On the surface, family vlogs might seem like wholesome, positive videos that show the funny and happy side of raising a family and can even highlight the challenging moments of parenting in an engaging way. If you grew up watching family sitcoms like Full House and Family Matters, family vlogs are a modern-day version of that. They’re family shows for the digital age.
But if you go just a little bit past the surface, you’ll see that family vlogs are not all smiles, family trips, and grocery hauls. There’s a dark side to family vlogging where parents become so obsessed with money and views, that they end up posting questionable content and forcing their kids to perform in front of millions even when they clearly don’t want to.
These fame-hungry parents also post their child’s most intimate and embarrassing moments for the world to see, including that child’s future classmates, bosses, and colleagues.
Despite the attempts to look wholesome and happy, many family vlog channels exploit their own children for clicks and views and even put their kids in danger to catch a viral moment.
The Ace Family
It’s very telling that one of the most followed family channels on the internet is also the most controversial. The Ace Family currently has 18.6 million subscribers on YouTube and continues to make news headlines due to their questionable and unscrupulous behavior.
The Ace Family channel is run by Austin and Catherine McBroom. They have three kids which they exploit for views any chance they get. Austin is typically the one under fire for different controversies like cheating, assault, and having a disastrous and overpriced festival. The Ace Family is currently dealing with several lawsuits regarding a breach of contract, fraud, not paying workers, and other shady business practices.
On top of all of those controversies, Austin has also been canceled several times due to questionable behavior around kids including buying a child a phallus-shaped lollipop at Spencer’s and vlogging it, spanking his then four-year-old daughter’s bottom in a sexually suggestive way, posting a TikTok of his then four-year-old daughter twerking while wearing a crop top, and using his daughter crying as clickbait in countless videos.
There’s also a viral clip showing how staged the Ace Family videos are. The video shows Austin getting annoyed and swearing at Catherine while they try to shoot an intro for one of their vlogs. After Austin gets upset, the entire family does another take of their intro, faking happiness for the camera.
It’s really disturbing to see their oldest daughter automatically performing for the camera and doing a retake without even needing to be asked. It’s clear that she has been coached and trained to perform on cue at her parents’ whims.
The McBroom’s three children only know life in front of the camera and have their entire lives online for millions to see. During times of crisis when the kids are obviously upset, their parents’ first reaction is to pull out their cameras and record their most vulnerable moments that will exist forever online.
When the McBroom kids get older, they might not want to be all over the internet, but even if their family deletes any videos with their kids in it, which they most likely would never do even if their kids ask, it’s still online permanently due to people downloading their clips and commenting on them in reaction videos.
An entire book could be written about all the Ace Family controversies, but this is far from the only family vlog channel that has made the news due to toxic behavior.
As if the Ace Family weren’t bad enough, the Stauffer family is actually worse and more exploitative. Myka Stauffer used to be a big family influencer. She had two successful YouTube channels with over 700,000 subscribers on her personal channel and over 300,000 subs on her family channel, both of which are now deleted. Her Instagram is still up, but she hasn’t posted anything since deservedly getting canceled back in 2020.
Myka was canceled after releasing a video on her channel where she sat with her husband, James, and talked about “rehoming” the son that she adopted from China.
What made Myka’s actions worse was the fact that she used the entire adoption process as clickbait on her channels. She posted every detail of the adoption and put her adopted son’s face on her videos and Instagram, clearly exploiting him for views.
Before the adoption process began, Myka made a video announcing her adoption plans. In the video, she talked about how she wanted to adopt a child with special needs and how she was fully capable of caring for a special needs child.
Before adopting the child from China, she was told he had a condition that could get worse over time. A doctor even scanned his brain and tried to discourage Myka from adopting because the child’s condition was serious.
The disgraced vlogger also promised that she would never return her son, saying, “He’s our son, and that’s that!…We’re not going to trade him in. We’re not going to return him. He’s our boy.”
Despite all the warnings from professionals, Myka flew to China and adopted the child anyway, using him to get views on her social media accounts.
Myka and her husband had their adopted son in their family for 2 years before announcing on YouTube that they were giving up their son due to doctors telling them that he needed more care than the Stauffers were able to provide. They didn’t go into detail about what serious medical condition he had, but they did mention he was diagnosed with autism.
She went on to talk about how her former adopted son was sent to a home with a family who has a medical background and who are better equipped to care for a child with special needs. After that disturbing revelation, Myka kept posting videos about her morning routine and decluttering techniques as if everything was normal.
People were outraged by Myka’s actions and called for the brands working with Myka to stop partnering with her. Myka lost a lot of brand deals and her story was all over the news. She ended up deleting both of her YouTube channels and has been silent on social media ever since.
YouTube is not the only site with family vloggers. Now that TikTok is dominating the social media space, there are countless TikTok family vlogs too.
Jacquelyn Eleanor has a TikTok channel with over 17 million followers where she uploads videos of her 4-year-old daughter.
A group of moms on TikTok discovered something disturbing about the kinds of people who watch Jacquelyn’s videos. It upset them so much that they ended up removing all videos and images of their children online and are now spreading the word about children and internet safety.
This TikTok from a user named @justlivingmyjesslife explains why Jacquelyn Eleanor’s TikToks are so problematic. The most disturbing finding is how many videos of her 4-year-old child are downloaded and saved. A video of the toddler wearing a crop top was downloaded 45,000 times, while a video of the child eating a hotdog was downloaded 375,000 times.
Why would anyone want to download a random video of a toddler? The sad truth is that child predators save images and videos of kids they find on social media and even alter them and share them with other child predators online.
In an interview with the Innocent Lives Foundation, Sgt. Luis Menendez-Sierra from the Houston Police Department listed the types of photos that child predators look for online including babies in diapers, kids in bathing suits, and even kids wearing costumes and school uniforms.
It’s not Jacquelyn’s fault that child predators are looking at her TikToks, downloading her videos, and leaving creepy comments, but even after several articles were written about her channel attracting predators, it seemed like she doubled down on posting creepy and suggestive videos of her child.
There’s a Reddit sub that discusses all the creepy stuff Jacquelyn continues to post on her TikTok. When you look at the thumbnails and videos she chooses of her daughter, it does seem like Jacquelyn is purposely trying to bait child predators for more views.
Rolling Stone tried to reach the controversial mom for comment when they wrote an article about her, but she didn’t reply.
These family vlogs mentioned are just a few of the many examples of parents exploiting their children for views. Some family vlog channels not only make the news but end up being investigated by the police. One couple named Heather and Michael Martin, who ran a family vlog channel called FamilyofFive, abused their kids in the guise of “pranks” and uploaded their abuse onto their YouTube channel.
The abuse got so bad that the Martins lost custody of two of their children, were sentenced to 5 years of probation for child neglect, and were permanently banned from YouTube.
One can argue that these toxic family vlogs are just outliers and that not all family vlogs abuse their kids, but the problem is that there are no laws or regulations protecting kids in vlogs. It’s very easy for parents to exploit their kids for clout.
The toxic vloggers who make the news are just the ones that are bad at hiding their abuse, but what about the ones that are experts at putting on a perfectly wholesome façade whenever the cameras are on?
Children of Family Vloggers Speak Out
Many children of family vloggers have spoken out about the abuse and exploitation they suffered for their parents to get views. They have all wanted to remain anonymous due to safety and privacy reasons, but have shared their stories through letters and Reddit posts.
TikToker @caroline_easom who normally makes comedic videos, made a video where she read an anonymous letter from a teen whose entire life has been monetized, to raise awareness on child exploitation in family vlogs.
“To any parents that are considering starting a family vlog or monetizing your children’s lives on the public internet, here is my advice, you shouldn’t do it. Any money you get will be greatly overshadowed by years of suffering and very hard work for you and your child to keep up with trends and media. And if you do manage to do it, your child will never be normal. You will be their boss and they will be your employee.” The letter begins.
Caroline’s powerful letter is worth watching all the way through to understand the pain caused in this teen’s life by family vlogging.
Another teen made a viral Reddit post about her experience as the child of family vloggers.
Part of her post reads,
“I’m going to list some stuff that happened and how it effected [sic] us
- my siblings and I were so paranoid there was cameras on us that the only place we felt comfortable changing was in the bathroom with the lights off
- I couldn’t talk to my mom about anything when my mental health began to get bad because I was too scared she’d share it online. If I’d asked her not to it wouldn’t have made a difference. I now barely have a relationship with my mom
- my mom considered homeschooling us so that she’d have more time to make content during the day
- my best friend’s mom said she didn’t want my friend to my friend anymore because my mom kept filming her without permission. My mom didn’t care how upset I was
- I didn’t have a single private moment. My mom woke me up with the camera on, and she often filmed right until we went to sleep
- she filmed us in the bath and although she’s tried to get it off the internet, it’s downloaded and online forever
- she shared when I got my period even though I told her I didn’t want her to
- someone attempted to kidnap my sister and found it easy because they knew her full name, address, school and details about her. My sister didn’t know he was a stranger because he knew so much about her.”
Teen Vogue features a compelling article highlighting the stories of children from influencer families, shedding light on the detrimental impact of family vlogs on kids who never consented to have their entire lives monetized.
Unlike child actors who can rely on laws that make sure the money they make is set aside for them and that limit the number of hours that they can work in a day, the children of family vloggers do not have any rights.
They are at the complete mercy of their parents. So, if their parents want them to perform for a vlog all day or eat food that they don’t want to eat for a mukbang, the children have to do it and might not see a cent of the money made by having their images used for views.
But someone is trying to change all that. Chris McCarty, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Washington, began advocating for children’s right to privacy online after following Myka Stauffer’s story on the news.
Rightfully disgusted by Stauffer’s story, McCarty started a website to end the monetization of minors on social media called Quit Clicking Kids.
McCarty has teamed up with Washington State Rep. Kristine Reeves, to introduce two bills in Washington state that protect children in for-profit family vlogs.
The bill still has a long way to go before it’s passed, but hopefully, it will gain steam and more laws will be passed to keep children safe and secure their rights so that parents can no longer exploit their children for cash.
The Rise of Respectful Parent Influencers
Not all parent influencers want to exploit their kids for clout. TikTok mom Mada Graviet used to post videos of her son but stopped once she saw that he didn’t want to be filmed and she started to realize how doing so could negatively affect him.
In a video explaining why her son was no longer on TikTok, Mada explained, “I don’t ever want him to feel like, ‘Make content for mommy!’ Like, I don’t want to do that anymore. It just didn’t feel good posting him anymore.”
TikToker Maia Knight began covering her twins’ faces after featuring them in most of her videos. In a video response to questions about why she was hiding her kids’ faces, Maia said, “They’re toddlers now and I have decided to not show them anymore.” She goes on to say, “I’m making a choice for my daughters to protect them.”
YouTuber Casey Neistat used to show his daughter’s face in his earlier vlogs but decided to start hiding her face for reasons that have not been directly addressed, but it can be assumed that it was to keep her safe.
The famous vlogger has had to deal with demented fans trespassing on his property before, so it makes sense that he wants to protect his family. Casey has two kids now and only shows the backs of their heads during the rare times that he posts new vlogs.
As more parents become aware of the dangers of putting their children on social media, there’s a growing discussion on whether or not kids should be on social media at all. With the recent wave of parent vloggers opting to keep their children out of the spotlight, family vlogs that show their kid’s faces might become a thing of the past.
Do you think it’s ok for kids to be on social media? Sound off in the comments!