Dana Hinders

Are You Accidentally Exploiting Your Children on YouTube?

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YouTube has made it easier than ever for ordinary people to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame, especially when they happen to capture a cute kid on film. But, is it right to expose your child to criticism from online trolls and the possibility of future embarrassment just so you can indulge your desire for notoriety in a post America’s Funniest Home Videos world?

It’s Not About You

To some extent, all parents are narcissists. Our eagerness to reproduce is driven in part by the urge to have a little “mini-me” running around that we can show off our friends. Unfortunately, your child is not a toy built for your amusement. Posting videos to further your own agenda, whether it’s the dream of being offered your own reality TV show or simply a chance to use your adorable offspring to promote your last home-based business venture, is wrong. Your job is to keep your child safe, even if that means you miss out on your chance to become the next Holderness family.

Children Can’t Give Informed Consent

Many parents who post videos of their children on YouTube argue that their children are natural performers who love being able to show off for an audience. But, the desire to ham it up for the camera isn’t quite the same thing as being able to understand what it means to have your video on a website where millions of people can see it. The kid who thinks it’s cool he’s an online celebrity today might not feel that way in 10 years when he’s applying to college and all anyone wants to talk about is that video of him dancing to Taylor Swift in his sister’s favorite dress.

Sharing short clips privately, on a site like DropShots that lets you customize privacy settings for every single piece of content you post and hide items from search engine discovery, is a safer way to encourage an aspiring thespian’s creativity.

Follow the Money

The highest earning YouTube producer made nearly $5 million last year. Although most people posting videos of their child’s antics won’t strike it rich, many are profiting from their child’s antics. For example, David DeVore is said to have made thousands of dollars off a video of his son returning from a trip from the dentist — including YouTube video revenue as well as fees for media appearances and money from the sale of merchandise with the child’s name and likeness. The boy, David DeVore Jr., now has a part in the upcoming film The Chronicles of Rick Roll (2016).

It’s not inherently wrong to profit from your YouTube videos, but what you do with the money you make is key. Saving profits to fund a child’s education is acceptable, but using the funds to go on lavish vacations or to treat yourself to a fancy new car is going to be considered exploitative by the majority of parents. Read up on Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved by the Bell) and his struggle to keep himself afloat after his father spent the majority of his earnings from the hit TV show. Is this the type of future you want for your child?

Photo: Esther Vargus via Flickr

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