Editorial, by Andressa Curry-Messer, 28 November 2018

2018 11 28 ED enfants youtubeursChildren aged 3 to 17 have become stars on the YouTube platform with their videos and gather millions of subscribers: 3,5 millions for the "HugoPosay" channel, a 16-year-old boy who tells stories about his life; 3,4 million for the brothers Neo and Swan, 13 and 6 years old, who expose their leisure time; 1,3 million for the "Studio Bubble Tea" channel with Kalys and Athena, 8 and 3 years old, who unpack toys and comment on them. These are just a few examples.

Every minute, 600,000 hours of video are posted either by their parents or by themselves and 43,000 videos are viewed. According to a study conducted by the network DEFY Media, published in 2014, 76% of young people aged 13 to 24 consider YouTube content more entertaining than television. Watching YouTubers about 11 hours a week, 56% of children aged 13 to 17 dream of becoming one.

In France, the phenomenon has worried the Observatoire de la parentalité et de l'éducation numérique (OPEN), which this year referred the matter to the Conseil national de protection de l'enfance (CNPE) in order to denounce "illegal professional activities".

According to Thomas Rohmer, President of OPEN, "this is not leisure activity". YouTube children are indeed in a lucrative business, because their channels bring in tens of thousands of euros a month for parents. He regrets that these children spend every Wednesday afternoon and weekends shooting videos and that there is no supervision by French law over this activity. This can affect the balance of children who are sometimes "exploited and manipulated by their parents", Rohmer points out.

In Switzerland, the activity of YouTube children falls within the legal framework of the labor law, according to lawyer Selina Müller: "A minor under 13 years old may not work more than 3 hours a day and 9 hours a week". However, the question of the redistribution of earnings between parents and children remains open.

For the sociologist and specialist in digital use, Olivier Glassey of UNIL, the abundance of weekly videos is such that "one can wonder when a leisure activity becomes something more industrial". Remuneration is sometimes so lucrative for parents that "it totally changes the relationship with their child. From the moment when the child becomes an important condition to earn their income, the child becomes their employee".

Faced with the controversy, Neo, a 13-year-old Youtuber, with his gaze fixed on the camera, defended himself: "I am not forced by my mother (...) I have always wanted to be a YouTuber (...). Our mother has a dream life for us. And she prepares us for a dream future (...). The only thing that bothers me in this life is people talking nonsense about us".

Neo is probably starting to realize that life outside the virtual world is not always the dream he imagines...

Picture: Pxhere, creative commons

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