Due to recent conversations in our home, I’m going to take a quick deviation from my word of the year plans … to address this topic.
In this conversation, I want to define social media as beyond just twitter or instagram, but any sort of media that reaches people socially (movies, magazines, newspapers, and even conversations).
Recently a well known youtuber posted a video that was inappropriate. He was lambasted for it. Posted his apology and that he is taking a break to evaluate things. And this is trending on social media, parents are talking about it their kids who were/are fans, and companies are weighing how connected they want to be with this internet celebrity.
This isn’t a new story. We’ve see variations of it. Go back to when Miley Cyrus began to leave her Hannah Montana image behind. When Britney Spears went off the rails for a time. When Jeanette McCurdy (iCarley) had some instagram pics that were a bit to racey for the Nickelodeon audience. Go back even further and you can find kid star turned adult drama, it just wasn’t as publicized and we lacked all the gory details because we didn’t have social media capturing every moment of it.
What the parents seem to wrestle with is how did these young kids who were sweet and innocent go so very wrong once they turned 18?
- We have to remember that when they were kids, they had immediate consequences. Their parents still had a semblance of control in their lives. They could still control where they went, who they went with, what they did, etc. Good parents were able and willing to pull the plug on their fame. Companies with certain images to protect put very high expectations on how these kids would behave while under their wings. They were kids treated like kids.
- We have to remember that companies will protect their own image, even if that means they have to cover up or settle controversies quietly. I remember watching an interview with one of the Jonas brothers who shared that when they were under Disney contracts, it wasn’t uncommon for girls to sneak into their rooms, without disclosing their own behavior upon finding said girls, the protocol was for the body guards to get the girls out of the room unseen. Disney had an image to protect.
So, what may have seen “all of the sudden” to us on the outside, may have long been a behavioral issue that was being kept at bay by the powers in control. Which brings me to my next points, which are related to the fact that kids grow up.
3. Often, in the world of television and film especially, when kids are cast for programs they are much older than the age of the character they are playing. There are a lot of legitimate reasons for this, including labor laws and putting minors into adult situations. It is much easier when the actor/actress is an adult who looks young for her age. My generation will recall 90210 and I don’t think anyone of us bought for a second these actors and actresses were really 14-18 years old. Which means actors face a weird situation where we the audience view them as 14 and 15 year olds, when in reality they are grown adults having real life relationships and struggles.
4. When kids grow up, they slowly move out from under the control of their parents. When a child turns 18 and can sign her own contracts… what threat does the parent have over their career to keep them in line? Especially in a case where the child is making hundreds of thousands if not millions more than his/her parents? Additionally, they tend to have less of a desire to play a “child” when they are an adult and may be willfully behaving badly to get out of their contracts and more freedom to do what they like. Maybe.
5. Kids aging into adulthood will often challenge authority for independence, even the good kids but especially the bad ones. The former may feel like they have been caged from experience life at all, particularly if their character was the squeaky clean perfect image. The latter may feel that they have been kept from living their authentic selves because no one would hire them if they knew they liked to do drugs, drink, have casual sex, etc. Adulthood opens up an opportunity to experience what ever life they feel they have been denied. Which also includes the kids who didn’t have a normal childhood because of being on set, under guard, at all times.
When it comes to our self made youtube and internet stars, we also have to remember a few extra points…
- They are the content creators, producers, and performers. Which means that other than terms of service violations with their platform… there is no one who is in authority over what they create.
- This lack of authority gives them free reign to transition from more child-friendly content to maturing content as they themselves mature. They see it as a natural progression and forget that they still have young children in their fan base.
- They are usually surrounded by “yes men” who are so attracted to their fame, charisma, money, and influence … they are not going to try to talk these people out of doing something stupid, dangerous, or disrespectful.
- Their online access to their fans, I believe, creates more loyalty than many other celebrities get. Therefore it takes a LOT to make a dent in these guys/gals careers when called on the carpet for bad behavior. They don’t have much to lose.
In the most recent example, youtube has cut a lot of ties and projects with the guy in the middle of the controversy. Another article stated he was making roughly $12M a year, and the money made from youtube only accounted for about $3M of that. Which means even if youtube (where is bad decision to post a distasteful and disrespectful video ocurred) were to drop him completely and ban his account…
He’d still be making about $9M a year.
I’m thinking that isn’t going to real hurt his way of living.
The only thing that will, is if the fans are willing to walk away.
And that is what brings me to my final points:
- Know who your kids are watching/following on social media. Even your teens and young adults.
- Have on going conversations about what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable by these people in general.
- When controversy hits, talk about it directly and openly. But remember, your kids may be fans and immediately defensive (especially if they think you are going to stop them from watching/following their favorite internet star). Ask questions, guide conversation, help them come to their own convictions and decisions if possible. BUT, also don’t be afraid to put the hammer down and cut ties.
- There are programs that you can use to block certain sites and web addresses, to filter content, etc.