Parents cashing in on kids

kids on a rock
Laguna Beach picture of my kids from around 2001.

My daughter shared an article with me that she thought I’d find interesting for my blog. It’s from Teen Vogue — which she said is not behind a paywall — and has more interesting articles than fashion like “What’s hot for summer.”

In “Influencer Parents and The Kids Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content” by FORTESA LATIFI, I learned about parents who cashed in on their kids on social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Claire, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, has never known a life that doesn’t include a camera being pointed in her direction. The first time she went viral, she was a toddler. When the family’s channel started to rake in the views, Claire says both her parents left their jobs because the revenue from the YouTube channel was enough to support the family and to land them a nicer house and new car. “That’s not fair that I have to support everyone,” she said. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am].” Once, she told her dad she didn’t want to do YouTube videos anymore and he told her they would have to move out of their house and her parents would have to go back to work, leaving no money for “nice things.”

When the family is together, the YouTube channel is what they talk about. Claire says her father has told her he may be her father, but he’s also her boss. “It’s a lot of pressure,” she said. When Claire turns 18 and can move out on her own, she’s considering going no-contact with her parents. Once she doesn’t live with them anymore, she plans to speak out publicly about being the star of a YouTube channel. She’ll even use her real name. Claire wants people to know how her childhood was overshadowed by social media stardom that she didn’t choose.  And she wants her parents to know: “nothing they do now is going to take back the years of work I had to put in.”

It would be easy to judge these parents as monsters. But, I am thankful Instagram and TikTok did NOT exist when my kids were young. Wait, I’ll retract my statement and call it exploitation of children. I guess that’s being judgmental, right?

I had Facebook when my kids were growing up and my pages were an embarrassing brag-site of my amazing, marvelous kids! It’s nauseating to look back on.

As my daughter got older, her friends would bully or tease her about awkward tween years’ photos I posted. She asked me to NOT post anything about her without permission. I mostly followed her wishes. Maybe slipping up a few times.

Although I look negatively at parents who use their children as cash cows, like I said, I’m glad it wasn’t something I had an option to do. Unlike TV and movie parents, there are no protections for kids who are content on their parents’ social media sites. The article goes into detail about how contracts with TV and movies have protections for children and they get money put into a trust.

By the way, I also didn’t think it was right for swim parents to put pressure on their swim kids to earn college scholarships. I had a weekly column about swim parenting HERE. Too much pressure, period. However, if a scholarship did happen, that’s icing on the cake of all the valuable lessons and friendships gained through sports.

I look at the harm social media has done to our kids who grew up with it. Suicide, depression, anxiety and eating disorders are running rampant. I wonder how these teens are doing who were used as influencers since toddlerhood?

I have a weekly zoom call where we talk about all sorts of current subjects. We are a variety of ages, religions and a spectrum of political persuasions. One of the topics we’ll talk about next week is social media and our youth. Here’s A LINK to a Surgeon General’s Advisory from the Department of Health and Human Services that I received from the group yesterday. In the article is a pdf from the Surgeon General.

What thoughts do you have about parents using kids as influencers on social media? What thoughts do you have about the affects of social media on our youth?

48 thoughts on “Parents cashing in on kids

  1. Personally I remember getting caught up in social media like FB when it first became a big deal, and yes- my kids were often the focus. I really can’t imagine turning life on end though to turn my kids into money making entities. I would also use the word exploitation like you did EA- especially when they have no ability to choose for themselves. My own kids have chosen to drop SM from their lives- 2 of them so fully that it has been well over 15 years and they have no intent to return. I no longer use any myself.

    • Yes, it is exploitation to turn your children into breadwinners when they have no choice. That’s great that your kids dropped social media. My kids have, too. I still have a FB account, but rarely look at it.

  2. I’m not a parent myself, but also view it as exploitation, especially when the parents bully and guilt the child into participating against their wishes. I’ve been off social media for 10 years and don’t miss it… in retrospect, I’m much happier not have a glimpse into other people’s highlight reels.

    • I rarely look at FB anymore. It’s been years for me also. I did get unhappy looking at other people’s highlight reels. It made me feel left out or sad.

  3. Interesting. I had a conversation with my daughter about something I saw on Instagram, a little girl giving positive reinforcement messages, and she said that she doesn’t watch those clips because that child isn’t old enough to have those thoughts for herself so someone is coaching her on what to say. I just thought it was cute but she’s right. Who knows how long the parents had to teach the child what to say or how many times they had to do the video to get it right?

  4. I agree that it’s an exploitation of their children and should be shunned. A child has no opinions till a certain age and parents shouldn’t cash on their cuteness to make money.

  5. I follow FB for a teacher site about our local district (very revealing) and a gardening site. Also for fun-people who just moved to Florida. I sometimes check up on teacher friends-one in Mongolia and the other working in Alaska. It is still informative but I rarely post for many reasons. The social media the kids follow in schools is unknown to me and I prefer it that way as I try to keep informed but not be involved in their social media games. I do find what people say on sites like Next Door Neighbor informative and also entertaining. I don’t get depressed by social media as I think it is fiction sometimes but we all have our moments.

    • I just got connected with Next Door in our area. It’s interesting with lots of bob cat kitten photos! There was a lot of bullying going on in high school with my daughter and her teammates. It was sad to see them sitting at a meet all on their phones and not interacting like they did as younger kids.

  6. When our daughter was five, we were appalled that our pediatrician wanted to refer us to a modeling agency, specializing in print and TV ads, and commercials featuring kids. He boldly recommended a talent agent to us. All without any prompting…solely based on our little girl’s height and “photogenic face”. I think he thought he was doing us a favor, but we never looked back…but boy, did we switch doctors and FAST. Thanks for sharing the snippet from the article, Elizabeth. Wow. 😔

    • Wow indeed! That’s odd your doctor would recommend a modeling agency! That seems out of the norm. Your daughter must have been precious! I did have a friend with identical twin boys the same age as my son. She was getting lots of commercial work in LA for them because they were twin babies, then toddlers, and they could be in the same role, when one got distracted or cranky.

      • That’s funny! I was close to a set of twins growing up who were briefly the Wrigley “double mint” twins. And yes…the pediatrician thing was weird…our daughter was cute…but all little ones are. 😉It felt creepy and she was so very shy…it would’ve been a terrible idea if we’d been interested.

      • I remember the double mint twins! How fun. That would have been a terrible idea to force a shy child to do that. My mom was asked I wanted to be Gretl in a play “The Sound of Music” at the Seattle Playhouse by her director of Little Red Riding Hood. I said no. I too was very shy. I remember going to the play with my mom and wishing I had done it.

      • Oh, how interesting…yes. Those “moment in time” things…knowing when to encourage and push a little, as parents, vs. giving space. I bet you would’ve been an adorable little Gretl. 🥰

  7. I have a FB account just to see what family is up to (they are global and afraid of making phone calls). I just became a grandfather and my daughter is clear, super clear, her child is not to be on FB or any social media platform. I am not to mention the childs name. Know what? I am cool with that. I get her permission before I send text to friends with the latest pix.

  8. Oh wow, what an interesting article and post. Gives me a lot to think about since my kids are still so young. I try not to post anything that would embarrass them but clearly that is a judgment call and one they could very well disagree with in the future. Thanks for the food for thought, Elizabeth!

  9. I really feel for that girl and agree that its exploitation! To guilt a child to get your way is just plain wrong! I wonder how comforting their big house will be once she cuts herself from their lives.

    Social media is good and bad, but definitely has created many problems in society!! SAD! As my youngest has said, “we have forgotten how to talk to people. How to communicate face to face!”

  10. That situation sounds appalling. She should get herself an attorney and get compensated, as well as getting emancipated asap. Just wrong on every level.

  11. You know I think social media can be horrible for everyone if not done in moderation. I also don’t like using kids as social media props. If you post a pic of your kid so your family can see it and share the moment I’m ok with it. Once you start creating content so you get lots of views using your kids, wrong wrong wrong

  12. My thoughts on social media and youth is the less the better. They need to be focused on so many other things and studies show it’s tragic for their self-esteem. I don’t think it’s necessary as a parent to populate my site exclusively with photos of my kids or grandkids. Once in a while is fine but it should not dominate your site. I’m with you Elizabeth, I’m glad they didn’t have most of this stuff when my kids were growing up. Hugs, C

    • I see a difference between my son who was 30 and never got into social media, and my daughter three years younger, who grew up more with social media. And not in a good way!

Leave a Reply