It’s Just A Little Content, Baby – The Ethics Of Sharing Your Kids Online

"It’s hard to know where to draw the line..."

Image via Pexels, Anna Shvets

Almost everyone enjoys watching videos of cute kids. How could you not? They’re hilarious, adorable, and often highly quotable – from “Charlie bit my finger” to “I smell like beef”, we have plenty of kids to thank for some of the most iconic cultural references and memes since the 2000s.

But the internet has grown immensely since then.

Social media is crawling with content that focuses on kids, shared in the hopes that people will be taken with a video of a child doing something sweet or funny. And it tends to work – family vlogs and channels with children at their forefront are wildly successful.

In fact, many kids are so popular online that their followings are up in the millions, with some even becoming their families highest income earners.

Take YouTube toy reviewer Ryan Kaji, who made the Forbes list of the world’s highest paid YouTube stars when his revenue hit over $29 million – at just nine years old. Nine! 

So, why wouldn’t you want to share your kids on the internet? You probably already have an idea as to why some aren’t keen on the notion.

The ethics surrounding blogging children’s lives (whether in brief moments or for fully fledged kiddy channels) is a topic that has been buzzing around in the collective consciousness of internet users for some time now. Concerns include everything from children’s privacy and safety, to questions around child labour and exploitation.

Image via Pexels, Artem Podrez

In fact, US state Illinois recently passed first of it’s kind legislation which ensures that those under 16 who are featured in online content must get a portion of the profits from that content.

However no such law exists in Ireland. As it stands, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland has guidelines that say children should not be shown in unsafe or indecent situations online, but no regulation on how kids should be included in sponsored content or whether they receive any profits.

There’s also the question of whether sharing children online removes their ability to control their own narrative, erasing their autonomy or leaving them open to feeling embarrassment and resentment when they’re older.

We’re now deep enough into the technological age that some child social media stars are already grown up – and there’s a growing trend among those young adults to emancipate themselves from their families. 

It makes you wonder – is it fair to share content of kids online? And are the parents who do it putting their children at risk? 

There seems to be conflicting answers, and some might argue that there’s a spectrum. I mean, is a lifestyle blogger who occasionally shows clips of their little ones really the same as a TikTok account devoted to a child who performs constantly for the camera? It’s hard to know where to draw the line, and this is where things get complicated. 


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A post shared by Melanie Murphy (@melaniiemurphy)

Irish vlogger and author Melanie Murphy knew what her boundaries were going to be when it came to sharing her kids online. The YouTuber and influencer frequently discusses motherhood and parenting on her channel, with her children making appearances.

However, there’s one distinct difference in how Melanie’s children feature; their identities are kept totally private. This decision was made by Melanie after careful consideration with her husband, when they weighed up how their kids could be affected.

 “When I started posting to YouTube in 2013, ten years ago, I loved family vlog channels” Melanie tells me. “Honestly, I didn’t think much about the issue of sharing children online until I was pregnant with my first baby. My husband and I started to talk about my future online and how that would look, and after weighing up the pros and cons of sharing our baby’s name and face, it didn’t seem like something we could choose to do and still manage to sleep at night. The cons list was so incredibly heavy.” 

Melanie isn’t alone in this decision; there’s a growing inclination toward protecting kids by blurring their faces or keeping them off camera.

This comes as social media users note disturbing patterns online relating to family vlog channels, including children being sexualised in comments, and viewership ratios being heavily weighted toward middle aged men.

There have also been instances where images and clips of children taken from social media have appeared on pornographic websites, or families have had their addresses and personal information leaked online in chat forums.

Image via Pexels, Andy Barbour

Stories like these have reaffirmed Melanie’s choices, but it’s not just the dark side of the web that led her to guard her children’s privacy; it’s also simply the fact that they aren’t old enough to tell her what they want.

“There’s the risk of embarrassing them…I don’t want my kids to grow into teenagers and be able to Google their names only to find their entire lives sprawled across Google images. I don’t want to give them a digital footprint, I want them to be in full control of that.”

Of course, most parents who share their kids don’t mean any harm, and many reap benefits from the content that can help to provide for their children in a way that might not have been feasible before. Melanie knows that “many of these mothers have zero bad intentions.

“They’re very loving people who want to be able to be with their kids while earning enough money; their kids really enjoy making content because all the kids in school are so into that stuff these days;  they might get fun free trips to Disney…on the surface it seems like a win-win situation.” 

Though Melanie understands it, she feels “uncomfortable” about it…”because I think a lot of people are getting wrapped up in something that ultimately is damaging.”

In a world where the internet is intrinsically linked to our lives, and the lines between privacy and publicity are increasingly blurred, it feels like we might have to start changing our outlook on what we share; especially when it comes to looking after the newest generations. 

This feature is from the Oct/Nov issue of STELLAR Magazine, on shelves now.