The latest YouTube sensation is a kid named Frankie, who busts a move to Michael Jackson while loading the dishwasher. His video has been live for less than three days, but already has more than 140,000 views and has been featured on Gawker and Reddit. Unlike other YouTube stars, Frankie didn’t set out in hopes of going viral; his dad filmed the dance sequence without Frankie knowing or giving his permission.
YouTube videos posted by parents whose unknowing kids do silly, potentially-embarrassing things raises questions.
It started in January of 2009 , with a video of a little boy named David who was feeling the effects of medication he received during a tooth removal. That video now has over 100,000 views and a website, where fans can buy t-shirts and stickers.
In 2010 the trend continued with a video of a three-year-old sobbing over her love of Justin Bieber while her mom filmed.
Last week, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel asked parents to film their kids while they told them that they had eaten all the Halloween candy. Mr. Kimmel’s compilation of reaction videos - in which almost every child kicks, screams, or cries - has been viewed nearly 12 million times in four days.
But not everyone is laughing.
Frankie’s dad updated the video to include a disclaimer, which addresses comments from users who thought Frankie would be embarrassed and who scolded his dad for laughing at his son.
Mr. Kimmel’s Halloween video is garnering greater mixed reactions. TIME.com writer Bonnie Rochman thought Mr. Kimmel - and the parents who participated - have gone too far. One reader commented on Rochman’s column that “Jimmy Kimmel didn't go too far. The parents did. That was just horrible. Making children cry for amusement? What have we turned into?”
The question of whether uploading a video of your child, whether in efforts to make a buck or to gain some sort of fame, is acceptable or exploitative is a hotly-contested one. Last week on the Today show, advertising expert Donny Deutsch said the Internet is a dangerous place to show off your kid to strangers.
Are embarrassing videos of kids exploitative or hilarious?