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Following the “cancellation” of James Charles, it is important to recognize the pitfalls of achieving YouTube fame at a young age. YouTube is not a healthy environment for children and teenagers to grow up in.
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is the most common question a kid is asked. While answers like astronaut and veterinarian are common, another career is quickly becoming popular: YouTuber.
The allure of this job, which did not even exist 15 years ago, is understandable. On the surface, being a YouTuber seems fun and easy. Who wouldn’t want to spend all day at home filming videos of themselves playing Fortnite or making slime?
Last month, a controversy involving James Charles showed the darker side of YouTube success. The popular beauty guru was “canceled” by millions of fans after fellow beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook accused him of disloyalty. The saga exposed how cutthroat and toxic the YouTube community can be. Charles voluntarily gave up being a normal teenager to be famous and is now paying the price.
Charles started his YouTube channel in 2015 at age 16. One year later, he became a spokesperson for CoverGirl. Becoming successful so quickly and at such a young age, while great for him, meant he missed out on the important final years of adolescence.
There have always been child stars, whether in movies or on Disney Channel. But there was always a barrier, however thin, between their public lives and private lives. Social media has drastically shrunk that barrier.
YouTubers voluntarily share so much on social media because that is how they make their money. Their audience is young and may feel entitled to know every miniscule detail of their favorite vlogger’s life. Followers of YouTubers are often so young they cannot possibly grasp how dangerous “cancel culture” can be or the consequences of spreading private information.
One of the most eye-opening parts of the controversy was seeing how much Charles lost for his mistakes. He is 20 years old now, but faced backlash for incidents that happened when he was a teenager.
Some transgressions do follow you from your teenage years. Still, most are forgiven because adults know that making mistakes comes with being a teenager. However, because of the internet, many poor decisions live forever.
Lessons Not Learned
Part of Tati Westbrook’s video included claims that Charles harassed straight men. Other internet stars made it seem as if he could not stand being romantically rejected. If that is true, it is probably linked to his early fame and not having people around him saying no.
Even though he was still in school, Charles missed out on the teenage experiences that help prepare you for adult life. Of course, he still had responsibilities, but skipping traditional, teenage milestones meant he did not gain the skills those events provide.
For many teenagers, a first job is with McDonald’s or Target. They do a lot of work for minimum wage and little benefits. But they develop a work ethic and stronger interviewing and communication skills.
To teenagers, failing a test or not getting asked to prom can seem like the end of the world. That is because, to them, it is. These minor disappointments are important in preparing them for greater ones later on in life.
Yet, teenage fame hinders this emotional development. Charles is still learning these lessons, albeit in a less traditional way. For him, unfortunately, this education is public and every misstep has the potential to ruin his reputation.
Another extraordinarily popular trend on YouTube is family vlogging. It is exactly what it sounds like: parents filming their children doing anything and everything. Creating a video of your day at the beach can be a fun family project. But the pressures of YouTube can be severely damaging to children.
Many of these channels are small and make no money at all. YouTube success, after all, is often based on luck. However, once a channel begins making a significant amount of money, some parents become more focused on it.
In order to cater to the specific interests of their young audience, many vlogs are now scripted. The desire to make enough on YouTube to be able to quit their jobs increases pressure on parents. It then directly increases pressure on kids to perform and act better.
One of the most popular family channels is The LaBrant Fam. Savannah and Cole LaBrant have two young daughters, ages 6 and 5 months, and over nine million subscribers. Much of their content is pre-planned, whether it is pranks or baby name reveals.
The young couple recently came under fire for an April Fool’s prank. They told their six-year-old that they could no longer keep their dog, bringing the girl to tears. Although some defended the two, saying their parents played pranks on them all the time, the LaBrant’s actions could hurt the emotional development of their daughter.
If a family vlog revolves around pranks or react videos, their kids may grow up not understanding when it is okay to lie. They could have trust issues later in life or have problems oversharing. Young children could grow up wondering if their friends only like them because they are famous.
In a parent’s search for fame, they can risk sacrificing their child’s adolescence. It will be interesting to see how children in family vlogs grow. They may be fine with having their entire lives documented or they may feel exploited.
Adolescence is a hard, but necessary time in everyone’s lives. It is where you learn loyalty, hard work, trust, and countless other life skills. In the mad scramble for internet fame, that is what is being sacrificed. Is it really worth it?