Family vloggers on YouTube are particularly potent as influencers. Their appeal is simple: young children are adorable and say the darnedest things. And it’s easy to monetize this cuteness to promote brands and sell merchandise, as do the Shaytards (5 million subscribers), Royal Family (1.6 million), Cole & Sav (8.1 million), the Family Fun Pack (7.7 million), and the ACE Family (14 million).
In this video starting at 9:48 , the ACE Family appears in a “no budget” shopping challenge video (9.2 million views as of this writing). Shopping videos, like slime, travel, party, and prank videos, are common in family vlogs. Here two-year-old Elle is shopping in a Disney store where the family bonds over the purchase of goods; the child’s childish behavior—and her speech impediment—are offered up for our amusement. Elle is afraid of Mickey Mouse so her father pranks her, claiming the stuffed mouse is going to chase her; he offers to run and hide with her. Elle’s cuteness alone is not enough, apparently, to ensure that we continue to watch, so her father uses her authentic fear to create a moment of drama.
A number of issues are obvious here. First, family influencers are exploiting ever younger children, who lack not only the ability to consent to their public performances, but also the consciousness that they are being filmed for millions of viewers. Perhaps this unconsciousness helps maintain authenticity with audiences: unlike possibly coached older children, infants’ and toddlers’ unscripted performances may appear as evidence of “real” family life. Second, the aesthetic of most of these videos is a form of “calibrated amateurism,” as Crystal Abidin calls it—designed to resemble home movies (it’s just dad shooting video again) yet intended to turn a profit. Will this apparent amateurism ever lose its authentic sheen? Third, family influencers may become increasingly important to brands because they are not likely to veer into the obscenity or violence that may unfit other influencers. Finally, as network sitcoms have evolved toward edgier material, these family influencers may be fulfilling an otherwise unmet demand —from audiences as well as advertisers—for blandly amusing family-friendly fare.