If you haven’t read about it yet, I’m sure you will. News broke this week that YouTube influencer Myka Stauffer and her husband decided to give up their adopted son, Huxley.
They adopted the young boy in 2017 from China. The couple later discovered he had special needs. The Stauffers featured Huxley in several videos on their channel, all monetized. They documented their entire journey adopting him, and their experience raising a special needs child. They documented Huxley’s life up until the beginning of this year.
Fans started to notice something was up when Huxley no longer appeared in Stauffer’s videos. The couple addressed the rumors on Wednesday in a YouTube video admitting that they gave up Huxley to new parents.
Now, this controversial decision has understandably triggered a social media frenzy criticizing the couple’s decision to give up the toddler. People are talking about the issues with international adoptions and the way special needs children are treated. Twitter is on a rampage talking about all sorts of issues with the choices the Stauffers made.
The Social Media Element
Part of what makes this story so shocking is the way Huxley was used on his parent’s YouTube and Instagram profiles while he was in their care. Long before the Stauffers decided to give up their toddler, they used his adoption and raising as a way to generate traffic for their various social media platforms. They made money off of videos and Instagram posts featuring Huxley and talking about his autism, through sponsorships and advertising.
Myka Stauffer is not the only YouTube influencer to capitalize on the lives of her young children to make a buck. There is an entire genre of YouTube channels called “family channels” dedicated to documenting young children’s lives.
Privacy, Social Media, and Childhood
One such influencer, Arielle Charnas, has 1.3 million followers on Instagram. She often shares photographs of her two daughters, Ruby and Esme. These photos are nothing shocking or terrible in and of themselves. They’re usually pretty adorable, actually. But just the sheer fact that these intimate moments of an 18-month-old’s life are being shared with literal millions is cause for question.
On one hand, it’s refreshing to see the honest realities of parenting young children. Being a parent can be really hard (I’m guessing. I’m not a parent, but it looks hard.) Watching other people on social media share their experiences and go through what you’ve been through can be incredibly comforting. It is one of the great benefits of social media, it brings people together.
However, we cannot ignore the potential effects this widespread sharing might have on the children involved, without their consent. An 18-month-old, or a 4-year-old, or any young child isn’t capable of consenting to the content their parent’s post. It’s then entirely up to the parent to choose how to curate their child’s social media presence.
Some seem to take it too far. They post without thinking or without caring about how such a public childhood will impact their child’s future. Some blatantly use their children to increase views and monetary gain in a way that is completely exploitative.
The Bottom Line
Of course, not every parent parading their child on social media adopted a special needs child for clout and then gave the baby up when the going got tough. The Stauffers are an especially egregious example of the exploitation possible when kids are deeply entrenched in their parent’s social media presence.
However, any influencer with a large social media following needs to be aware of how their posts might potentially affect their children. Fans and advertisers need to hold YouTube influencers like the Stauffers accountable in regard to the ways they involve their children in their social media presence.