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Image / Self / Parenthood

The dark world of mommy vlogging takes another blow


By Holly O'Neill
16th Sep 2021
The dark world of mommy vlogging takes another blow

“Act like you’re crying.”

I would rather take a course on ball swelling caused by vaccinations from Nicki Minaj than engage in a discussion with anyone, especially the toxic online parenting community, about how they should raise children.

As a non-breeder, I have no qualifications to critique the raising of children and also deeply do not care. But as an online person with nearly 30 years of expertise in profound disdain for others, I do consider myself qualified to judge Internet behaviour, which is why I’ve gathered you here today.

The mommy vlogger (name a more emetic duo than these words, I’ll wait) community is facing another exposé of the lengths they will go to to get content from their children.

Some recent, heavily reported cases have included Lacey Spears, the mommy vlogger found guilty of second-degree murder for poisoning her son to death while she blogged about his illness; Machelle Hobson, charged with child abuse for beating, pepper-spraying, starving and locking her adopted children up for days if they didn’t remember their lines for videos; and last year, Myka Stauffer, who built a following by sharing every step of how her family adopted a toddler from China, crowd-funded and used him in baby brand sponsored content, then ‘rehomed’ him because of his medical needs.

The latest mommy vlogger facing backlash is Jordan Cheynne, over outtakes she forgot to remove from a recent video. The outtakes show her pressuring her son to pose for a thumbnail image for a video titled “we are heartbroken” which was quickly deleted by her but reuploaded by other users on social media, causing rapid outrage as it went viral.

In the video, Cheyenne and her 9-year-old son are in a car and upset over news that their new puppy is sick. Cheyenne is seen directing her crying son to pose more sadly for the camera, telling him, “act like you’re crying” while posing and fake crying herself, holding his head to hers, then brushing it off and saying, “it’s okay, it’s over.” It’s a chilling watch.

In a video titled “I am immensely disappointed in myself,” Cheyenne apologised, saying her “heart dropped” when she rewatched the footage. “It’s so wrong. I should never have done that,” she said. “Today I want to let you know I’m so disgusted with myself for posing for a thumbnail on such an emotional video. It made me take a step back and realize I need to just be way more present in the moment and not even be thinking about anything like this when things are happening in my life.”

Cheyenne, who has deleted her YouTube and Instagram accounts, then appeared on the YouTube podcast The Dad Challenge, saying she would no longer feature her son in any future videos. “It is an internal struggle because I do think people like seeing the family,” she said.

Cheyenne’s outtakes are a disturbing insight into the behind the scenes of family vlogging, and she’s not wrong about people liking to see the family; having kids in your videos is a known way to increase your YouTube views. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, YouTube videos that feature children under the age of 13 receive more than three times as many views as videos without children. YouTuber Jake Paul once invited a family to live in his house so he could vlog with Tydus, their four-year-old-son.

YouTube’s platform is not intended for children under the age of 13, so any child vlogging is done by parents, meaning any children accounts are not owned by the children. As popular kidfluencers now generate extreme wealth, there’s a risk of child exploitation. Last year, nine-year-old Ryan Kaji was the highest-paid YouTuber for the third year running, making more than €24 million from reviewing toys and €163.5 million in branded toys and clothes, in a year. But as families become reliant on YouTube revenue, at what point does family vlogging become work? There aren’t traditional child labour laws around social media, rules around sharing the personal (and often embarrassing) information of a child without their consent, guidelines around hours or even a guarantee that any earnings are protected for the children. Just a hope that the parents vlogging their children’s lives every day for attention and money are being responsible.

As the first generation of children whose lives were plastered online by their parents without their consent are now growing up, we’ve already begun to see hints of repercussions. In 2019, mommy blogger Christie Tate wrote in The Washington Post that her child had just got a laptop and found the extensive years of blogs and essays her mother had written about her life. Tate has written about their fights, her daughter’s tantrums, detailed fights her daughter had with friends at school and once about her “rather tenacious case of diarrhoea.”

Tate said she wouldn’t write about her daughter now without her permission but wouldn’t remove the pictures her daughter asked her to and won’t stop writing about her. “I respect that approach and understand why it works for many writers, but it’s not a promise I can make,” Tate wrote. “Certainly, my daughter is old enough now that I owe her a head’s up and a veto right on the pictures or on portions of the content, but I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing. And sometimes my stories will be inextricably linked to her experiences. Promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself, which isn’t necessarily good for me or her.”

There was also the viral Reddit Am I The Asshole? post from a teenager who said she ordered hoodies emblazoned with the words ‘no photos,’ ‘no videos,’ ‘I do not consent to be photographed,’ ‘no cameras’ and ‘no profiting off my image’ for her and her nine-year-old sister who wanted their mommy blogger mother to stop posting about them.

“My mom was mad when they showed up, and really mad when I’m wearing mine,” says the post, saying her mother “negotiates me into letting her post, like either by saying that’s how she makes income so if I want money for something, to stop arguing about pictures. Or posting without asking and then saying I thought it would be ok because your face wasn’t visible / you’re just in the background, etc. And I’m always like “no you didn’t THINK. if you thought at all you’d remember what I said I want.” No new pictures of me or mentions of me online. Remove all pictures that include me that you’ve ever posted. And delete any writing that mentions me. I am just so fed up, and upset that my mom is mad at me for wearing my new hoodie every day. She’s mad I won’t take it off for any event and thinks it’s inappropriate to wear to certain things.”

Are we going to have a ton of children in the next few years with extreme talent at video editing using their extensive archive of childhood videos to vlog about exploitation under their own parents in return?

In summary; if you’re truly concerned about your children being trolled, exposed to pervs or feeling used when they’re older, quit the emojis over their face, put your videos into your extended family WhatsApp groups and stop making your children work for attention and ad money. You absolute weirdos.

Photography via YouTube.