Leona O'Neill: Parents shouldn't be putting footage of their children online
Is it wrong to profit from posting videos online of your kids doing silly things? Leona O'Neill argues that parents should not be putting footage of their children online for strangers to criticise – and the worst type of people imaginable to view
I WATCHED the documentary Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over at the weekend which focused on YouTube stars the SacconeJolys. With 1.9 million followers, they document every fine detail of their family's lives and are said to be worth £1.5 million.
Stacey stayed the weekend with parents Anna and Jonathon, their four children and six dogs and explored what it's really like to have every aspect of your family life available online.
It was certainly interesting to see how this family have made a good living from this practice, but I really don't understand why family bloggers the world over would film their children and share it online for strangers to view.
For many of these vloggers, it is as simple as it sounds: parents film daily lives with their kids – the fights, the silliness, the drama, the tantrums – and it generally creates nice family-friendly content.
As these channels grow and viewers increase, parents start to make money and the kids become the stars of the show. Side channels are created for one particular kid as, perhaps, is merchandise – and the content has to keep coming to sustain the profile and keep the money coming in.
Take one look at YouTube and you'll find a whole array of YouTube families, all videoing every aspect of their lives with millions watching. Nothing is held back in these videos, which are designed to pull in viewers and have them sign up as a subscriber to these family's zany lives – but at what cost to the children who star in them?
In one video I watched over the weekend, the dad of the house filmed an incident with his baby son who had taken off a dirty nappy and smeared poop all over his cot, his face, the wall. This was all set to dramatic music and bright, flashy graphics. It was designed, I'm sure, for comedic effect. And I'm sure that child, when he is 15-years-old and still being reminded of it by his classmates and indeed millions on the internet, will find it all terribly hilarious too.
YouTube families were really born from 'mommy bloggers', mums who would set up blogs to give advice, share tips and indeed, before the introduction of
Facebook, create a platform to show off their cute things and the adorable things they do.
And I realise that my criticism of people sharing too much might sound hypocritical from me, here on this page, writing about life in the parenting section of a newspaper – but in my defence, I write from my own perspective and try to broaden out topics that may have affected my family as opposed to focusing on my individual kids, their lives and the cute (or otherwise) things they do.
There's a reason why the profile picture above this column is nine-years-old and does not reflect my family as it is now. There's a reason why you won't find any pictures of my kids at all on Twitter, and very few where their faces can be identified on Facebook. I want to protect them from the online world, because it can be a nasty, horrible place for young people.
That is why I can't comprehend parents who willingly put their children out there in YouTube videos and websites for strangers to criticise and the worst type of people imaginable to view.
During Stacey's interview with the SacconeJolys, she asked the father of the house if he was comfortable with sexual predators watching his children online. He certainly looked uncomfortable. He said that the family had learned from mistakes in the past. They don't post pictures of the kids in the bath anymore, for example.
Perhaps because I personally know how vicious and vitriolic an online audience can be – I face constant abuse – I wouldn't subject my children to it. But, for many of these YouTube families, they find themselves in a situation where feeding the online beast provides them with a very comfortable lifestyle.
And yet, one must wonder, is it damaging their children?
Once kids reach a certain age – and it is only right – they tend to want control over their own image and what is said about them online. But the thing about the internet is, once it's online, it's there forever.
Don't get me wrong: I do like parenting YouTubers, but I'm more drawn to platforms that are adult focused and geared towards fellow parents. Watching kids doing silly things that I know will haunt them in their later years just smacks of exploitation and makes me uneasy.
I don't like to judge how parents live their lives, but a weekend spent researching global family vloggers has convinced me that a lot of them could be seen as exploiting their children for 'hits', and therefore money – and that is wrong.