This morning I got an email from a proud father. It wasn’t sent like any email from a proud father. It was a social media release which is something that reads a lot like a press release but is meant for folks in social media. The father works in social media so it came from his work email address. When I say “works” in social media I mean there’s a big job title and about 150,000 twitter followers. This is not a dabbling dad and this is not your typical 10 year old child he was writing about.
The ten year old child in question is a blogger. This child has a very polished blog and has even mastered the obligatory “list” post. You know the kind, the top ten things that every 10 year old wants for Christmas/Back to school/Birthday. These posts are golden in the blogosphere: readable (scannable really), search friendly and with a good picture they get great results on pinterest. The posts are well written and the access to brands, non profits and events is rather extraordinary. Most adults would like to be in the room with just a few of the powerful people with whom this child has hobnobbed.
How would a ten year old know to create a blog like this? Obviously they’d attend one of the many blogging summits for tweens and teens that have popped up. Perhaps they’ve been helped along by a parent or school program? I don’t know that it matters much because when it comes to creating content we all ask for help. If you aren’t asking for help or advice then how can you learn and grow at any age?
The emergence of the Momager (not sure there’s a Dad word for it yet) is well known in film and television. We all know about Kris Jenner, Dina Lohan and Pattie Mallette (Bieber’s Mom). It’s unquestionable that these women love their children, recognize their talents and were able to exploit those talents in the short and long term for fame and financial gain (for all). These children grew up in the spotlight and we’re able to see their young adulthood and all the personal triumphs and failures that others enjoy in relative privacy.
I’m not a privacy freak. Well, not for myself anyhow but I do think it’s important that we recognize the needs of the people around us to have some privacy. I don’t really talk about Mr. G or the kids in ways that would embarrass them or reveal too much. Until very recently I didn’t even share their pictures because I never had the sense that my family photos should serve as entertainment.
When parents email me about the books their children have written, foundations they preside over or blogs they’ve started I typically delete the email and move on. I have kids. My kids are exceptional in that I love them more than I could ever love your kids. My kids are also surrounded by children who have exceptional talents and the thing that separates the ones who get press from the others are their mothers. That’s just the way it works. Eight to 16 year old children don’t hire their own publicists, send out social media releases or find themselves at conferences/events/summits without at least one very involved parent. When discussing today’s social media release on facebook my blogging friends universally said they’d deleted it but Anne gave me fits and giggles when she said:
I got that too. Having a ten year old myself, I promptly deleted it because my child already treats me to the vast wisdom that having lived only a decade on this earth can impart.
There is no part of me that’s saying that parents who act as or hire publicists are bad parents. They are different parents.
Any blogger worth their salt knows that building an online community means opening yourself up to ridicule regardless of success and should you have any measure of success there’s a complete loss of privacy. I’m unsure why parents would want fame for their children.
Living in Los Angeles means that twins may be working as early as 6 weeks old and that half the toddlers in Jane’s mommy and me had agents by 2. It’s easy to get your kids a little work and start a little college fund. Well, that’s what they say. The reality is that everyone has to hit pause on their day to get the kid to their cattle call which may or may not lead to a call back which may or may not lead to another and then possibly there’s a job. The job may be $500 or it could be tens of thousands of dollars. You never know until you try.
A few years ago my husband was shooting a commercial near home and during the summertime. He suggested that the kids come and be in a crowd scene. He’s never suggested this before so I figured as a one off it could be fun for the kids to have their dad direct them. It was fun for the kids, you know why? When we walked onto the set about 40 adults thought they were adorable. If they were thirsty they were offered soda, if they were hungry they were offered chips. When they said something that was moderately entertaining the room erupted with laughter. This is not a good way to raise well adjusted kids. I was cringing with every interaction and couldn’t wait to hustle them off set. I understand that they were the boss’ kids but when kids have celebrity around them there’s the same treatment.
We know what happens to celebrity kids (and please don’t tell me about Shirley Temple). We know that there’s a lot to be gained by being famous and perhaps just as much to be lost.
The world loves an empowered kid and there are great ways to foster empowerment with groups like KooDooZ. I asked Lee Fox about KooDooZ and she explained.
The youth we work with typically have a “personal connection” to something they describe as “wrong” in their world. Like Teagan Stedman, the 13 year old whose raised $100,000- dollars for pediatric cancer through a “battle of the bands.” Though his mother, Kelly, assists, I really don’t see her as the driving force for his social activism. Obviously there is a wide range of examples out there.
To your specific point with blogging, I think of the newly 16 year old Cassidy Colbert from Maryland. She’s blogging about her journey with Lyme’s disease and working in concert with other teens across the nation who are also trying to raise awareness about this little-known medical issue.
I don’t see blogging, tweeting, video-channels, vine, snap chat, instagram or any other social sharing technology as anything more than outlets for these teens and tweens. They live in a world where anyone of them can become a viral sensation overnight — NOT because of their parents prowess (though that sadly happens) — but because they are “discovered” by the social-sharing junkies that describe this new generation among us.
We parents (myself included) forget how easy it is to find information and shape (mature) perspectives as a result of that access. What I do with KooDooZ is work with youth from all walks of life who use their passions to serve a cause and, as a result, garner a voice in the world around them.
The squeaky wheel has always gotten the attention, right? I’d rather the blogging than the rebellion that comes from silencing a powerful group of people who are inclined to want to put their little fingerprints on their world.
Perhaps I find KooDooZ charming because Lee’s a woman who happens to be a mother empowering a group of kids accomplish things and none seem to be seeking fame for it’s own sake.
Then I heard from another blogger (who wishes to remain anonymous) and this blogger had a massive rant about blogging and the fame associated with it and drew her own Hollywood parallel.
“LiLo Syndrome” is why we pulled Anna out of modeling and won’t let her do commercials anymore. Maybe it’s selfish but she’s VERY precocious and VERY bright for her age, and we’d watch other parents with their kids, and the children who were given more latitude and freedom than we allowed Anna to have, and who were treated like little mini-celebrities; it was those kids who were literally a pain in everyone’s ass and who photographers and directors can’t stand working with. If those people don’t like you, good luck getting work!
I didn’t like some of people who were part of the machine that is Hollywood, and I didn’t like some of the expectations Anna already had at barely 5! I don’t know if my direct involvement with every aspect of her diminutive career was what kept THAT monster at bay, but it’s a lot of work and I just wanted Anna to be her adorable self for as long as possible. I’m not sure I was up to the task of managing her in THAT atmosphere is what I’m getting at. I think, opening up the platform of blogging and allowing a child to publicly blog, then promoting them, is just a miniature version of the machine that runs Hollywood. This is especially true if you have any pull with PR or brands. It’s asking for trouble, in my opinion. I think for a parent who has spent any time blogging and has worked with brands, it would be very tempting and very easy to push their child’s name forward with whomever the parent is connected to. Millions of little eyes are now connected to the internet in alarming numbers. You think television advertising that is aimed at children is already bad? Just wait until it’s the children themselves that are pushing, this, that or the other thing, by virtue of their own blogs!
Anna was very busy and was reading for Disney and was asked to read for the part of the toddler a major film and that meant lots of travel, which was another reason we stopped. It was hard for me to keep up with her just being a normal pre-schooler, let alone keeping up with the demanding schedule of photo shoots, and now reading for casting directors. Two years in, and after a particularly rough trip to LA, I came home and told my husband, “No more! This is exhausting and I can’t stand the people we have to deal with! Anna’s a kid, and she gets to be a kid from here on out!” Anna modeled and did commercials from 3yrs to 5yrs and has a nice start to her college savings built up, which her dad and I are grateful for.
A few years out from any connection to acting and modeling, and now Anna does in fact want her own blog and I’ve said no, a million times over. The kid can write and write well. She has already formed a lot of opinions about the world and how it works, opinions which greatly differ from those of her mom and dad. That’s not the problem though. I think those opinions are fine, and should be given room to grow – on their own, without the added pressure of a million eyes she doesn’t know adding their own input.
The biggest issue I have with allowing a child to blog – which I admit might not seem to huge to the casual observer is that I don’t want her to feel the continued pressure to live her life out loud and plugged-in like so many other kids her age already do. She has an iPod, and her own laptop, and uses her dad’s Kindle more than he does and I think that’s already too much, too young. Out of the 17 kids in her class at school (elementary school), she was one of 5 that didn’t already have a cell phone. Yeah, I know, it’s a private school and some of those kids come from very wealthy homes, but some didn’t and those kids had cell phones due to the pressure the parents felt – not out of any genuine need. I still take and pick Anna up from all of her dance classes, and other extracurricular activities. I know her schedule better than she does. If I’m late or she needs me, she can use the school phone, or borrow a cell phone should she really need one. We figure by perhaps 10, maybe, we’ll get her a cell phone. Will we cave a bit earlier? Maybe, but it’s completely dependent on how much we allow her to take on, outside of school.
There is a price that comes with public blogging. I know that first hand and it’s one that I am willing to pay for myself. I’ve already committed some major faux pas out there and learned the hard way. Why open that door for a CHILD? Anna has really nice journals, with locks. Plus, she fills those cheap composition books with her stories, thoughts and drawings. She probably has 25 of those things and I’ll buy them for her by the case if she wants. I want to encourage that sort of creative outlet, but I want it to be something she loves to do and not something she feels pressured to do because she has an audience.
I helped create the blogging monster - anyone who has monetized their blogs helped create it, because that’s what it is, and Anna has watched me do it. Is it surprising that she wants to do it, too? While I don’t think that I cross any lines that are going to get me into trouble any more (like I said earlier, lesson learned) that isn’t something a child should ever have to concern herself with.
Page views, traffic, stats, SEO, followers, friends . . . we really need to let those remain in the realm of adults that need the adulation and attention that blogging brings, or who have legitimate careers that pertain to those things and are dependent upon them. The first time I hear a child mention SEO or page views around me, I’ll punch their parents in the throat.
Being a kid, ‘tween, teen and beyond comes with its own pressures that a lot of us don’t want to re-live. So why allow a child to deal with the stress that comes with what blogging often leads to . . . a whole new challenge of not only being accepted by this niche world in online publishing, but the summons that comes with it of attracting as many eyeballs to your site as possible? Why do that to a kid? Allowing a child to be part of the blogosphere is simply reckless parenting.
Despite being a writer and a professional blogger, I don’t think it’s appropriate to push a kid into this light and place the burdens and expectations that come with it, on their shoulders. Freckles, sunscreen, Halloween costumes, and prom dress straps are much more appropriate for those shoulders, ya know?
I’m dying to hear from other bloggers. I’d love your take on this. Do I have an archaic view of childhood?
Also, if you got the press release we will NOT be naming the father/daughter in question. It doesn’t matter who it is, the topic is more relevant than the subject.