Let’s Not Pretend Children Can Consent To Being In Viral Videos

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viral-video-kidsWhen I see a viral video of a child, I am always clear about who the video is really for – their parents. A young child can’t consent to being a viral video star, any more than they could film the video and upload it to YouTube on their own.

The NYT opinion page is hosting a debate this week – Should Parents Share Images Of Their Kids Online? Different experts weighed in – as did a father whose video of his son returning from a trip from the dentist, clearly high as a kite, went viral. So did the father who created the “Christmas Jammies” viral sensation of last holiday season. The experts who weighed in were in agreement that we should be giving our kids a chance at privacy online. The fathers who produced the viral videos think they were harmless – one even went as far as to claim that his 4-year-old has veto power over videos. I call bullshit on that.

Penn Holderness‘ job is making viral videos, so it’s no surprise that his formula worked and his Christmas Jammies video went viral. The video was not a happy accident, it was a carefully choreographed video made with shareability in mind. It worked – his family was a holiday sensation. He says of the video, “I’d rather show people my super cute kids than tell them how much my house is worth, wouldn’t you?” I’m not sure what those two things have to do with each other. .

Parents have the right to make decisions on behalf of their kids – we do so all the time. If you want to make your child into a viral video star – go ahead. You’re the parent and you obviously understand the repercussions of what you are doing. Just don’t act like your children are making these decisions. Your then 3-year-old did not consent to being in that Christmas Jammies video – because 3-year-olds do not have that power.

David After Dentist was a little different. The video portrays David E. DeVore‘s then 7-year-old son, David, returning home from a trip to the dentist, clearly doped up. The kid is confused and high and any of us who have been confused and high can relate to how funny and odd it is to see a child in that state. I laughed at it – I certainly didn’t think it was abusive or anything. David Sr. has this to say about how his son feels about it:

“He has enjoyed all the experiences we have had with the video but there is so much more to him. He is into sports, school, church – the video is just part of a life he is living to the fullest.”

There is a market for viral videos of children and parents who upload this kind of content with the intent of sharing it know that. It’s up to each parent to decide if it’s right for their family at the time – but they won’t truly know the repercussions of the attention the video brings until after it goes viral. The fact it hasn’t embarrassed your child in any way is a happy accident – and it would be nice to actually hear the parent of one of these viral stars admit that.

(photo: YouTube)