Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2009

Parents: Do You Know What Your Kids Are Watching on YouTube?

As a responsible parent you’re probably up-to-date on everything that your cable or satellite provider has to offer; but what about the video content provider of choice for most tweens, YouTube?    Here’s a question to ask yourself, can you name the rather innocent looking kid in the picture below?

lucas-cruikshank-fred-youtube

The actor’s name is Lucas Cruikshank and he’s 15 years old.   But that’s irrelevant.   Your kids know him as Fred Figglehorn and the character he represents is only 6 years old.   The Fred channel on YouTube is described by Wikipedia as: “… the most subscribed and most viewed, with over 800,000 subscribers.”  This has brought Cruikshank over $100,000 (USD) in advertising income, not to mention the future prospects of product merchandising, endorsements, and appearances on more mainstream media, such as today’s appearance on iCarly on Nickelodeon.

The character Fred speaks in a seemingly helium-induced high voice — actually it’s just film sped up — and is based on Cruikshank’s two younger siblings.   With some of the short videos having received over 10 million views, and a total of over 158 million for the series,  it would seem like all is well.

Not even close.   Parents should be concerned upon discovery of the more disturbing elements in the  ‘plotline’ of these innocent looking vids.   I’ve watched about ten of them over the past few days; here’s a mix of what Wikipedia says with some observations of my own:

  • fred-in-characterFred has real anger management issues; he ‘loses it’ frequently
  • Fred regularly breaks into his friend Judy’s house, more or less ransacking her bedroom or crashing her parties
  • With a character age of only six, Fred posts his videos using his mom’s YouTube account
  • His mom is an alcoholic who the Wikipedia article states, “gets money from standing on street corners.”   Hmm…
  • His father is in prison on death row
  • One episode implied that Fred has been a victim of child abuse, locked in a dog cage for three days
  • Fred has befriended a stray cat in the garage who he calls, “the cat with rabies;” he also befriends local small dogs which he thinks are squirrels
  • While actress Lily Tomlin regularly played the preschool child Edith Anne, there are elements of Cruikshank’s portrayal of a six-year old, that are somewhat creepy and not true to the supposed age.
  • Despite the above,  an internet filter would probably not kick in to block the videos

New media are delivering images to your computer faster than mainstream media can keep you, the parent, properly informed.    My suggestion is that you watch several of these — either with your child or better yet, while the kids are at school — and decide for yourself if this gets a thumbs up or thumbs down in your house. My guess is that regular readers of this blog will decide on the thumbs down approach, even if “all the other kids at school get to watch it.”

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1 Comment

  1. Not sure what is causing the sudden influx of comments on this some 6 months later; the point of this post was to show parents how an individual can become a media “star” on YouTube, but be virtually unknown to an older generation who only use traditional media.

    Most of those parents would be disturbed by some of the personality and biographical attributes of Lucas’ on-screen character.

    Comments for this post are now closed.

    Comment by Paul Wilkinson — August 9, 2009 @ 7:08 pm


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