In the past year of so, I am seeing more and more videos of kids/babies who appear to be in need of immediate empathy but who received little or none because their parents were fully absorbed in shooting a video of them to post on YouTube. We’ve all seen these kinds of videos that have gone viral. Some viewers find them funny or entertaining in some way; some viewers consider the kids’ emotional outbursts cute, heartwarming, endearing or in some way captivating; but some viewers feel unsettled by watching these videos. I am in the last category. Whenever I see a baby or a child who is demonstrating intense emotion, I feel compelled to respond with empathy; my brain automatically connects to hers or his in an attempt to figure out what she or he needs in the moment and then to do all that I can to assist her or him to manage that emotion productively. After all, our brains are hardwired for empathy, empowering us to naturally provide it when necessary.
Yet, in the videos I have seen that have gone viral, I have witnessed a baby or child in emotional distress and the parent ignoring, neglecting, tolerating or patronizing the distress in order to focus on getting the incident recorded for its ultimate uploading to YouTube. The increase in this sort of parental filmmaking is concerning. Of course it’s natural for us to want to capture on camera our children or grandchildren doing something memorable but is it not our responsibility as loving and empathetic caregivers to ensure that their emotional needs are being met appropriately before we aspire to shooting videos that might go viral?