The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Op-Ed: Ruby Franke is Not an Isolated Case

Prepare to see more histories of abuse within family vlogging channels.
Photo Courtesy / YouTube Law&Crime Network

Former vlogger behind the YouTube channel “8 Passengers” Ruby Franke shocked the world when she and co-conspirator Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested for child abuse in August 2023. The extent of the abuse that Franke and Hildebrandt were forcing on Franke’s children, particularly the youngest Russell and Eve, would fuel the nightmares of any watcher. 

But the signs of abuse shown by Franke in her earliest vlogs show that this was something to be expected. More importantly, those keeping up with the case should expect more allegations against parents of family vlogging channels to follow. 

Franke and Hildebrandt were sentenced to four one-to-15-year terms that could be carried out consecutively for up to 30 years. 

The history of abuse extends to putting pepper and duct tape over her children’s open wounds, shaving her daughter’s head and forcing her daughter to do manual labor for hours without sufficient food and water. All of this occurred off-camera after Franke stopped vlogging when faced with backlash about her parenting style. 

As cases of abuse within “child stars”  keep appearing, society is coming to learn more about the dangers of exposing children to the limelight. 

It begs the question of whether any parent who puts a camera in a child’s face for monetary gain truly cares about the well-being of their children. It’s blatantly clear that all that they want is to groom the vulnerable into making them money.

The first red flags came at the expense of the oldest son, Chad. Franke was sent to a wilderness camp and forced to sleep on a beanbag for seven months. His crime? Pranking his little brother by telling him they were going to Disneyland. Such a harsh punishment sent a slew of hate to Ruby and her husband Kevin.

One of the first times the family was “vulnerable” with fans invited abuse allegations and visits from CPS. This proves more than anything that no one knows what occurs in the homes of vloggers when the camera is put away and the kids no longer have dollar signs above their heads. 

Think about Wren Eleanor, the famous four-year-old whose mother, Jacquelyn, is being accused of exposing her to predators for views. Or Machelle Hobson, who was charged with abusing five of her seven adopted children when they would not perform for her YouTube channel, the “Fantastic Adventures.” It appears as the years go on that these “kidfluencers” are showing that their fun-filled childhoods were more reminiscent of forced-labor. 

According to the Washington Post, influencers and celebrities are now limiting their children’s screen times and blurring their faces to give them the chance at a “normal childhood.” They also want them to consent to being in videos when they are old enough to understand what having a social media platform means.

This is a step in the right direction for influencers and celebrities. Knowing what it means to have a child going through life in front of millions of viewers will stop any logical parent from putting their kid in the limelight. But for parents reminiscent of Franke, who stopped vlogging only when Child Protective Services (CPS) showed up at her house, considering their children’s feelings requires introspection and clarity that money tends to obscure.

 Do not believe that another Ruby Franke will not come out of the woodwork in the next few years. More importantly, stop being fooled by the idea that your favorite family vloggers respect the well-being of their children. 

More happens behind the camera than in front of the camera. No child wants to play with toys in front of the entire world or recount their puberty horror stories for predators to react to. The parents hit “post” and their kids suffer for it and so much more.

The antics of family vlogging channels at the very least create a hostile environment for children to thrive in. At the most, it contains signs of something much more sinister happening when the camera is put away. Ruby Franke is not the only mother crossing the line between family fun and maltreatment. As these kids grow up, all we can do is watch what horror stories will come out about them next.

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About the Contributor
Carlyann Carey
Carlyann Carey, Opinion Editor
Carlyann (CC) is a junior English major and government and politics minor. This is her first year as the Opinion Editor of the Torch and she is ecstatic to be here! Outside of the Torch, she is a student worker at the Office of Residence Life. When left to her own devices, she likes to go for long runs, stand in line at Dunkin’ for an iced coffee and watch video essays on YouTube while crocheting. CC can be reached at [email protected]
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