July 14, 2024

Protect the kids: the dark reality behind children in media  

Now more than ever, it is becoming vital to educate parents on the importance of protecting their children from mass media, including simply posting an innocent video of a child on a personal page to the exploitation of family channels and child stars. 

What may seem innocent at the time can quickly become something much darker, and this can be easily observed by some of the situations that have arisen in the last year alone that deal with the exploitation of children in the media. 

It is no secret people have begun to question the ethicality of family channels or platforms that are dedicated to young children, with concerns for the safety of the children and the overexposure of their lives from a very young age. After all, these children cannot give informed consent and often have embarrassing moments blasted on the internet. 

Family channels have flourished on social media for many years, with YouTube being the biggest home to this genre, but families have also found success on TikTok and Instagram as well. 

It was not until recently that people started to question whether the use of young children in this content was actually ethical or even safe. 

Children cannot give proper consent to being involved in the videos that their parents choose to post. There are currently no laws that prevent the parents from doing this, so there are no legal issues. Ethically, however, it is a different story. 

There have also been cases of parents taking these channels too far, to the point where the law did get involved

Most recently, Ruby Franke of the channel “8 Passengers” was arrested for the neglect and abuse of her two youngest children. This case has taken the media by a storm, given Franke had spent years producing videos of her unique parenting style and punishment techniques, such as taking away her son’s bed for months. 

Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested for “causing or permitting serious injury to the children via a combination of physical injuries or torture, starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life, and causing severe emotional harm.” 

This follows the 2019 arrest of Machelle Hobson of the “Fantastic Adventures” channel for abusing and torturing her seven adopted children for “subpar” performance on their channel, as well as the 2017 arrest of Mike and Heather Martin of the channel “DaddyOFive” for the physical and mental abuse of their children. 

Another danger of these channels and platforms is the ability for videos of minors to end up on dark sides of the internet. 

A major topic of conversation on TikTok has been about the account @wren.eleanor, which is a Tik Tok account dedicated to four-year-old Wren Eleanor and is run by her mother Jacquelyn Paul. 

This account is solely dedicated to a four-year-old child who cannot consent to the videos being posted by her mother. 

There is also concern that some of the content which is seemingly innocent is fueling internet predators. Content like Wren eating a hot dog, drinking out of a straw, being startled by frozen honey and wearing outfits that are not age appropriate are just some examples of the suggestive content she produces about her child. 

Dan Schneider, former producer for Nickelodeon, who has been accused of acting inappropriately on set of the shows he is credited as a producer for.

Paul has released a video statement denying that Wren’s likeness has been found on any shady websites, saying she has been working closely with the FBI to ensure this, but many are still concerned about Wren’s safety.

 In the video, she says that “Wren’s upbringing and safety are her top job 24 hours a day and the account has allowed her to provide for her daughter and set aside money for her future.” 

Many believe that if she truly cared about Wren’s safety, she would listen to the concerns being expressed and stop posting videos of Wren, but Paul seems to filter comments and ignores the growing popularity of the hashtag #SaveWren. 

Other Tik Tok accounts that began as “family accounts” or mostly posted content surrounding their young children have taken the steps to remove their children’s faces partially or entirely from their accounts. Maia Knight gained a lot of attention for her twins, Scout and Violet, on her account but has since taken down videos including their faces and blurs them out whenever they are in a video. 

Another issue that is gaining traction in the media is the safety of child stars. 

Recently, a docu-series titled “Quiet on Set” was released, detailing the misconduct and alarming nature of Dan Schneider, who was a notable producer on Nickelodeon and is credited for shows such as “iCarly,” “Victorious,” “Sam and Cat,” “Drake and Josh,” “The Amanda Show” and many more. 

Schneider was accused of being racist, sexist and verbally abusive. There is also evidence to back up that he often wrote and produced content with laces of sexual innuendos for shows that were marketed towards children. 

Child star, Jennette McCurdy, who is known for her reoccurring role of Sam Puckett, has spoken out against Dan Schneider and Nickelodeon in her book.

It was also revealed in the documentary that child star, Drake Bell, was sexually assaulted by Brian Peck who was an acting and dialogue coach for Nickelodeon. 

Jennette McCurdy, known for her role as Sam Puckett on “iCarly” and “Sam and Cat,” has also come out with allegations against Schneider, stating that he “had her drink alcohol underage, massaged her shoulders, and made her feel uncomfortable by insisting she wore a small bikini in the show at 15.” 

All of the horror stories of family channels and child stars lead many to wonder if laws need to be made to protect children and their likeness from the dangers of the media. 

Since there currently remains no written law with explicit purposes of protecting children in the media, many content creators are getting away with content that is harmful and blatantly dangerous for the minors who are involved. 

There are calls for legislation to be put into place that will address the concerns of the safety of children in all forms of media, as it is growing into an issue that can no longer be ignored. 

There appears to be no rush to pass this type of legislation, but the growing conversation around the topic is a step in the right direction. 

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