Child Exploitation on YouTube

YouTube is one platform of many which does little to prevent children being exploited for their labour, which has already had disastrous effects. Today we're talking about an unnamed channel hosted by an 11 year old, who is now being pushed to engage in divisive conspiracy content, thanks in part to evangelical conspiracy theorist Kent Hovind.

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  1. Family channels have taken child exploitation to a whole other level. The entire concept makes me cringe. The genre personifies everything that is wrong with social media.

    1. What is this girl yapping about now? I clicked on Kent’s channel why does she appear? Any way I can block these pop ups?

    2. @NOMAD sounds like you need to learn to read. I said I was on Kent hovin as videos and hers pop up. I don’t want to see this nor see them on my timeline. It’s like YouTube is recommending me this that I don’t need.

  2. Just started watching, the first five minutes at least is one of the best distillations I’ve seen about why the “family vlogging” phenomenon is so toxic. I appreciate placing this distinctly modern thing within a historical framework- most people would agree that child sweatshops are abhorrent, and so emphasizing the parallels between them and these vlogs really matters.

    Well done.

    1. As I am scrolling through YT I automatically click “don’t recommend channel” on any of the “family vlogging” channels that pop up. The same goes for any right wing crazy stuff. You would think YT would get the hint but they never fail to find new crap I am not interested in watching.

    2. @Iliff Werdegast It’s on purpose – they want you to ‘hate-watch’ things because any engagement is engagement.

    3. I think caring parents should be involved in any child internet usage. I work in IT. Letting young children (especially Primary School age) have unsupervised use of the Internet as though it is a perfectly safe and sandboxed place is (quite frankly) shirking parental responsibility. You see even worse parenting here in which the parents exploit their own child (!) for the purposes of increasing the (adult controlled site) hits. It isn’t about the child, their point of view, their positive and open development or about them in any way. I’ve seen a number of tech/music sites in which their children make occasional (often very cute) appearances. That’s totally different if done carefully. My parents helped my mind to grow.

  3. My parents were of a much different mindset than most people of their generation. They were adamant that children were meant to learn, grow, explore and find their happiness in this world. Our home was the ’safe’ home in our very lower working class neighborhood. As a child I didn’t put two and two together- they kept a safe a kid friendly home for their own kids and any other kids that wanted to play in a safe environment. Let kids be kids was one of my mother’s favorite sayings. Hovind and his ilk are no better than the parents of yesteryear that sent their kids out to sweep chimneys.

  4. Emma, as a teacher, I want to thank you from the bottom of my grubby little heart for bringing some attention to this. Big Tech has been getting steadily more predatory towards children, and neither children nor their parents have the deep business knowledge to recognise how thoroughly they’re being exploited. Add to the mixture bad faith (huh) actors like Hovind, and you have a recipe for tragedy.

    1. @V for Wombat TL;DR I don’t think the issue is necessarily social media but more the new accessibility to Facetune and filters to make an “idealized, perfect” version of oneself.

      Long version:
      I’d argue it’s not social media, but the fact that every app has filters now and you can easily and quickly edit photos. Because while yes, we had Photoshop in magazines, when kids took Polaroids of themselves and their friends, they couldn’t “perfect” their own pictures. They didn’t have the option to make an idealized version of themselves. Even with social media, but before filters, we didn’t edit our own pictures very often and usually it was just adding stickers or messing with brightness and contrast. It feels like an obligation to use a filter now.

    2. @Robert English You are right, however it also raises the issue of how we should update the laws such that these new tools can be used to identify and protect victims at risk. The fact is that yes children are and have always been exploited in various ways but social media also provides a new tool to identify victims of exploitation and thus take action. Now we as a society need to decide how to use it to protect those we can see are falling through the cracks of the established protections. The sad fact is that it probably is impossible to protect every child from every form of abuse but we as a society should use every tool at our disposal to protect those we can identify are at risk. If social media can be a tool to help identify at risk children slipping through the cracks of current legislation we should implement legislation to oversee such activity and intervene on behalf of those children that may be at risk.

    3. @Seraphina Joyce Yeah, but not easy when some are in it to enrich themselves just by keeping it going, and not just abuses of children, but also low paid and gullible adults, whoever these factions deem unworthy by social status, race and “Not my religion”… so not human enough based on greed and tribalism, and who they can profit most off of.

  5. There’s one family that my kids had on once that I can’t stand as the dad is clearly the one pushing the channel and the rest of the family doesn’t really want to be part of it. Kids deserve to be able to go to school without the entire class knowing everything about them.

    1. FGteev is the example that comes to my mind. My kids (both 10 or under) found the channel through kids in their day home and they are obsessed with it. I checked out a few of the streams and videos, and won’t play it for them now that I have seen the content. Now, my kids are always begging me to let them make videos but I’ve been able to keep them at bay, so far.

    2. @Azrealle That’s been our case as well, with the kids seeing these creepy families and then wanting to make videos. Thankfully they’re willing to trust Mom & Dad to say that’s not the best idea for them at the moment, let’s go play a family game instead.

    3. @AzrealleThat’s the channel I immediately thought of too.
      My kid watched them like crazy when he was younger. I finally sat down and watched a whole video with him and was really concerned by how the dad seemed to be pushing the kids in to everything.
      About half the time the boys seemed in to whatever activity they were doing, but the oldest daughter especially seemed like she wanted to be anywhere else.

      Just a couple months ago we saw some merch of theirs in the toy department at Target and my kid (now 13) said “ohhhh, I remember them. I stopped watching when I noticed that the kids never seemed to want to be in the videos. It was like their parents were forcing them. Too creepy.”

  6. I’m nervous about showing any old framed photos of my boys in the background when I film anything – I do not understand the impulse of parents who want to put their kids out there like that..kind of creepy that the parents have this blind spot, how do you not get a sense of ‘maybe this isn’t okay, they’re just a kid’ etc
    Thanks for this Emma.

    1. I think these exploitative parents feel that they can invade their child’s privacy since they’re either too little to understand what consent and boundaries are or they’re big enough to express themselves on the matter and aren’t respected. Unfortunately some parents don’t see their kids as individuals to respect

    2. You’re smart to do that, honestly. The less the world knows about your kids through the Internet the better.

    3. well first, imagine they’re not your kids, and you’ve got to pay money to raise them for the next 18 years.

      second, think about how you can reduce those expenses as much as possible, public schooling, cooking at home instead of eating out at restaurants, buying clothes 2nd hand, etc and so on.

      Third, think about how you can recoop some of those expenses, what if the kid could earn some money, or buy things for themself instead. Go get a job mowing lawns.

      Lastly, why not recoop those expenses as early as possible: come over here and say something cute into the camera

      Now you just have to come to terms with the first issue, either treating the child as strangers, or reconciling the possible abuse or harm or unlikely, and therefore OK. I suppose you would call those kinds of people a psychopath.

  7. I have an autistic kiddo (myself and my children are all nuerospicy) who uses his Chromebook to make “YouTube” videos…. Videos of him talking about a special interest, having us acting out silly skits he’s put together, or telling his “viewers” about his family. It’s super sweet and very lovely. There is zero percent chance that I would EVER put any of that on the internet, or allow him to do so because the internet is terrible. That said, a point of contention is that I won’t let him publish videos on to a YT account/have a YT account. I can completely see parents who are potentially less aware of online dangers allowing kids with similar interests to post content, without wanting to exploit or gain personal notoriety. Just a different perspective

    1. Don’t let him erase them my Daughter would always make videos as a kid too but then she would get embarrassed about them and she would erase them the only videos I have are ones that are on an old dS she forgot about. I would let her upload what she felt comfortable with but it was also like 10 years ago social media wasn’t as toxic as it is now she would upload videos on musically like of her and her cousins dancing it was harmless it wasn’t until Snapchat a couple years later that things got worrying and toxic it was a catalyst for a lot of bullying and awful behavior that even my own child was involved in.

    2. another idea to appease the point of contention is to make the channel but mark everything as private/unlisted so they can go up but no one will ever see them/be able to find them. that way you can have the content for when they get older and not have to rely on storing it on a hdd that may or may not get damaged.

    3. @Mark Goodall yes!! It’s far better to have a kid be mad at you because they don’t understand the consequences than to have your kid be harmed because you were afraid of telling them no

    4. I think there’s a huge difference between parents who post videos about their kids every once in a while, versus a family channel that uploads content every day. That’s just exploitative and there’s no way an adult can’t realize that. If they’re seriously that clueless, they shouldn’t be parents.

  8. My daughter was on a BBC show as a kid which involved a fair amount of time. We had to get a form from the local council to say they gave permission for this. The form covered things like how many hours a week might be involved and so on. The thought that parents could exploit their kids on YouTube without such oversight is really sad

    1. I’m glad your daughter was protected well during her time on the show. I applied to a cbbc kids show long ago, I got very far through the process, practically to the point where it was a done deal. We’d done all of the legal stuff, got forms about how much I’d be ‘working’, having tutors etc (my school initially had been unhappy with it, they were concerned I’d miss too much schooling, it was a grammar school so they were a bit obsessed with kids not missing school). But unfortunately I ended up in hospital (I had an illness/Disabilty before that, it was partially why I was chosen for that cbbc show. It was about kids with disabilities, to have them showing their life story, and becoming on screen host type things to normalise Disabilty). My condition had got a lot worse, very fast, and I had to give up on the TV show. It was actually only a few months after, that my condition got re diagnosed, and we found out it’s actually a terminal illness, and in the years since, I’ve spent more time in hospitals than out and I’ve got more non functioning parts of my body than functioning.

      Anyway, that is a total off topic ramble. Did your daughter enjoy her time on the show? In retrospect, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it much, as I was a very nerd-ish quiet kid, who struggled with crippling shyness. I think my parents thought that it’d help with that!

    2. This oversight should be a minimum requirement not only for media production but in my view for small family run businesses where the child “helps out”. I’m not saying this is always a bad thing it may even be educational in some cases but someone should be overseeing this to ensure the child is not being denied their rights to receive a quality rounded education and not to be enslaved.

  9. I have an 8-year-old daughter who loves watching kids channels whose parents are clearly the ones running the them, but do so in a seemingly wholesome way. One of my biggest issues is the creators that get toy brands to sponsor “unboxing videos” where they open box after box of the featured toy which gives the kids watching a “hit” of dopamine from the unwrapping of a surprise. I’ve had a number of conversations with my daughter to give her some perspective on what’s going on behind the scenes, and that the kids didn’t have to buy the items they’re opening and talk her down off the ledge from spending all her birthday money on a pallet of “Magical Unicorn Poop Surprise” so she can horde the entire line of “Crap Crate Collectables”.

    1. “from spending all her birthday money on a pallet of “Magical Unicorn Poop Surprise””

      but the Magical Unicorn Poop Surprise ones are the BEST ones!
      My favorite is the Rainbow Mudpie!

    2. I had conversations about this with my daughter when she was 7-8, and told her how unboxing videos cause a dopamine hit that makes it so that kids can’t be happy with what they have and always need more to get that hit, and how it’s bad parents who are hurting their kids like this for money. I was straight with her on it. She went from wanting to watch Ryan to wanting to save him and his siblings from that crap.

    3. I block all that kind of channels every time one pops up on YT Kids. It’s endless, because there are so many channels like that and many of them have been translated to tens of other languages.
      First of all, it’s not possible to make as much content as they do without exploiting the kids. The content of the videos isn’t educational and doesn’t represent our family’s values. The videos have been designed to be addictive to children and the parents are getting so much money off of them. Just disgusting. Also sometimes I find myself questioning what exactly is the target democraphic of some of the videos, if you know what I mean 🤢🤮

    4. I can’t stand the current trend of mystery toys. It just feels so exploitative and teaching children to gamble so early.

    5. @fanime1 At least actual gambling comes with the chance to get something of actual value in the end.

  10. A wonderful and contemporary topic to address Emma. I’m a 70 year old man and my youngest grandchildren are 19 years old twin girls so it’s a topic I haven’t given one moment’s thought. However, I am a voracious reader so I have extensive knowledge of the Georgian and Victorian periods of British history with all the accounts of child exploitation and sweatshops from Dickens and others.

    I’m so glad you took the time to address this issue because undoubtedly it’s going to be an ongoing problem as social media sites become more prevalent. I’m also glad you tied it in to Kent Hovind and his particular brand of crazy, at least in that respect I have some concrete examples to study and further educate myself with. Thanks for a terrific video and all your efforts to expose some of the lunacy encountered on the increasing number of social media websites. Cheers from Canada!

    1. You are fairly annoying with your comparison of youtubes to the Shoepolish factory Dickens was sent to.

      And possibly even more with your hatred of Kent Hovind.

  11. Thank you so much for not showing her content and for blurring her face and masking her voice! I appreciate your content so much!

  12. I once saw a comment that called family vlogging the new “family store” and I can’t unsee it. Every time we find a new way to protect children from exploitation, parents who see their kids as property more than people will find new and creative ways to jury rig a way around. We just have to keep matching their effort with our own.

    I feel sorry for this girl. I can only imagine what it’ll be like looking back one this five or even ten years from now. Even if she manages to break away from the cultish mindset her parents are clearly trying to indoctrinate her into she’ll have to live with those moments being immortalized on the internet for everyone to see. It could have an effect on her future job prospects, her relationships. It just makes me sad.

  13. This was such an excellent and important video. I came across “Helen” in the live chat of a debate channel that Kent frequents not realizing her age. Once it became clear, I was deeply saddened that someone so young could be indoctrinated into these conspiracy theories. My instinct was to just try and talk to her, show her that science is not an enemy, and encourage her to look for herself. This video has made me feel that I’ve been terribly naive about this, that she’s not asking these questions herself but is merely typing what she is being told to type, thinking what she’s being told to think, and that I’ve been doing nothing but feeding in to the exploitation. Thanks for showing me that, I wish I had an answer to how to put a stop to it.

  14. I really relate to this bc I barely missed being like that girl bc I was raised in a sheltered Christian homeschooled household who were super conservative creationists and I just spouted my parents views up until I was like 14 and learned better. I did have an Instagram but I had a private account. If we weren’t concerned about privacy and we wanted to be famous I could’ve ended up just like her, which would be terrible bc I’m a leftist trans atheist who wants nothing to do with Christianity

  15. Can’t imagine how brutal this is going to be on these kids psyches.
    We’re seeing the oldest of them grow up and speak out, but the most exploited kids are still so, so young.

    1. Child actors who worked in the traditional entertainment sphere are known for having psychological issues as they grow up. I can only imagine the outcomes will be even worse for kids who are forced to be social media personalities, since they have even fewer protections and no real separation between work and life.

  16. Props for the standing up against this kind of child exploitation. I think this was a well thought out video and should get more credit than I can express . I feel the only way to affect change for these children is through litigation and laws. Which starts with amazing people like you Emma who stand up and call it out. YouTube will change once it is forced to because of new laws concerning the exploitation of children on the platform. It took quite awhile to get it for entertainment so hopefully it will take less this time.

  17. My youngest daughter is a very beautiful girl. Not in the whole I’m a mom and she’s my baby, but literally getting stopped in public by strangers to tell her she is so beautiful (she usually responds with an “I know” and an eye roll). It gets really disturbing ands scary sometimes. Everywhere we go, she gets attention, and there have been times where i have been afraid that someone will take her. So many people have told me I should put her in modeling or movies or YouTube and my response is always no. I want my kids to be kids. She’s 10 now and she wants to make videos and it gets really hard to explain to her why I won’t allow her or my eldest daughter to post videos online. We already get too much attention and she’s not a public figure. I’ve told both of my kids that if they want to make videos they can, but they will not be posted online. If they want to learn how to film or make silly stuff for the family, I’m all for them stretching out their creative juices, but they will not be posted to social media at all. When they become an adult they can have the choice of posting whatever they want, but until then videos stay in the family.

    I do not understand how other parents don’t get that being so public can actually be a danger to your child’s physical and mental well being. There isn’t any amount of money you could pay me to sell off my children’s childhood. Even if they are mad at me now and don’t understand, I hope that when they do become adults they will see that I’m trying to do good and giving them that privacy and the ability to screw things up or be cringy, without the entire world witnessing it.

    1. THANK YOU for not letting your children model!!!
      It is not a healthy environment, but it is an effective way of giving your child an eating disorder. You’re a great mom!

    2. You’re a good parent. I personally preferred being behind the camera so I did make this account in high school and posted fandom videos, but my parents taught me a lot about Internet safety because my dad worked in child protective services, so he knew more about the topic than most parents. I definitely think you’re making the right choice as I’m grateful I have my privacy.

  18. I will never get over that one mother who when told her TODDLER was on cp sites and that maybe she should stop filming her kid said something along the lines of “well *I* didnt put it on that site so what do you expect me to do?”
    Like im sorry ma’am that is your CHILD

    1. Anyway i think if your child is too young to have an account on x site your child should not be filmed, photographed or whatever on that site

    2. Honestly the only way this could change is for a massive lawsuit that scares youtube so much they terminate any channel with any child featured in a video and then the channel owner has to either prove there was no child in the video, there was but it was an educational video, it was a stock photo of a kid or it was a child in the background and their face was blurred or smth
      Youtube gas to get really bad press and loose a bunch of money before they’ll do anything

    3. That’s horrifying. What kind of a mother would not be protective of their own child. I hope something is being done about it bc that woman is clearly not in the right mind.

  19. When you said you “could have so easily been Helen” it really struck a chord.

    I was largely raised in a time before social media but with my father’s beliefs about the government and how it fit into his religious beliefs and the conspiracies he would spin, there’s no way I’d have been online like Helen.

    However, it’s incredibly sad to see someone else who was raised in the same situation I was, and how they just start to mold into a belief system because there’s most likely positive reinforcement that comes from doing so either socially or with some tangible reward. People like you and I made it out of those oppressive fundamentalist systems, and thankfully more and more each day, but there are so many more that just never do and end up being indoctrinated.

    I often worry about where I’d be if I didn’t have teachers who really opened up my point of view and helped remove the bubble I’d been raised in. I doubt I’d still be who I am now, but who knows.

    1. As far as I know Emma Thorne’s backstory, she legitimately was into conspiracies, but not a Fundamentalist.

      _”People like you and I made it out of those oppressive fundamentalist systems”_

      I am not quite sure why you consider fundamentalism oppressive and still less why you consider it equal to conspiracy thinking.

      Emma Thorne (who has not engaged my comments in her _own_ name) seems to have equated Fundamentalism with Conspiracies for no good reason at all, as she had no real experience with Fundamentalism.

      _”but there are so many more that just never do and end up being indoctrinated.”_

      Do I hear some kind of missionary regret?

      _”if I didn’t have teachers who really opened up my point of view and helped remove the bubble I’d been raised in.”_

      I had more than one teacher who believed they tried that with me. It was they who ended up being oppressive to me.

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