The highest-paid earner on YouTube isn’t old enough to get a driver’s license. He’s nine. His name is Ryan, and his channel made 26-million dollars last year. In fact, two of the top three global earners on YouTube last year are under 10 years old. The third-highest earner was a six-year-old Russian girl, who brought in 18-million dollars.
Recently, lawmakers in France passed a bill that contained similar labor protections for child social media as for child actors and models. While protecting kids is always laudable, it feels a bit strange calling this new law a “win.”
Several months ago in a BreakPoint commentary, we discussed a teenage pop music star named Billie Eilish, who swept the 2020 Grammy Awards. Our concerns about how Eilish has been exploited to make money apply here, too. When childhoods are directed toward building media empires, young YouTube stars and elementary-aged social media influencers earn money by broadcasting their lives online and charging money for ad placement, all of this enabled, of course, by their parents and our society.
An especially weird but largely unquestioned societal norm is revealed by all of this. Our culture idolizes agency, justifying most anything by the capacity to act according to one’s will. All of our postmodern moral claims about sexuality hinge on agency. If an encounter was consensual, it was ok. If a baby is wanted, then it’s a baby. If couple wants to stay married, they should. If they don’t, they shouldn’t. No other questions need to be asked.
However, does anyone actually believe a six-year-old girl who thinks she’s just playing at the park with her dad but who’s actually being broadcast to millions of subscribers online has agency? Is it even possible for her to realize she’s the star of a kindergarten version of “The Truman Show?”
Of course not. Kids have no concept of the dangers that kind of publicity, not to mention money, can pose for her personal or relational well-being. We only need check in on Corey Feldman and Britney Spears to see what should be obvious. The people meant to protect them aren’t French lawmakers concerned about their “workload,” as noble as that intention is. The people meant to protect them are their parents.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Maria Baer