Of the many categories available on YouTube, family channels have consistently been one of the most popular. Channels like “The Ace Family,” “Family Fun Pack,” and “The Labrant Fam” all have over ten million subscribers. All of these successes are built on the foundation of parents documenting and uploading their children’s personal lives before the kids can consent to it. For this reason, among others, it is unethical for these kinds of channels to continue to flourish.
Family channels often fall into a pattern of filming a child’s most personal and emotional moments, such as dealing with loss and growth, all of which gets uploaded for millions of subscribers to see. One search on YouTube can bring up dozens of videos from these sorts of channels documenting a child’s first period, children crying over the loss of a pet or family member, as well as similar personal experiences. The level of intimacy of these moments, combined with the fact that most of these kids don’t even understand consent yet, just magnifies the immense violation of privacy that these children are victims of.
The truth is that family channels are and will continue to be a very profitable industry. In 2017, the viewing of family vlog content was up by 90 percent and continues to rise today. With high viewer and subscriber counts, it becomes easy to make large amounts of money on YouTube. This is especially true for family channels, as they have less risk of being demonetized. “The Labrant Fam,” a family channel with around 13 million subscribers, is said to earn approximately 5.5 million dollars annually in ad revenue alone, and similar numbers can be accredited to the other popular channels.
This potential for monetary gain is undoubtedly one of the driving motivators behind most of the vlog channels on the internet, and in many cases, it seems to take precedence over the safety and well-being of the children involved. For example, the previously popular YouTube channel “DaddyOFive,” featured videos of the father, Mike Martin, playing pranks on his young children. One of the most controversial “prank” videos depicts Martin pouring ink on his son Cody’s floor and then continuing to blame and yell at the child while he cries profusely. This video, among others, ultimately led to Martin losing custody of the children, and the channel has since been deleted.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many legal boundaries to prevent this from happening, with no laws currently in place in the U.S. to protect children involved in family channels. While there is a promising bill proposed for 2032, the lack of legal protection is a massive oversight. And it’s not like such laws are unheard of; there are already many laws that protect children in mainstream entertainment industries as well as underage users of the internet.
Some may argue that family channels are a valuable way for parents to earn revenue while simultaneously continuing to spend lots of time with their children. While the idea may have some truth, there are few things more valuable than the protection of a child’s privacy. The potential for monetary gain carries the risk of kids’ childhoods and privacy being compromised for profit.
Overall, there is very little that can be said to justify these family vlog channels continuing to exist. Nothing is worth putting these children at risk. It is a parent’s job to protect their children, which is a duty that family channels too often disregard in favor of success. The current state of family channels is far too unethical to be permitted.