Condemnation was swift and widespread, and Logan Paul had since taken the video down and issued an apology. In doing so, he joins a long list of popular online celebrities that are watched by millions of young people, but only break through to adults when their behaviour generates criticism and outrage.
Less than a year before Logan Paul's Japanese outing, Swedish video game vlogger PewDiePie arranged to have "two semi-naked Indian men dancing while holding a banner reading ‘Death to all Jews’” appear on his YouTube channel, which has 59 million individual subscribers and over 4 billion views. Public response was similar, and PewDiePie has returned to vlogging without further problems.
Logan Paul himself is following the footsteps of his older brother Jake, who has attracted criticism for posting sexually explicit content and activities including breaching security at the White House in Washington.
Meanwhile, machine-generated cartoons depicting popular children's characters in violent and sexual predicaments are spreading rapidly, causing regular outbreaks of parental alarm and media attention.
So, let's take a look at what can we do to help children and young people use video media safely, socially, and critically.
As always, the first thing is:
While discussions of these issues is important, some of this is virtue signalling - defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group". The Cambridge Dictionary further explains it as “the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings”.
Social media platforms allow for fast and easy virtue signalling. By publicly denouncing Logan Paul, banning children from YouTube, or declaring they will monitor their child’s every mouse click, these parents signal superiority over other parents and create competition and pressure to follow suit. It can be tempting and simply easier to just go with the majority voice and follow whatever other parents are doing.
What works for one family or child or parent may not work for another. Children’s' attitudes may change with age, environment, or peers. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting response, because each child is a unique individual, so…
DON’T PRESUME YOUR CHILD’S REACTIONS
"Ego-dystonic" refers to thoughts and behaviours that conflict with a person’s ideal self-image. These are impulses or acts that we carry through even though we dislike them and don't want to be associated with them. Some children may find Logan Paul’s videos distressing, offensive, or discomforting, but watch them anyway due to peer pressure, fear of missing out, or morbid curiosity.
"Ego-syntonic" is the opposite. These are behaviours and feelings that are in harmony with our identity and ideals. These children may enthusiastically watch Logan Paul’s more outrageous videos in support of their idol (Logan's fans call themselves the "Logang"), may find them genuinely entertaining, revel in schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from another person’s misfortune), watch to see what the fuss is about, or simply can't see anything wrong with the content.
Even if that seems unsettling or unfair….
DON’T TELL YOUR CHILD HOW TO FEEL
Every adult has been a child, and we all know a sure-fire way to ensure rebellion is by telling a young person what to do “because I say so”. If a child doesn't understand the reason for a rule or value, they are much less likely to stick with it. What really matters is finding out and understanding how your child feels about Logan Paul, and definitely…
DON’T PUNISH YOUR CHILD
It's very easy to get wrapped up in fears of harmful media leading children astray, but…
DON’T ASSUME ALL YOUTUBERS ARE BAD FOR YOUR CHILD
For people born last century, it can seem ludicrous that a young person with a camera can become a famous millionaire just by making silly or mundane videos of themselves and posting them online. It can also be confronting to feel disconnected from a younger generation that enjoys these performers and their content, on a new medium that transcends television or radio.
Consciously or not, most parents expect, or at least hope, that their children will share their worldview, opinions, and values. For that reason, it can seem like a natural, knee-jerk reaction to ignore, dismiss, or remove something that a child values but a parent doesn’t. So, if your child expresses an interest in something that you dislike or find pointless, fight that urge.
Popular YouTubers are peer leaders and role models in the world of social media. Research has consistently shown that children from the age of 8 derive more pleasure from peer relationships than family relationships, and are more easily influenced by friends than by authority figures. This is an important stage of a child's development, as the capacity to develop social bonds outside their family predicts higher rates of overall general functioning and social successes.
However, this may mean your child is more likely to admire and listen to the advice of YouTubers than anything offered by their parents or other adults. That can be confronting, but isn't always a bad thing. YouTubers are often creative, productive, and pro-social leaders of change and awareness campaigns. Many are relatable and worthy role-models who are candid with their fans and offer valuable advice on their experience with difficult topics such as mental health and chronic illness.
For example, the Draw My Life trend has been cathartic for many people, giving young people an accessible way to understand the lives, struggles, and strength of many others around the world. Other trends are just plain fun!
Creating online media content is also a real job, a passion and a legitimate career in a booming industry that could and should be an option for any child today.
But there's still bad content on YouTube that my children are exposed to! What now?
5 Things To Do
HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP THEIR OWN VALUES & IDENTITY
Once developed, the capacity for self-reflection, away from peer or parental pressure, will equip them with the critical thinking skills and self-confidence necessary to stick with their beliefs when faced with other controversial or distressing content. Also, if they know that you won't react badly, they will be more likely to discuss other concerning online content with you in the future.
However, before you can help your child work out their thoughts and feelings about any matter, you must first...
REFLECT ON YOUR OWN REACTIONS
What are your exact objections to the whole Logan Paul debacle? Is it that he recorded a dead body? Is it the way he treats Japan and the Japanese? Is it because he made light of a serious topic? Is it his apology? Is it his hair?
Practising safe, healthy discussion skills with parents equips children with the confidence to stand up for their beliefs and not cave in to peer pressure. Parents who keep an open mind also allow their children to re-think and change views, where simply telling them they are wrong may encourage children to stick with an opinion out of spite and stubbornness.
Even if you end up having to agree to disagree, you can still...
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT CONSEQUENCES
Young people are not the best at long-term planning and careful consideration of consequences, and most people will make an impulsive decision or two in their growing years. Introducing them to examples of real-life consequences from social media activity can increase their ability to consider outcomes beyond instant gratification.
It is possible that after all is said and done, your child may still be a fan of Logan Paul (or even become one). That's okay - they do have the right to their opinions. In that case, you can...
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT CULTURAL RESPECT
Watch documentaries about another culture together. Get their thoughts on the cultural similarities and differences of other countries in comparison to their own. Share yours. Encourage them to socialise with people from different cultural backgrounds. Discuss ways to cope, respect, or understand cultural practices that may be in conflict with their own values.
Lastly but most importantly...
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT SUICIDE
If a child has an understanding of sadness and death, they can also understand suicide. On such an emotive topic, it is safer for them to find out about suicide through you and be able to ask all the scary questions they may have, than to hear about it from their friends or social media and become distressed without your support and guidance.
Some parents worry that talking to their children about self-harm and suicide may increase the chances of them hurting themselves. Research has consistently proven that the reverse is true – talking about difficult topics and emotions encourages people to seek help when needed, decreasing their reliance on self-destructive ways of coping with negative emotions.
The topic of suicide can be confronting for adults, too. If you think you and/or your child can benefit from professional support in talking about suicide, navigating the complexities of social media trends and relationships, or improving your communication as a family, make an appointment with one of the Hopscotch and Harmony psychologists today.
Dr Annabel Chan is a forensically-trained Clinical Psychologist who specialises in social media use, attachment and identity formation, and behavioural problems in children and adolescents. A skilled navigator of cyber-culture and online social behaviour, Annabel enjoys helping her clients and their parents get the most out of communication technology and recognise its strengths and dangers.