their children’s consent as they’ll often keep the camera rolling, clickbait off fake news, and profit from tears and trauma.
As more family vloggers and mommy bloggers increase viral hits with their small children, it’s important to remember that these children are not legally protected and that those in charge of protecting them are inherently exploiting them. Additionally, public relations practitioners and marketers working with these families as a strategy to raise brand awareness and consumer engagement need to spend more time thinking about the steps they can take to protect the privacy of the children they are working with. It’s time for family vloggers—and the organizations they partner with—to be held accountable and for lawmakers to create regulations. These regulations need to be prioritized before more children have their well-being damaged physically, socially, and emotionally.
By Aria Mallorca
Aria Mallorca is a senior at San Diego State University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in Public Relations. She also has an associate's degree in communication. Due to previous experience with her interviewing web series, Strictly Unconventional, she has a background in editing experience with audio, video, and copyediting pieces from social media content to managing plans.