‘Kidstagram’ – should we be worried about children going viral?

They’re the bane of Facebook. Parents oversharing every aspect of their children’s lives, that is.

Almost all of us have deleted or unsubscribed from somebody on social media who shares a photo of their baby in every single outfit they own, or every time they laugh or every time they take a breath of air.

One of my Facebook friends recently shared a video of her toddler that went ‘viral’. I say this somewhat sarcastically because I’m not sure it was a viral sensation, given the fact that it was circulated to various media platforms by the parents themselves. Most of us think of viral videos as naturally-occurring internet sensations. This was anything but. It was deliberate and strategic.

It was a very cute video that of a baby arguing with her dad, despite the fact that she can’t speak and so her side of the argument consisted solely of gobbledygook.

It is a home video that I’m sure her parents will cherish for years to come. However, I am not one of her parents.
I really shouldn’t have seen this private family memory between a dad and his daughter. It is not the type of thing I should see twenty times a day in my newsfeed. I shouldn’t see it being retweeted and shared from other websites. It shouldn’t be a topic for strangers to ‘comment’ on.

It should be a video that they dig out on their little girl’s 21st birthday to embarrass her in front of her friends.

As the video of my Facebook friend’s daughter spread across the internet, she said that the goal was to make it on to the Ellen DeGeneres show. At first, I thought it was a joke but as time passed, it dawned on me that she was deadly serious.

Personally, I thought this was delusional. But it opened my eyes to the fact that this Facebook friend of mine honestly thought that sharing home videos of her daughter would bring her fame and fortune.

But then I thought of the countless children that I could name off the top of my head that I know from viral videos. Sophia Grace and Rosie, who sing Nicki Minaj songs on the Ellen show. David, who visited the dentist with his dad. Charlie and his big brother from ‘Charlie bit my finger’. Katy Perry fan Keenan Cahill. Even Keyboard Cat, who is technically not a child but you catch my drift.

The little girl’s parents have since set up a Twitter account to document the trials and tribulations of their family life. An Instagram account followed soon after, complete with a logo and hashtag.

I will admit that I rolled my eyes at the discovery of this but the more I creeped through the Twitter feed, I realised there was something quite special about her dad investing so much time in to creating a digital profile for his little girl in the hopes that he could make money from it and give up his day job to be a 24/7 family man. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that he was dead right. If I could avoid slaving away at a job I hated, I would.

And, it makes economic sense. Charlie and his brother have made £158,000 and counting. David Devore made $150,000. Sophia Grace and Rosie are set to make $50,000 for their first movie and $100,000 per sequel thereafter. Keenan Cahill is worth $425,000. The company behind Keyboard Cat are valued at over $1 million.

Let’s be honest, most of us would jump at the chance to make that amount of money that quickly. But can you put a price on your child’s right to privacy?

There is something unsettling about a baby having a digital footprint before it can even lift its own head up. Now I know that the majority of parents don’t post their home videos online with the hopes of making money from it. But they do make the decision to showcase their child on a somewhat public forum, and that’s scary.

We don’t know how this will affect children in years to come. YouTube and Facebook haven’t been around for that long. Then again, neither have the babies. It’s up to their parents to make the decision. If a parent wants to plaster their baby’s most precious moments all over Facebook, that is their decision.

It means that future Facebook users will inherit their digital footprint rather than create their own online identity. Now, there’s a scary prospect. I would never have allowed my mam or dad to set up my profile. But I guess the Twitterers and Instagrammers of the future won’t have that choice.

Laura Colgan

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