CNN Parenting

Q: Am I a bad parent if I let my kid star in unboxing videos on YouTube?

Am I a Bad Parent? is a CNN Parenting parenthood advice column. In the form below send us your confidential questions about any worrisome parenting behaviors you're having, and we'll help you work through the problem -- and the guilt.

(CNN)Am I a bad parent if I start a YouTube channel for my child to share unboxing videos? She would open up toys in front of the camera and then give her opinion of them. I was thinking of allowing her to do this as a reward for doing things like reading books and practicing the piano.

Bewildered Parent of a Digital Native

    Dear Bewildered Parent of a Digital Native,

    Parenting involves a lot of difficult decisions. Among the hardest are the ones in which our children want to do the thing everyone else is doing, or wants to be doing, and we, their parents, find this thing to be kind of awful. We can either demand that our children resist the dominant culture, and thus feel alienated from, or smugly superior to, their peers. Or, we can allow our children to embrace it, and then have to witness them taking on something we find objectionable.
    In some cases, like when the thing is sexist or racist, the choice is easy. In other cases, when the thing involves embracing a value system that is icky at large, but probably not that bad in small doses, the choice becomes more complicated.
    There's just so much not to like about unboxing videos. They represent crass materialism, and our endless appetite for stuff. Worse, they're fueled by the logic that possession alone is no longer titillating. In our age of abundance, it's the act of acquisition, and not ownership, that excites.

    Answering your questions about potentially bad parenting behavior. We will help you work through the guilt.

    They're also an unnecessarily early indoctrination into the attention economy, in which we are only as good as our traffic and likes. Unboxing videos and other toy-related content account for a fifth of YouTube's top 100 channels, racking up billions of views, and the desire for more stuff and more attention, per month. Many of them are made with toys provided by toy companies. Or, the people making the videos are paid directly by toy companies. Either way, the genre is largely a misleading form of advertising. (Brazil is currently suing Google, which owns YouTube, for this reason.)
    I assume you share at least some of my reservations, otherwise you wouldn't have written in about it. Nobody asks if rewarding their kid with a trip to the library, or adopting a dog from the local animal shelter, makes them a bad parent.
    All this said, maybe I should lighten up? Unboxing videos are clearly not the high point of contemporary civilization, but perhaps they aren't so bad either. Kids like toys. Kids like watching other kids talk about toys. Many kids like, or think they would like, being the kid who other people watch talking about toys. As long as this is a small piece of their media diet, most of them will weather the whole experience just fine.