A YouTube star told TODAY Parents she's consumed with regret after she posted a video of herself coaching her already distressed child on how to cry for the camera.
In the now-deleted clip, titled "We are heartbroken," Jordan Cheyenne explained that her family’s puppy had been diagnosed with a potentially deadly illness.
Cheyenne’s son, Christian, 8, was seen sobbing loudly in the passenger seat as she broke the news to her 500,000 subscribers.
“Come closer,” Cheyenne told him, while pulling him towards her. “Act like you’re crying.”
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“I am crying,” the little boy replied. “Mom, I’m actually seriously crying.”
Cheyenne coached Christian to scrunch up his face, told him to wail in a certain way and told him how to place his hand.
“Let them see your mouth,” the parenting and lifestyle vlogger said. “Look at the camera.”
After uploading the footage last week, Cheyenne was swiftly criticized on social media.
“The Jordan Cheyenne video is so disturbing and hard to watch," wrote Twitter user Andrea Russett. "Social media can be so dark.”
Cheyenne spoke to TODAY Parents on Tuesday, saying that what she did was "disgusting" and "inexcusable" — but not uncommon for people who put their children on YouTube.
"I want people to know that I've deleted my channel. People think I deactivated my channel, but I deleted it. I have no sponsors, no pay, no monetization. I've given up all of that to be behind the scenes and extremely present with my child and get us both into counseling."
She said a lot of kid coaching goes on behind the scenes of YouTube family videos.
"Of course. People will have their kids ham it up. Behind the scenes they're like, 'Do this, and I'll give you a treat.' It's so wrong and I can't even say how disappointed in myself I am. I want to be clear — I have no excuse — but I think it opened a conversation for how a lot of people might be running their channels."
Cheyenne said that Christian will never be on YouTube again.
"The good thing is he doesn't know all of this has blown up. This trauma doesn't need to get put on him," she said. "I made a huge mistake — that is all on me. I'm owning it."
Cheyenne wants people to know that her content was the real deal. "I'm so proud of what I've done over the last eight years. It wasn't a facade," she said.
The incident seems to encapsulate larger concerns over children being featured in videos on YouTube or other online platforms.
According to Dr. Sue Varma, a psychiatrist in New York City, YouTube children are at risk of feeling “used, resentful and disconnected from their family.”
“They are on 24/7 — and they lose aspects of being free, and off the clock,” Varma told TODAY Parents. “There should be clear boundaries… but of course a young child can’t navigate this.”
"Where does it end?" she asked.
Joshua Barbour, host of “The Dad Challenge Podcast,” has a YouTube channel dedicated to exposing family vloggers. His biggest concerns are privacy and sexual predators, but he also worries about kids being used for financial gain.
“These vloggers feel enormous pressure to create content. So if their kid gets injured, their first inclination is to turn the camera on — not hug the child,” Barbour told TODAY Parents. “All they see is the clicks and the views. They know what’s going to get them money.”
Cheyenne spoke to Barbour on his show last week about her video. She said that she's raised Christian as a single mom, and her income from YouTube and social media enabled her to quit her retail job.
Barbour said that he’s seen far worse.
“I know a vlogger that has six thumbnails of their kid’s bleeding face,” he said.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: