Child Microcelebrities, Commercially Viable Biographies, and Interactions with Technology


Some of the most watched pre-schoolers today are young children of viral video fame, family influencer units, and micro-microcelebrities. While children of viral video fame may stumble into public popularity by accident or chance (Abidin, 2018a), children in family influencer units gain fame from being consistently exposed to the public as part of their parents’ production of content that heavily centres on domestic life (Abidin, 2017), and children who are micromicrocelebrities are intentionally groomed by their microcelebrity mothers to become commodities and human billboards from birth (Abidin, 2015). As social-media-famous children whose public visibility in digital spaces is not only intentionally prolific but deliberately commercial, such pre-schoolers are unwittingly subject to having their biographies video-recorded and textually documented for hundreds of thousands of followers. Often, their digital estates also portray the children interacting with different devices and technology, with varying degrees of digital literacy and self-awareness. Although most of this production is managed and curated by parents of such young semi-public figures, other factors in the ecology shape parental choices, such as corporate pressures from influencer management agencies and sponsoring clients, and audience pressures from followers who request or demand specific content. At present, contract stipulations and guidelines between child influencers and agencies or clients are guarded under legal confidentiality or obscured to preempt cultural backlash and scrutiny. Existing child labour laws in the entertainment industry, such as the Entertainment Work Permit (Department of Industrial Relations, 2013) and the Californian Coogan Law (Screen Actors Guild, 2015), stipulate protection of under-12s in the mainstream media industries such as film, television, and music. National guidelines, such as Singapore’s Protection of Underaged Workers governed by the Ministry of Manpower, seem to focus on industrial work taken up outside the domestic space of the home (Ministry of Manpower, 2014). As such, despite their high visibility on social media and lucrative biographies that are archived to accumulate brand longevity on YouTube, the actual working conditions and contractual obligations of such child microcelebrities are relatively obscured.