Family vloggers: Good, clean fun or a plague on our houses?

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter, Viva, who will never be pranked for your entertainment.

I am a parent and I am aging, ergo my curmudgeonliness quotient is on the rise. It is unsurprising then, that I have felt extra crotchety in recent weeks as events and fads seemingly designed to stoke my cantanker have chased their errant wiffle balls onto my lawn. There are the rompers for men, which I would take as a hoax were I not skeptical that sartorial douchebaggery has limitless depth. There are the ubiquitous “fidget spinners,” a useful aid for learners with tactile and focus issues exploited to Tamagotchi levels of faddishness. Oh, and there’s that Spongebob meme … I doN’T gEt iT!!!  (But, then, I’ve never gotten Spongebob — just seems like dilute Ren & Stimpy to me. Do these fidget spinning kids with their $19 avocado toast even know who Ren and Stimpy were?) Perhaps a palantir-stroking internet steak salesman is the U.S. President we deserve.

One recent news story points to a trend that has ground my gears for years now. Perhaps you’ve read that YouTube star ‘DaddyOFive’ lost custody of his children after it was determined that his “prank” videos amounted to abuse. And there, dear reader, is my bête noir as a parent: YouTube families. Vloggers, if you will. (I don’t think I can.)

In the case of DaddyOFive, the families “prank” each other (he and his wife seemed to think pranking means swearing and screaming at your kid as they wail in fear and despair. I don’t recommend you look it up, you can’t unsee it.). Sometimes YouTubers do “stunts” (jumping off the roof into a pool kind of stuff), but most of them just open toys. It’s a twist on the “unboxing trend” you’ve no doubt read about before. People open toys on YouTube, get tens of millions of clicks, and then make literally millions of dollars. There are entire channels dedicated to families who do this together: ‘Hobby Kids TV,’ ‘The Engineering Family,’ ‘Doh Much Fun’ (Follow the link to enjoy that classic work of auteurism, “Bad Baby Eats Poop”) … the list goes on and on. The families are popular and very well payed. They are also incredibly tacky and do awful things to your kid’s brain.

The problem is this: the families are infectious (to the child viewer). They are having wild fun together! Dad is craaaazy! They have unlimited stockpiles of toys! They play every shooty video game! They use borderline or clearly bad language! (Lots of “badbutt” talk in most of these videos.) And they open many, many “blind” packaged toys (surprise eggs and blind bag figures which are packaged so you don’t know what’s in it until you open it).

If you’re looking to turn your already materialistic child into a zombie consumer with a potty mouth who wonders why you go to work instead of just running around the yard all day with a super soaker full of slime and a GoPro, let them watch these videos. These YouTube families are akin to the real world naughty family down the street with the torn basketball net in the driveway whom your kid wants to visit so they can sneak cigarettes and Playboys and eat Pixie Sticks and Bubble Tape for lunch while watching Cinemax, then go out in the yard and throw metal ninja stars at each other.

I don’t know how my daughter found these videos, (I think the gateway drug was alleged Brazilian adult film star turned toy unboxer, “Disney Collector”) but she’s VERY angry that I don’t let her watch the videos anymore. And let’s face it, YouTube is a cesspool; set all the child parameters all you want, if you don’t stand over your child they’ll eventually be watching a compilation of the goriest scenes from the Hellraiser films.

DaddyOFive has given me the perfect explanation for why Viva can’t watch these horrid videos anymore: the kids SEEM happy, but they are being exploited by their showboating parents for clicks. My only fear, and it’s a valid one, is that once she internalized that reasoning, she won’t sit still for her wacky pic for my dumb blog every Tuesday.

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