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Exploiting Kids on YouTube is Not Okay

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There's a video clip called "David after Dentist" making the YouTube rounds that features a young boy, probably six or seven years old, in the throes of anesthetic confusion following an oral medical procedure.

It was recommended to me by several different people who found it uproariously funny, and when I checked it out today I, at first, thought it was too.

Here's this gap-toothed kid tripping on laughing gas. He says silly, drugged-out things in a young kid kind of way that is endearing and hilarious.

There's something inherently comical about witnessing adult experiences in miniature form, and this clip embodies the genre.

But a few seconds into the nearly two-minute video I began to wonder at the rightness of exposing this child's private confusion. By the end of the two minutes I felt it was downright wrong.

Interestingly, when David's words and actions are described in writing, they're not nearly as funny. The comic value lies nearly entirely in the visual power of a child in the throes of a drug stupor.

I'm reluctant to drive any more traffic to the video, but here's my verbal description:

Sitting in a booster seat, strapped into the back seat of the car, David shares his thoughts and concerns with the holder of the video camera.

His head rolls from side to side. He gapes, stares, says, at various moments, "Uh, I feel funny," "Is this real life?" and, holding his index fingers in front of him, "Okay, okay now I have two fingers." He pokes at his stitches (and is told by the off-camera male voice not to), and says "I can't see anything."

He pushes himself out of his seat and screams, then collapses back into his seat and shuts his eyes. "I don't feel tired," he says. "Do I have stitches?" he asks, twice, and then wants to know why he can't touch them. His eyes widen and he observes, of the man videoing him, "You have four eyes."

He frowns, pulls his arms toward his body and extends them away from himself in a gesture of frustration, frowning. "I feel funny," he says. "Why is this happening to me?" The off-camera voice assures him: "It's okay, bud. It's just from the medicine," to which David responds, plaintively, "Is this going to be forever?" No, grown-up male voice says, laughing. David's head drops forward onto his chest.

No matter the comedic value, this is a child who trusts his parents/caregivers to help and protect him. He's freaking out and worried and that's real, not a joke. Clearly the child is going to be okay, and there's no serious breach of parental responsibility, but what about simple human respect?

Is it okay for a parent to publicly post his child's private moment of confusion? The child had no control over his actions in that moment, and he has no control over his dad's decision to share that private moment with others. Last I checked the video had more than 9,000,000 hits.

We are laughing at the child, not with him. No matter how innocuous the context, we are getting a laugh at a child's expense.