The mommy vloggers are at it again. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a handful of family influencers join the ranks of the Myka Stauffers of the world, popping their kids in front of the camera and keeping their questionable parenting decisions in frame. These clickbait artists have been caught encouraging their kids to cry on-camera and using cancer scares for views, stooping to levels even Kris Jenner (probably) wouldn’t go.
Family vloggers exploiting their kids for clicks is not quite breaking news, and the genre has deep roots. In 2017, Time Magazine reported a 90% increase in time spent watching family vloggers over the year before, and that number has no doubt continued to grow. While millions continue to click subscribe, the family influencer space is far from universally loved. Most of us can agree that watching a 3-year-old open fake Christmas presents behind a ring light is weird, but while we’ve been looking away, the videos have only gotten more staged and more shameless.
This week, mommy vlogger Jordan Cheyenne, a “beauty and lifestyle content creator” who entered the scene in 2013, published a now-deleted video to her 538k subscribers titled, “we are heartbroken.” In the video, she shares the sad news that the puppy her family was in the process of adopting was in critical condition, closing out with an accidental inclusion intended for the cutting room floor in which she directs her crying son to amp up the emotion for the perfect thumbnail. She instructs, “look like you’re crying,” “frown for the thumbnail,” and “wait say that one more time in the frame.”
“No, mom, I really am crying,” says the devastated young boy. “No, I know, but go like this for the video,” says Cheyenne feigning tears and lifting her hand to her forehead in distress.
this is so DISTURBING what is wrong with mom vloggers omfg pic.twitter.com/krUjM5Sfit
— pots girl summer ♿︎ 25 (@givemepllants) September 8, 2021
In addition to peddling childhood trauma, Cheyenne also offers something she calls “Girlboss Academy,” giving social media tips (probably to the ladies behind those “Hey girly!” DMs you’ve been ignoring). For $300, you can enroll in her “Instagram Matrix” training course, where you’ll learn how to “turn your followers into paying clients” and master the art of the perfect caption. Alternatively, $200 will get you a spot in Cheyenne’s “Abundance Academy,” where you will learn to “attract wealth effortlessly and learn how to manifest money with ease.” The only thing abundant to me is the MLM energy that is radiating from this.
Facing backlash to her video, on September 8th, Cheyenne uploaded a seven-minute video, which has since been made private, titled “lets chat”. She explains that the ending clip of the now-deleted video was never intended to be included, a mistake on her part after an exhausting day of genuine off-screen emotion. The YouTuber’s apology came swiftly and seemed somewhat genuine. In a later video titled “8 years later, Im done. *please watch.*“, Cheyenne said that moving forward, she will not be including her son in any content. She added that she removed about 20 videos he was already in and will continue to remove him from her channel.
Still, the clip had already reignited the debate surrounding family vloggers’ exploitation of children and monetization of life’s very real traumas.
this is why i’ll never stop advocating for children exploited on social media. family vloggers prioritize money over their children’s well being, and that mentality will severely mess with their kids, yet their parents couldn’t care less because they’re focused on dollar signs. https://t.co/2rwf3UxUsw
— alayna doyal ☽ (@AlaynaDoyal) September 9, 2021
Enter the LaBrants. If this name rings any bells, you’re in one of two camps: you’re a fan, or you saw Cody Ko’s video in 2017, and the memory just resurfaced. If you’re in camp two, say hi to me at the next bunk meeting.
With more than 13 million subscribers, The LaBrant Fam channel has amassed over four billion views collectively. The couple also runs their 8-year-old daughter’s channel, Everleigh Opens Toys, which has nearly four million subscribers. Across their various channels and social media accounts, there is no telling how much money this family’s bleached-blond antics have made, but some sources put their net worth at around $12 million.
On August 28th, The LaBrant Fam uploaded a 43-minute video titled “She got diagnosed with cancer. (documentary).” The video, which opens with a viewer discretion advisory, details a health scare the family underwent with their 2-year-old child, who thankfully was not diagnosed with cancer, despite the clickbait. Basically, Cole LaBrant noticed bruises on the child’s leg, opened WebMD, scrolled past “injury” and “vitamin K deficiency,” set his sights on cancer, and picked up the camera.
The video emotionally detailed the LaBrants’ trip to the hospital, where they thankfully received only good news, but many families haven’t been so lucky. As if the title wasn’t enough, the LaBrants took the extra step to set the original thumbnail, which has since been updated, to an image of Cole LaBrant comforting a bald, sick child in a hospital bed. The comments on the video have since been turned off.
Labrant family with Cole Labrant have uploaded a video to get attention to childhood cancer.
Whats wrong with that you’d ask?
The thumbnail before was the picture on right sending fans into hysteria – do any of the kids have cancer? Nope.
They’re clickbaiting. Cancer. pic.twitter.com/PbySYoOa7y
— Krista (@LestatsSanguis) August 28, 2021
To recap: this mega-popular and hyper-religious influencer couple took their child to the hospital for bruising, captured content with terminally ill children, and sauntered out of the pediatric wing with a clean bill of health and a million-dollar video.
If you’re wondering what the rest of the 43 minutes looked like, it was mostly rhetoric from LaBrant about faith, the power of prayer, and why the family’s fame was the ultimate invitation for a sentence as horrible as child cancer. He quite literally prayed away the disease that never existed, then deposited the check—jokes on you, sick people everywhere.
Who are the 13 million subscribers who have made this family so famous? Who built the pedestal on which the LaBrant family stands, pinning thumbnails of someone else’s dying child before closing their computers and running laps around their mega-mansion? Who are the hundreds of millions of people watching family vloggers each day? Who summoned the mommy vloggers, and who do we call to rein them in?
Cancer scares and dying dogs are child’s play to some of the top creators in the family vlogging space. With nearly nine million subscribers, The Prince Family is behind some of the most outrageous clickbait on the internet, including my all-time favorite video title, “CPS TOOK OUR KIDS FROM US | SEAFOOD BOIL MUKBANG.” That video was posted two years ago and has since been re-titled with a new thumbnail, “WE ALMOST LOST OUR BABY 💔😭 (KING CRAB SEAFOOD BOIL MUKBANG)”. In between bites of seafood, the Princes talk about how, when one day Biannca experienced heavy bleeding, they worried they were losing their baby. It’s unclear what CPS ever had to do with anything.
Other top hits from the creators include “BIANNCA TOOK THE KIDS & LEFT ME **PLEASE COME BACK**,” and “GIVING KYRIE UP FOR ADOPTION.”
— Damien Prince (@DamienPrinceJr) December 18, 2019
I wonder how many views the clickbait of my life could have mustered up. How many millions were waiting for me on the other side of a title like, “WE TOLD HER WE’RE GETTING DIVORCED AT STEAK ‘N SHAKE,” or “telling her she has no college fund *mukbang*.” Lucky for us, stage parents in our day had to really fight for it. You couldn’t create a YouTube channel and make millions off of your kid in 24 hours like today’s content creators—I mean, parents.
At least I can bank on the fact that my trauma wasn’t paying the bill that day at Steak ‘n Shake; today’s internet kids can’t say the same. Top family channels on YouTube are raking in multi-millions each year. With over 19 million subscribers, the ever-famous ACE Family holds a net worth of more than $22 million via monetized social platforms, branded merchandise, ad revenue, and sponsorships. Their most recent video? “ELLE CALLS FROM SCHOOL CRYING.. **SAD DAY**.”
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the kids who grace YouTube’s trending page are working performers and actors, and “mom” and “dad” are fighting for Best Director nominations. Each year that passes brings these family vloggers more clicks, more subscribers, and more checks, but each passing year also brings us closer to the point when those internet kids will grow up and start asking questions. Have I ever had a private moment in my life? Did I have supportive parents, or was I routinely coached into tears? If my trauma made my parents millions, where is the money?
The massive popularity of family vlogger content begs a few questions. If an internet kid cries off camera, did it really happen? Probably not. If CPS takes your children away, will a mukbang bring them back? Probably not. If I ended this article with a fake cancer scare, would you send it to your friends? Probably.