Family TikTokers are now a thing and I have to ask: have we learned nothing from YouTube?
Is history doomed to repeat itself?
The influencer market has grown to epic proportions, doubling in worth between 2019 and this year alone.
Now worth an estimated 13.8 billion US dollars, the market shows it pays to build a successful internet career.
We've seen people make an online career out of pretty much anything: from blogs, video platforms or podcasts, people have managed to build a following through genres like comedy, commentary, true crime, beauty, fashion, travel, DIY, interiors, gaming and so much more.
The rule about the internet is that there really are no rules. If you can entertain in any sort of way, you can amass followers.
Large sums of followers don't always equal the big bucks though, because the money comes from advertising, not sheer views. This means those who want to make money from their large followings have to actually create content that can be monetised – i.e. content that brands and sponsors feel safe to advertise on. Therefore, the most marketable type of content is that which is universally inoffensive and uncontroversial.
A lot of the time, "universally inoffensive" basically equates to "family-friendly." And nothing says "family-friendly" quite like a family account.
Over the past few weeks, I've noticed more and more family accounts appearing on my TikTok 'for you' page. You know the type; the parents might prank each other with the help of the kids, the parents will show their kid(s) doing something cute, the whole family might act a bit 'Brady Bunch'-esque in singing or dancing together, or one family member falls or throws something over someone else in an unnatural way that feels more scripted than one of the soaps.
When I first started noticing these accounts cropping up, my eyes nearly rolled out of their sockets.
But this was less about the cheese factor and more about fear of history repeating itself.
See, I went through my entire teenage years with YouTube as the main entertainment platform of my generation. It was through YouTube that I learned how to do my makeup, it was through YouTube that my friend listened to a young Justin Bieber singing long before he was signed, and it was through YouTube that I was introduced to the world of family vloggers.
For anyone who hasn't heard of vlogging before (or has but isn't exactly sure of what it entails), the word means "video blogging" and was created to describe the act of self-documenting your day-to-day life or a particular experience.
Many people, both influencers and people without a platform who want to record the memory for their own sake, vlog the likes of holidays, road trips, living in another country from the one in which they were raised, festivals, concerts, events, seasonal periods like Christmas or Halloween, and so on.
For other YouTubers, their entire career is just filming themselves doing their daily errands and chatting to the camera every day.
Such is the case for family vloggers, who film their day-to-day lives raising their children for vlogs anywhere between a few minutes and an hour or more in length.
Typical content includes footage of family outings, infants reaching important milestones, the kids having tantrums or being upset, on-camera discussions with the children of deeply intimate topics such as the vlog-dad not being one of the children's biological father, pregnancy appointments and ultrasounds, and even the mother giving birth. All are of course complete with clickbait titles and thumbnails.
As the families grow in popularity, so do their bank balances, so a lot of the more subscribed-to families (like the Ace Family or the Royalty Family) have content that displays their wealth by featuring their massive homes, fancy cars, designer clothes and trips on yachts or private jets.
Since the kids are a core element to the running (and the success) of these accounts, they feature heavily on them – with the vast majority of the kids being under teenage years when the family's fame is at a peak. This has led to multiple debates over the years about consent and right to privacy, exploitation, over-exposure and more.
On top of the discussions surrounding filming your kids during intimate moments they may not want on camera (or may grow up to wish weren't broadcast to millions of viewers), numerous not-so-family-friendly scandals have rocked the family-vlogging world over the years.
Just last summer, a popular couple were faced with severe backlash when they uploaded a video saying they gave up the autistic son they adopted from China. Following the now-deleted video, Myka and James Stauffer were met with accusations of exploiting their son Huxley, his adoption process and his disability for views, only to "rehome" him to another family when it became too difficult.
They aren't the only "adoption influencers," nor are they the only family to have come under major scrutiny for a specific instance. Numerous family vlog parents have been subject to cheating rumours, rape allegations, neglect and abuse accusations (or actual charges) over the past decade.
As TikTok only allows for videos of a much shorter length, it's possible there's less room for kids to be exploited or over-exposed. Maybe the newer platform will provide an opportunity for kids and tweens to join in on the app's fun with the parental supervision that comes with a family account.
But after years of seeing not-so-great people doing not-so-great things both on and off camera, to their kids or otherwise, I'm fairly apprehensive.