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Ruby Franke’s First Red Flag Was Deciding To Pimp Out Her Kids’ Lives For Views

All family vlogs, not just those run by now-convicted child abusers like Ruby Franke, are problematic and deserve scrutiny.

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If you told any of the early subscribers of the seemingly family-friendly “8 Passengers” YouTube channel that the mother behind the camera would eventually be convicted as a child abuser, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Yet, it’s reality.

Eight years after Ruby Franke decided to begin documenting her six children’s lives and uploading the vlogs to social media, the Utah influencer pleaded guilty to four of six counts of felony child abuse and faces what could total up to 30 years in prison.

The picture-perfect blonde mom spent every weekday for more than half of a decade showcasing her family’s daily routines and activities for the world to see.

The vlogs also featured evidence of neglect and abuse, like when she bragged about forcing her teenage son to sleep on a beanbag outside of his bedroom for the better part of a year after he pranked his younger brother. But millions of followers, some of whom have self-described “addiction” to watching family vlogs, and billions of views indicated Franke’s audience was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on questionable behavior like routinely withholding food from her children as punishment so the show would go on.

Franke eventually separated from her husband and strayed from vlogging to join fellow Mormon counselor Jodi Hildebrandt in 2022 in offering parenting advice via classes, videos, podcasts, and social media chat groups. During that time, Franke’s oldest daughter, who previously cut ties with her mom, and neighbors called the cops several times to request welfare checks on the youngest Frankes, who were often left home alone.

It wasn’t until Franke’s emaciated youngest son, 12, showed up on a neighbor’s doorstep in August 2023 with “open wounds and duct tape around the extremities” caused by “deep lacerations from being tied up with rope” asking for food and water, however, that law enforcement took action. Police soon discovered that the boy and his 10-year-old sister, both malnourished, were held at Hildebrandt’s house, which contained supplies like ropes, handcuffs, pastes made of cayenne pepper and honey, bandages, and plastic wrap.

The discovery led to the arrest of both Franke and Hildebrandt and the transfer of the youngest four of Franke’s children into state custody. After six months of investigation and trial, Franke and Hildebrandt both were convicted of felony child abuse, and Franke’s channel was permanently deleted and banned from YouTube.

It’s Time For Family Vloggers To Wave The White Flag

The Frankes’ problems didn’t simply start in August 2023 when their matriarch was arrested. They didn’t even begin, as a well-documented video trail of emotional and mental mistreatment suggests, during the peak of the family’s viral videos.

The exploitation of the Franke children began in 2015 when their mother picked up a camera and made the decision to publicize the intimate details of the better part of her family’s lives on the internet for all to see. For the sake of fame and fortune, family vloggers like Franke choose to make commodifying children their day job.

No child should be subject to the abuse the Franke children, especially the youngest two, endured while under Franke and Hildebrandt’s watch. Similarly, no kid should be subject to the exploitation the Franke children endured as the main acts in their mom’s daily videos.

Unfortunately, the family vlogging to child abuse conviction pipeline is not uncommon. Sure, not all family vloggers are and are unlikely to ever be convicted child abusers. But it’s not a stretch to say that parents who don’t recognize the importance of protecting their kids’ privacy and innocence face a slippery exploitation slope that leads to regret and broken relationships.

In the cases of the Frankes, the FamilyOFive, and Fantastic Adventure vlogging families, parents who made making content their income stream deliberately failed to meet their kids’ emotional and physical needs.

Even without the in-home abuse that plagued the Frankes and other vlog families, kids whose parents immortalize their faces and voices on the World Wide Web easily become victims of sexualized imagery or fraud.

Vlog children are fruit ripe for the picking by pedophiles who need nothing more than access to the internet to see everything, from pool days to potty training, that parents post on their public accounts.

A recent New York Times report hinted that the parents who run these accounts know who is consuming their content. They have access to data and demographics like the sex and age of the people frequently tuning into videos of their young sons and daughters and can see the comments “where men openly fantasize about sexually abusing the children they follow.”

Jaded by the moneymaking opportunities of underage modeling and brand influencing, “thousands” of parent-run accounts ignore the disparate number of ill-intentioned men devouring pictures of their young girls in skimpy bikinis or cheer outfits and offer “exclusive chat sessions” to the highest bidder.

The fate of the Frankes should serve as a cautionary tale. Anyone who is willing to pimp out their children’s innocence and privacy for creeps’ clicks clearly isn’t right in the head.


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