The Social Contagion Effect and Teen YouTube

 

Last night I saw headlines about the death of a YouTube star, Landon Clifford, a father of two young children at the age of 19. I clicked, because how does a 19-year-old have two children and why is he a YouTube star? His wife posted this picture with some of her friends at his funeral, and a quick click-through indicated she’s just one of several popular YouTube teen mothers who travel in the same ecosystem.

View this post on Instagram

Today we celebrate his life đź–¤

A post shared by Camryn Clifford (@camandfam) on

I spent hours going through videos and posts on her account that has north of one million subscribers. Their videos show these young parents “vlogging” or video-logging, bringing their babies to school or telling the story of how they told their parents they were pregnant at sixteen years old. They tell the story of how they were “trying” to have another baby after they got married at 18, and their youngest was born in May of this year.

Her account mostly glorifies teen pregnancy, and she has entire playlists jam-packed with videos on teen pregnancy fashion and collaborations with other teen mothers. Their videos average over a million views each and some, like the video about bringing their baby to school, has over four million. On some videos, you can see the young mother, Camryn, recognized by subscribers, who all effusively express to her their love of her content.

What happened to her husband? It’s still unclear, in her announcement post of his death, Camryn indicated a “brain injury” of some kind, and in the weeks before his death, she posted about her own mental health struggles. His father on his personal Facebook posted about suicide and mental health awareness immediately following his young son’s death. In an Instagram live shortly after his death, Camryn says she has left the home they were living in together in Austin because “of what happened there.” She went on to explain that she would eventually share the details of his death, which she called “gruesome” but that she understands the need to be responsible because of the younger nature of her audience. She sounded as if she were afraid of glorifying what had happened to her young husband, an incredibly mature perspective for such a young woman to have, especially in the midst of such a crisis. She explained she wanted to share his story, because she felt as if doing so would build an awareness for whatever it is that ultimately took his life.

It’s wonderful that Cam, as she’s known, understands the fact that as an “influencer” she is a role model and trendsetter. What’s interesting is this understanding was certainly present two weeks ago, while she was operating a YouTube account glorifying teen pregnancy and motherhood. One of my Instagram followers is a long-time follower of Cam and would likely disagree with my assessment. She explained to me, “I’ve been following Camryn off and on for about a year and a half. She is one of a few family YouTubers that I like, but she’s also the youngest. As far as I can tell, she’s an example of someone who made the best of a bad situation (meaning teen pregnancy)… Family YouTubers, especially teen moms, is an entire galaxy on YouTube. Half of them glorify teen pregnancy, and half of them are hard-working (they’re influencers but in today’s world that’s still a job) moms who are able to make a good living.”

Given the teen pregnancy rate, obviously these accounts aren’t inspiring a legion of copycats, though I’d make the bet there have at least been some. What is it we can draw from the intense popularity of this genre among teens?

There is a deep sense of loneliness among teens: it’s why suicide rates are sky-high and even before COVID pushed teens into socializing solely online, kids formed social communities not among their schoolmates and neighbors, but online. But this community isn’t creating positive relationships for kids. My friend Abigail Shrier recently released a must-read book about the “transgender crazy seducing our daughters” and credits YouTube with the transgender transformation of many of the subjects of her book. Teen mom YouTube is just a cousin of teen transgender YouTube, a group of young people who grew up on the service (Camryn opened her account ten years ago, at the age of nine according to the channel’s YouTube creation date), providing content to glorify and normalize their unhealthy lifestyles.

As more of our children grow up as digital natives, it’s important to keep tabs on what they’re watching and why. These “influencers,” are influencing an entire generation of our kids, and by all appearances, it isn’t going well.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    If they are wearing black in mourning, perhaps they could find dresses that are a wee bit longer?

    • #1
  2. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Better a trend of mothers too young than too old. There is heartbreak in either situation.

    The former is more in harmony with biology and promotes maturity the old-fashioned way — by necessity. Furthermore, the cultural equivalence of college education with high school degrees, as if college is universally good and necessary, is a poison that can be countered by more young adults skipping it for whatever reasons.

    YouTube stardom is about as realistic a career path as becoming a professional athlete. It’s not a pursuit many parents want their kids to emulate. But if many of these young mothers demonstrate responsibility, this could be a good trend.

    • #2
  3. Sage Wolkenfeld Inactive
    Sage Wolkenfeld
    @BlessedBlacksmith

    YouTube is not the only culprit for glorifying and normalizing these behaviors.  When I was in high school, my friends were watching The Secret Life of an American Teenager, which they called, “Secret Life”.  A year later, the reality show Teen Moms debuted.

    YouTube is the new and more popular format, but the concept of Teen Moms and other types of unhealthy situations has been around for a while.

    • #3
  4. Sage Wolkenfeld Inactive
    Sage Wolkenfeld
    @BlessedBlacksmith

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If they are wearing black in mourning, perhaps they could find dresses that are a wee bit longer?

    Why would they need to own anything longer?

    • #4
  5. DrewInWisconsin, Doormat Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat
    @DrewInWisconsin

    It’s shocking how “being a YouTube star” is considered a legitimate career goal for the younger generation.

    Of course, fame has always been a temptation. When I was a kid, every boy wanted to grow up to play for the NFL. That’s not really that much different, although you needed more than just an iPhone. You actually needed to work at it. 

    I am also concerned that so many people spend so much of their lives online that this artificial world becomes a replacement for real life. (Bradbury warns of this in Fahrenheit 451.) And, uh, . . . Bethany . . .

    Bethany Mandel: I spent hours going through videos and posts on her account that has north of one million subscribers.

    You spent hours doing this?

    Should we not be concerned?

     

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If they are wearing black in mourning, perhaps they could find dresses that are a wee bit longer?

    They aren’t old enough to have acquired much of a wardrobe, and at their age, there will (please, God) be more occasions for little black dresses than mourning dresses.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think it is wonderful that her work as a mother is being celebrated on YouTube. We’ve been trying to walk the wavy line that threads its way through maintaining a commitment to honoring the value of human life, the value of faithful parenting, the value of being self-sufficient, the value of getting back on your feet after you’ve been through a difficult time. All we’ve managed to do is confuse the situation. In a perfect world, her parents and all of the other adults in her life would be the ones we scolded for not doing a better job of protecting her from getting into this situation in the first place. 

    Society always sends out inconsistent signals as to what the highest moral purposes are. This young woman found herself in a difficult situation and surveyed all of those signals and made her own way through them, trying to do the right thing. 

    I’m glad the young people have found this middle ground between the old way of preventing promiscuity by shaming single mothers and the new way of celebrating open sexuality. 

    • #7
  8. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If they are wearing black in mourning, perhaps they could find dresses that are a wee bit longer?

    Ari,

    A woman I knew about 20 years ago (this was after the earth had cooled and the dinosaurs had died out) referred to such dresses, like in the photo, as, and I quote, “f$ck me right away dresses”. She had been a single mother and had (at the time) been reasonably successful in raising her one child, a son.

    The world was plenty nuts then and now the internet is only a multiplier of the craziness. I have often hypothesized that we would reach a point of maximum meshuggah. However, as of yet, we are still climbing or more to the point, descending.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #8
  9. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):

    And, uh, . . . Bethany . . .

    Bethany Mandel: I spent hours going through videos and posts on her account that has north of one million subscribers.

    You spent hours doing this?

    Should we not be concerned?

    The best part of being a professional writer is that everything is research.

    • #9
  10. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I’d be interested in knowing a bit about Cam’s parents and her educational background.

    The obvious problem with being a YouTube “star” is that it’s transitory.  One builds one’s entire life around YouTube, and then, all of a sudden, nobody is watching.  Washed up at 21?  22? 23?

    Then what?

    • #10
  11. ChefSly - Bad Hausmann Inactive
    ChefSly - Bad Hausmann
    @MrAmy

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):
    That’s not really that much different, although you needed more than just an iPhone. You actually needed to work at it. 

    I’m curious why you think this doesn’t require work.

    • #11
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Sage Wolkenfeld (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If they are wearing black in mourning, perhaps they could find dresses that are a wee bit longer?

    Why would they need to own anything longer?

    So it covers their pudenda.

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin, Doormat Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat
    @DrewInWisconsin

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):
    That’s not really that much different, although you needed more than just an iPhone. You actually needed to work at it.

    I’m curious why you think this doesn’t require work.

    The bar to entry is quite a bit different, wouldn’t you say?

    • #13
  14. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    I’d rather see teen pregnancy glorified than see abortion glorified. (Not that I’m endorsing teen pregnancy. I have four daughters after all.) It’s a bit of a balancing act, but it’s possible to support teens who choose to become parents and be responsible even while discouraging teen pregnancy. 

    That said, being young parents is hard enough without doing it so publicly. The loss of the young man’s life is a tragedy. Sending prayers for their families.

    • #14
  15. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    I find it very disturbing and sad to think of the life the children of these child-mothers face. That’s an aspect that people who attempt to normalize and glamorize out-of-wedlock child birth never seem to consider — the difficulties a child faces growing up in an unstable (by definition) home.

    And, no, being against out-of-wedlock child birth doesn’t mean that I’m pro-abortion, which is murder. I am pro-marriage.

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I find it very disturbing and sad to think of the life the children of these child-mothers face. That’s an aspect that people who attempt to normalize and glamorize out-of-wedlock child birth never seem to consider — the difficulties a child faces growing up in an unstable (by definition) home.

    And, no, being against out-of-wedlock child birth doesn’t mean that I’m pro-abortion, which is murder. I am pro-marriage.

    They grow up knowing mom made a mistake but loved them from the start and made choices that honored them, taking on the responsibility for them.

    I’d think they’d grow up to have profound respect for a mother who bought all the lies about sex foisted on them in modern culture (even some conservatives say you can’t stop teens from having sex) and found themselves in a hard situation and sacrificed their carefree youth to do the best they could for their kids.

    I know I respect her for what she has done. And I don’t approve of this attitude of frowning on teens for acting like adults. Would you rather they be 25 acting like teenagers? I know which I prefer.

    • #16
  17. ChefSly - Bad Hausmann Inactive
    ChefSly - Bad Hausmann
    @MrAmy

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):
    That’s not really that much different, although you needed more than just an iPhone. You actually needed to work at it.

    I’m curious why you think this doesn’t require work.

    The bar to entry is quite a bit different, wouldn’t you say?

    True but irrelevant. 

    • #17
  18. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Stina (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I find it very disturbing and sad to think of the life the children of these child-mothers face. That’s an aspect that people who attempt to normalize and glamorize out-of-wedlock child birth never seem to consider — the difficulties a child faces growing up in an unstable (by definition) home.

    And, no, being against out-of-wedlock child birth doesn’t mean that I’m pro-abortion, which is murder. I am pro-marriage.

    They grow up knowing mom made a mistake but loved them from the start and made choices that honored them, taking on the responsibility for them.

    I’d think they’d grow up to have profound respect for a mother who bought all the lies about sex foisted on them in modern culture (even some conservatives say you can’t stop teens from having sex) and found themselves in a hard situation and sacrificed their carefree youth to do the best they could for their kids.

    I know I respect her for what she has done. And I don’t approve of this attitude of frowning on teens for acting like adults. Would you rather they be 25 acting like teenagers? I know which I prefer.

    My point was and is that I believe children should be allowed to grow up as children, not having to make all the adjustments and suffer the disappointments of a single-parent family. I’ll save my respect for the innocent child.

    • #18
  19. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I find it very disturbing and sad to think of the life the children of these child-mothers face. That’s an aspect that people who attempt to normalize and glamorize out-of-wedlock child birth never seem to consider — the difficulties a child faces growing up in an unstable (by definition) home.

    And, no, being against out-of-wedlock child birth doesn’t mean that I’m pro-abortion, which is murder. I am pro-marriage.

    They grow up knowing mom made a mistake but loved them from the start and made choices that honored them, taking on the responsibility for them.

    I’d think they’d grow up to have profound respect for a mother who bought all the lies about sex foisted on them in modern culture (even some conservatives say you can’t stop teens from having sex) and found themselves in a hard situation and sacrificed their carefree youth to do the best they could for their kids.

    I know I respect her for what she has done. And I don’t approve of this attitude of frowning on teens for acting like adults. Would you rather they be 25 acting like teenagers? I know which I prefer.

    My point was and is that I believe children should be allowed to grow up as children, not having to make all the adjustments and suffer the disappointments of a single-parent family. I’ll save my respect for the innocent child.

    JimMc,

    You are quite correct. We, of course, are flexible Americans who always try to make the best of bad situations. However, these matters involve inevitable consequences. Believe it or not, the son of the woman I was describing in comment #8 introduced me to her. I think I was the most conservative Jewish guy he had ever met. I think he knew deep down how much crap he had been forced to endure from some of his mother’s bad choices. He saw me as what his mother really needed and maybe the father he didn’t have. Unfortunately, she had been through a little too much and was just looking for more financial security than I could provide. It didn’t work out.

    Maybe it did work out but for me. This and a few other relationships finally convinced me to become seriously religious. This was the right choice for me. I’ve enjoyed my life so much more ever since. Even if you can’t make some bad situations better, at least you can be sure to not make them worse.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
  20. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Doormat (View Comment):
    That’s not really that much different, although you needed more than just an iPhone. You actually needed to work at it.

    I’m curious why you think this doesn’t require work.

    The bar to entry is quite a bit different, wouldn’t you say?

    True but irrelevant.

    The point seems to be that there is a degree of work and then there is work.

    • #20
  21. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Is abortion really worse than having these people breed?

    • #21
  22. ChefSly - Bad Hausmann Inactive
    ChefSly - Bad Hausmann
    @MrAmy

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Is abortion really worse than having these people breed?

    Murder = bad.

    • #22
  23. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Is abortion really worse than having these people breed?

    Murder = bad.

    But it’s super convenient. 

    • #23
  24. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Is abortion really worse than having these people breed?

    Murder = bad.

    But it’s super convenient.

    Please tell me that murder <> bad.   I have a few bad people I would not mind doing not bad things too…..

    • #24
  25. ChefSly - Bad Hausmann Inactive
    ChefSly - Bad Hausmann
    @MrAmy

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Please tell me that murder <> bad.

    No,

    • #25
  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    ChefSly – Bad Hausmann (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):
    Please tell me that murder <> bad.

    No,

    Aaahhhhhhh….  I never get to have any fun.

    • #26
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