Family Youtube Channels are a New Kind of Unregulated Child Abuse

And they’re endangering more children than we could possibly imagine.

Gillian Sisley
Jul 3 · 7 min read

From Myka Stauffer to 8 Passengers — we’ve got a crisis on our hands.

If you’ve been paying attention to online news, you’ve likely heard one of these two Family Channel scandal stories recently.

The Stauffers and 8 Passengers are the most recent examples of family misconduct through YouTube content, but certainly not the first.

FamilyOFive was one of the first family channels on YouTube to get noticed for the wrong reasons — through videos pranking their kids, encouraging them to hit one another and blatant acts of verbal abuse, viewers were horrified. The parents, Heather and Michael Martin were ultimately charged and convicted in 2017 with 5 years probation for child neglect.

The Stauffers are the family who recently came under fire when they tried to secretly rehome their autistic, adopted son of two years, Huxley, hoping viewers wouldn’t notice. Of course, their followers did indeed notice he was no longer in videos, which resulted in a huge backlash from upset users who commented in floods on the poor treatment of Huxley, compared to his siblings (who were biological children of the parents). You can read more about that situation below:

After being investigated following the outpouring of concern for the Stauffer children, it has recently been found that Myka Stauffer and her husband James will not be charged for their handling of privately rehoming their former child, Huxley.

And the most recent family channel to come under fire is the Frankes, also known as 8 Passengers. They are another set of parents who document the daily lives of their family and children, and are known for their Mormon values and strict parenting practices.

One of their sons recently exposed them for what is being referred to as an excessive form of discipline —15-year-old Chad pranked his younger brother by saying they were going to Disney World. He was ultimately punished by being forced to sleep on two beanbag chairs (rather than in his own bed) for seven whole months.

There is currently a petition on Change.org requesting that CPS investigate Ruby and Kevin Franke for potential child neglect and abuse. There are 12,000+ signatures to date, and they’re looking to reach 15,000:

While these incidents are indeed shocking, family Youtube channels have been around for as long as YouTube has been operational — so we have over a decade of potentially unregulated child abuse and exploitation on the internet that is still not being properly managed to this day.

What can we do, as viewers, to change this?

Well, first we have to start conversations about the dangers here — and second, we need to start demanding change for the sake of these innocent children.

Let’s dig into why these channels can be so dangerous for the wellbeing of the kids on these family channels:

Prioritizing making money above their children’s well-being.

There’s a reason these channels are popular — they actually get a lot of views, and thus can make a lot of money.

That said, there comes a point when we have to ask, “Where should the ethical line be drawn?

When Myka Stauffer and her husband were exposed for having rehomed their adopted and autistic son, Huxley (they only admitted to what had happened after many fans had asked and their comments were deleted), viewers couldn’t help but notice some startling realities.

For one, Myka Stauffer's YoutTube channel skyrocketed in subscriptions and views as soon as the storyline of adopting a child from China came into play. Data shows that it was the introduction of Huxley that really made the Stauffer family channel reach massive success.

After years of precious Huxley bringing in hundreds of thousands of views from adoptive parents and parents of children with special needs who loved this little boy, Huxley was quietly rehomed — and I guess the Stauffers hoped no one would notice?

They finally fessed up that they had decided to rehome Huxley as he had “more needs than they felt equipped to handle”.

Viewers couldn’t help but notice that because of Huxley, the Stauffer family was making very good money on YouTube, and even after they rehomed him, they kept up all the videos that featured Huxley on their YouTube page.

In essence, they were still exploiting and making money off of this little boy, even after he was re-abandoned for the second time in his life.

It was only after a petition was started to have YouTube take down the videos with Huxley in them that the Stauffers made the videos private so that they could no longer be viewed. The petition is now closed, with a final count of 155,000 signatures from concerned citizens around the globe.

While it might be going a little far to speculate that Myka and James Stauffer only went through with the adoption, and in particular adopting a child with special needs, to increase their views and following on YouTube, there’s no denying that Huxley's existence brought that family the fame and fortune they have today from YouTube.

And for him then to be rehomed after several years with this family, following the way they benefitted from his existence in their home like a cash cow? Well, that’s just f*cking heartbreaking.

Narcissism disguised as the “perfect family”.

It’s important to keep in mind, these channels aren’t “unfiltered”.

These parents are showing you exactly what they want you to see.

And as for the parts that aren’t favourable?

Well, they just edit that out.

Or, at least they do their best to edit all of the bad-looking parts out, but the thing with narcissists is they think very highly of themselves.

If they’ve gained a big enough following, they might even consider themselves as untouchable.

They may believe that because there are so many people following their content, they can do no wrong.

Thankfully, reality in the form of reasonable and decent users will always be there to call out problematic and atrocious behaviour.

Documenting the lives of children for complete strangers also teaches the kids a pretty scary habit of assuming that they only have worth or value if the attention of the public is on them.

That sort of mentality leads to escalating behaviour to do more and more shocking things to get noticed, boost views or make money.

That’s no way to live a healthy and decent childhood.

The complete violation of privacy to follow kids throughout their entire lives.

Once it’s out on the internet, it’s out there forever.

Sure, these kids might not mind being in front of the camera now, but what about when they go to college, and all of their classmates know these awful, intimate details about their lives that they never gave consent to share?

Myka Stauffer routinely recorded little Huxley’s meltdowns (extremely common among children with autism who have difficulty communicating their needs and get understandably frustrated), and she could be seen in videos mocking him by asking, “Are you done yet? Is this over with?”. She would then look back at the camera and say something along the lines of, “See what I have to deal with every day?

These kids aren’t allowed to just be kids — they’re used as cash cows by exploiting their privacy and sharing their entire lives with complete strangers on the internet before they are of the age to consent to participating.

Parents are supposed to protect their children from exploitation — not be the ones milking every penny they can get out of their own kids.

Children deserve the chance to have a healthy childhood.

I don’t believe it fair to deny a normal childhood to one’s children so that you can use their growing up as an endless content mill and money grab.

The home is meant to be a safe place where any person can escape to at the end of the day to unwind — but for the children who are filmed by their YouTuber parents, there is no safe space.

Their home, their bedrooms, their problems and issues are all documented and shared with the world for all to see — just so that their parents could make a hefty paycheck.

How incredibly awful is that?

We call these “Family Channels”, when in all reality the management and production of these channels are done by the parents, and the children ultimately have no say in whether they want to participate.

My hope is that through these scandals, and the petitions that are being created each time, real change can take place.

That more strict laws can be activated to grant these kids the childhood they deserve, and the privacy they have rights to as human beings.

I also hope that parents think more carefully and seriously about their children’s safety and wellbeing before putting their kid’s lives out into the open for the whole world to see, as a form of entertainment.

Children cannot be their own advocates — they need their parents to advocate for them. And when advocating for them, parents must do best by them.

But to exploit children for monetary gain? Well, that’s not exactly healthy or ethical parenting.

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This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories…

Gillian Sisley

Written by

Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about womanhood, writing & entrepreneurship. Never miss a single beat 👉 https://bit.ly/33XgtKT

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Gillian Sisley

Written by

Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about womanhood, writing & entrepreneurship. Never miss a single beat 👉 https://bit.ly/33XgtKT

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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