A Parenting Influencer Re‑Homed Her Son, Raising Questions About Digital Privacy, Exploitation
Family and lifestyle influencer Myka Stauffer was recently in the news for re-homing her son Huxley, who she adopted in 2017 from China. Stauffer runs a self-titled, monetized Youtube channel, where she makes videos about, “mom life, organization, getting your home in order and everything in between.” Including Huxley, Stauffer was raising five children with her partner James. Stauffer stated in her video talking about the re-homing that this was as much Huxley’s choice as theirs.
For the Stauffers’ adopted son Huxley, whose meltdowns were recorded by the Stauffers, whose behavioral patterns were denigrated, whose hands were duct-taped because he sucked his fingers too much, and whose struggles with bonding with his parents were filmed in a video that also had an advertisement for $2 soap, none of this was a choice. Huxley was diagnosed with brain damage, is autistic, and non-verbal, that is, he could not communicate with his parents either because he could not speak, or because he could not understand English.
Stauffer’s decision to re-home their child raised outrage, because of her heavy focus on Huxley’s life during the time she raised him. Huxley’s adoption led to Stauffer becoming an authority on international adoptions, helped her raise a large amount of money, and helped her receive multiple brand partnership deals and magazine features. Digital media is an extraordinary resource for individuals — in this case, parents who are also attempting to understand how to bond with children who need unique parenting techniques. But, when the lives of young children incapable of giving consent are monetized and turned into content for a large number of viewers — there must be stringent norms set in place to protect them for exploitation.
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There is rage abound about the Stauffers’ greed and bad parenting. Though both parents must be held responsible for her lack of good judgment, they are not the only ones at fault here — viewers, and the social media platforms hosting and helping monetize such content are, too. As a culture, we have rightfully seen children as dependent individuals, who parents guide and protect till they are capable of making their own, well-judged decisions as adults. The problem is that parents can fail miserably, and make bad judgments for their children too.
In this case, viewers, and the social media platforms where the Stauffers made so much of their money, should have also stepped up. Rather than bringing up the Stauffers’ unfair behavior now, when the more unseemly news of them re-homing their child is all over the news, viewers and fans should have pointed out their discomfort with the parents’ actions immediately as it happened.
There is no extreme need for families to monetize their children’s lives — especially children who live with disabilities. Capturing the child-rearing process as a resource to other women is fair, but making money off the meltdowns and confusion of a young child is not. We as a culture have lived with social media long enough to know the difference between the two — it is time to act on it and report/boycott such content. It is also time social media corporations set up clear guidelines with respect to the privacy children must be afforded, to prevent exploitation — accidental, or intentional.