The Exploitation of Children on Social Media

Parents+exploit+their+children+for+likes%2C+followers%2C+and+profit+on+social+media+platforms.

Courtesy of Humanium

Parents exploit their children for likes, followers, and profit on social media platforms.

Tiana Salisbury, Editor

Today, many parents create and run social media accounts for their children. Whether this is on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, or another platform, parents highlight parts of their child’s life to attract followers and ultimately profit. Although many posts and videos of children seem cheerful and enjoyable from a viewer’s perspective, the extensive work done by parents behind the scenes raises concerns over the well-being of children who have a strong presence on social media.

People’s interest in children on social media is increasing and will likely continue to grow substantially. In fact, a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that videos of children under the age of thirteen receive three times as many views as videos of adults and teenagers. This alarming statistic indicates the recent popularity of children on social media. With this increasing popularity, children have also been able to profit greatly from their videos and posts. For example, YouTuber Ryan Kaji was named Forbes’ 2020 top-earning YouTube star after earning $29.5 million in one year–he was nine years old at the time.

Since some children can earn a lot of money from social media, some parents’ greed overcomes their morality. In an attempt to cash in on the lucrative industry, parents excessively pressure their children to maintain a regular updating schedule or invade their privacy by posting personal details about their lives. Parents may also post content about their children without their consent or demand that their children exaggerate their behaviors for the sake of viewer entertainment.

I find it very disappointing that parents are willing to put their child’s well-being at risk for the sake of satisfying followers or subscribers.”

— Juliana Neemeh (11)

An example of this occurred when vlogger Jordan Cheyenne accidentally forgot to cut off the end of her YouTube video when she told her son, “Act like you’re crying.” The family dog had been battling a fatal canine disease, and Cheyenne’s son was already in tears, but his sadness was not good enough to satisfy viewers. This is just one of the many incidents of children being exploited for views, and it is certainly not the last (Newsweek). Juliana Neemeh (11) was shocked to hear this story and said, “I find it very disappointing that parents are willing to put their child’s well-being at risk for the sake of satisfying followers or subscribers.”

Exposure to social media at a younger age also causes children to be more susceptible to hate comments and content. This negatively affects children’s mental health, which could potentially cause mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression (HelpGuide). 

Numerous laws have been passed to limit the extent of child exploitation on social media. In 1939, the California Child Actors Bill (or the Coogan Act) was passed in response to Jackie Coogan’s troubles as a child star. As a child actor, he earned millions of dollars, but when he reached adulthood, he found out that his mother and stepfather spent most of his money. This law states that 15% of a child’s actor’s money would be placed in a trust that would be given back to the child once he or she is an adult. 

More recently, the Kids Online Safety Act was introduced to provide children and their parents with resources to protect children against the harms of social media. This act requires social media platforms to put children’s best interests before profit, which will hopefully make social media a safer place for children and their mental health.