The Ethics of YouTube Child Stars: Parents Recently Charged with Child Neglect


Recently, parents who ran a popular YouTube channel, “DaddyoFive,” were investigated. As a result, they lost custody of two of their five children, have restricted access to those children and were sentenced to five years of probation. Their YouTube channel was filled with home videos of the parents “pranking” the children, but the children often seemed to be in genuine distress as they were tricked, yelled at and physically assaulted (shoved/pushed). Numerous user-generated complaints, brought the parents’ behavior to the attention of the authorities. Not before the channel had nearly 1 million followers and had generated well over 6 figures in income for the family.

The user-generated video sites, like YouTube, by the nature of their monetized ad structure support the abuse of children, like the case above. While that family is forbidden from creating more prank videos, surely another family will be waiting in the wings to grab the attention of those nearly 1 million fans left searching for “child prank” videos.

Lack of Regulation

In contrast to child actors who have compulsory education, permits and regulations around their time, user-generated videos which feature “child stars” have no such legislation. It is left up to the parents’ discretion. However, the parents’ discretion becomes distorted when they receive followers for increasingly odd or abusive videos.

Slippery Slope

The game of grabbing eyeballs and associated likes that is user-generated content on YouTube presents a slippery slope. There are many other forms of YouTube videos that cause me great concern, although they are often not outright abusive as in the case of the parents who ran “DaddyOFive.” Here are some noted below:

Kid Prank Videos

There is still a whole subsection of videos on YouTube of kids being pranked. In many, the child is clearly ‘acting’ and in on the scheme. However, even in this best-case scenario how much of their time is spent creating these videos? How much choice were they given to participate?

Bad Baby Videos

I find these videos exceptionally disturbing. In them, children “act” as though they are bad babies. They make large messes, suck on pacifiers, spit food and throw temper tantrums. Children are apparently quite interested in them and they have garnered a number of followers and imitators.

Kid Trick Videos

In these videos, young children do impossible tricks like throw a ball over their head to land in a small cup across the room. How many times did they have to practice the trick? Is it their idea? What if they want to quit before they get it?

My Kids is Crying because…

Historically, more of a user-generated photo upload site, many find these photos hilarious. Parents submit photos or videos of their children crying with sarcastic captions (i.e. “Because his shoe isn’t blue.”)Then everyone laughs at how ridiculous the child’s little emotions are. Seems rather insensitive to me and can’t imagine growing up knowing my parents took pictures of my upsets to share with others, rather than helping me through them.

Even videos where the children are featured as Vlog stars can have negative consequences. The children are given little choice (as a result of their age) as to whether they would like to be a Vlog star and have all that is associated with it. Money? Fame? Forever-present videos of themselves when they are potty training, having tantrums etc?

What’s the Conclusion?

Keep your children off of YouTube, or at a minimum, highly regulated on it. Many videos are named with unusual search-engine optimized keywords, so your kids can stumble upon them when they search for a popular kids show. Perhaps the greater call to action is to look for some form of legislation and oversight so different abusive videos cannot continue to pop up. YouTube is a money making machine that has been able to opt out of the responsibility for what is hosted on its’ site. When their ad revenue system encourages views at any cost, it seems they should be held responsible for what they are encouraging.

Join The Revolution

Sign up to have great articles like this one sent right to you in our Screen-Free Parenting weekly recap email.