Don’t Put Your daughter on The Stage Mrs Worthington! Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage! So wrote Noel Coward in his famous song about stage mothers.
Ah Stage Mothers! Many would think that they are a dying breed these days. In my youth they seemed to be everywhere, especially in the World of Ballet where I spent much of my time. I remember one mother who was so intent on her daughter becoming the next prima ballerina, that she would spend hours perfecting ringlets on her daughter’s hair, as if it would somehow improve her dance ability. In fact, my mother could have been one. The archetypal pushy mother who wanted her daughter to achieve success and fame for her own wealth and glory.
When we look back over time, child stars rarely have it easy. They peak too soon and because of this, they often spend the rest of their lives attempting to return to their childhood. There are so many examples of childhood fame leading to pain in adult life. Think of Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Macaulay Culkin, Tatum O’Neale. In fact, I cannot remember one childhood star who has made the transition into adulthood, without some bumps along the way. As a society, we now acknowledge that early media attention and scrutiny can cause havoc for a child’s future life.
We are now living in an age where child protection is paramount. We recognise that the internet is not always a safe place for our children. Many parents are cautious of how they allow their children to use the internet because they rightly believe that we are not yet fully aware of all the possible hazards. With this in mind, and with our knowledge of how early fame can damage a child’s future, why then do we continue to allow these Mummy Vloggers to expose their children in their videos and on social media, with no consideration of the consequences or impact on their future lives? To me, this seems like a huge anomaly of modern times. As a society we seem to permit this, as we think that no harm can surely come from showing our children at play or in their daily lives. But is this belief naïve? Is it about time that we really considered the full implications of exposing children in this way?
There are those who have spoken up and called out the Mummy Vloggers for what they believe is a blatant ploy of using their children to sell products and to add ‘content’ to their videos. Yet they are frequently met with hostility and accusations of trolling. But is it appropriate to post videos on the internet of some of our children’s most private moments? These Mummy Vloggers might claim that they are just recording their children’s milestones and it is lovely for them and their children to look back on such special moments as birthdays and holidays. Yet, I have seen videos of Mummy Vloggers giving birth, recording a toddler’s meltdown, as well as those where they speak badly of their children and detail their ‘difficult’ behaviour. Is this really entertainment and more importantly, is it appropriate?
Something that seems to have been ignored is the impact this will have on a child’s daily life. If you are putting your child on the internet into the public domain, then surely you are opening them up to criticism from complete strangers? Furthermore, what about the response from their peers at school? These Mummy Vloggers are frequently heavily sponsored by companies who see them as just another form of advertising, and they all seem to have similar décor in their homes, similar holidays paid for by travel companies and similar supposedly ‘perfect’ lives. I would be concerned about the reaction from other children in the playground who have parents who have comparatively ‘normal’ lives and ‘normal’ jobs. Many families are not able to afford such luxuries as endless shopping hauls and Disney trips. This will inevitably lead to jealousy and sadly, even name-calling or bullying. In my experience, children like to fit in with their peers and not stand out. Sadly, I do not think that these Mummy Vloggers have fully considered their children’s happiness.
If I were to be completely objective, then perhaps the reason that none of these Mummy Vloggers have ever considered the impact on their children, might be because many of them never believed that they would become such a huge success. Mummy vlogging is a recent phenomenon. It was not part of a strategic plan, therefore the full implications were never considered. Sadly, it is now becoming something of a monster. Everyone seems to be doing it, in a relentless quest to give their children whatever material benefits they desire. But giving your children every material comfort is not a sign of bringing your children up well. Instead of providing them with these amazing holidays and toys, shouldn’t they be focusing on their emotional and mental well-being instead?
In the early 70s, the film maker Paul Watson, brought out the very first example of reality television when he filmed a family in Reading named the Wilcox Family, going about their daily lives. It was termed, a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary. The family became overnight sensations and the media relentlessly focused on them, always trying to find the next sensational headline. Many years later, when interviewed, the family spoke of the negative side of having your normality filmed and projected into everyone else’s living room each week. We have recently seen some incredibly sad stories of reality television stars turning to alcohol and drugs to deal with fame. There have even been cases where reality stars have taken their own lives. Surely if adults find fame so hard to deal with, then it is going to be far worse for young children?
The most serious concern of putting your children into the public domain must be who is viewing these films? Yes, there will always be mothers in similar situations but what about paedophiles being able to view your children? Many Police forces speak out about the harm of putting your children on such a public platform with no idea who is watching and how the content can be altered or misused. The Police publish a safety guide to parents accessing the internet, and in this they make it very clear that parents should warn their children frequently about the dangers of the internet, just as you warn them about the dangers of drugs and talking to strangers. They also warn that it is vital to explain the importance of keeping personal information a secret. You do not have to be a detective to work out the personal information of these Mummy Vloggers, as so much of it is available in the public domain. I am always amazed when these women publish photos of them in real time on their holidays. This is like sending out a huge message to burglars that their homes are now empty.
I can only present my views on this based upon my own experience. For me, childhood should be a sacred time when children are free to behave as they like without being judged. How many times has your child had a tantrum in a supermarket and a member of the public feels that it is their right to judge? It isn’t nice is it? Imagine that magnified to an entire viewing platform commenting on your child and your parenting? How would you feel as a child, if your every move and experience was filmed? At every occasion, the camera would come out to record everything: the bad and the good. No event would be considered too insignificant for the purposes of documenting family life. How can you truly enjoy life, if you are constantly having to film or be filmed every moment to meet the demand of your viewers?
More than anything, I think that it is imperative to respect your child’s wishes. For example: this weekend I took my son out for his birthday meal, he did allow me to take a photo for my own memories, but he would have been mortified if I had placed it on social media. My daughter, however, quite likes me to use the occasional photo of her on my blog. Yet I always ask permission. I would never have dreamed of putting them onto a public platform when they were too young to know what was happening. Have we ever considered that these Mummy Vloggers with their focus on material wealth and having the latest ‘must-have’ accessory or item, are teaching their children some very disturbing messages concerning how we should judge people? I love it when people comment on how kind or considerate my children are. It really does not matter to me, what they are wearing and whether it has come from a specific retailer.
It really is time that we opened debate around this subject and considered all sides of the argument. As a civilised society, we are fully aware of how vital it is to protect our children. Only time will tell the extent to which children of Mummy Vloggers feel that this over exposure has impacted upon them. Sadly, I think that I already know the outcome.