Marissa Levin
CEO, speaker and writer

Marissa Levin

Founder and CEO of Information Experts, a 15-year-old strategic communications, human capital, and training consulting firm. Nationally known speaker and writer, and an expert on how to build a successful business while building a fulfilling life.

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Pure exploitation

Q: Is it delightful or depressing that David DeVore has been able to turn a YouTube video of his woozy 7-year-old son into a six-figure business? Is this just another version of stage parenting or something more troubling? How do you think the marketing will affect DeVore's son when he gets older?

The story about David DeVore screams "exploitation."

Call me an over-protective parent, but I'm not in favor of exploiting my kids for fame or for money. Essentially, David's father filmed his son while he was in a vulnerable state, after what was most likely an anxiety-filled experience, and then shared that with the world for his own benefit. I really can't wrap my head around this entire situation. What possessed him to film his son anyway? Why was he focused on filming his son rather than comforting his son?

As a business owner who has bootstrapped her 15-year old firm, I find it somewhat offensive that David's father's actions are categorized as a business. This is pure exploitation. There was no intelligence and no strategy behind this. No good intentions motivated him to do what he did.

From what I understand, he is using the money to pay for David's college, and is sharing his profits with Operation Smile. While those are both worthy causes, I still disagree with how he came into the money in the first place.

Regarding how this will affect David when he is older, I actually worry about how this will afect him now. We live in a society in which everyone is fixated on getting their 15 minutes of fame. Everyone shamelessly self-promotes. Capitalizing on your kid's vulnerable moments -- whether they are spontaneous or planned -- only reinforces the message that privacy is devalued, and public attention is worth pursuing at any cost -- especially if there is a monetary gain.

David has already been re-shaped by all of this. His self-worth has already been re-calculated. The damage is done. That train has left the station. If I were David's parents, I would pre-pay some therapy sessions with those proceeds, because he's going to need it.

This is not Survivor, American Idol, or The Bachelor. Those shows exploit fully consenting adults.

I am sure David Devore's parents would emphatically disagree with my perception. But as parents, isn't our primary job to be our child's advocate, protector, champion and teacher? Isn't that our role?

Our children lack the knowledge and understanding to fully process the consequences of decisions. The role of the parent is to process these decisions on behalf of the child. David's opinion in all of this is completely insignificant because a 6-year old is totally incapable of making a sound decision on what is best for him. I'm fairly certain that when I was 6, I lacked this ability, and I am absolutely certain that my two sons (now ages 9 and 12) also lacked this ability.

All parents are on the hook to advocate for, protect, champion for, and teach their kids. The job description is very simple. I see none of that occurring in this situation. Society's rules today are often reckless. As parents, we have to be vigilant to ensure our children are protected and treasured - and that certainly doesn't involve exploitation. It's Parenting 101.

By Marissa Levin  |  April 13, 2010; 8:09 PM ET  | Category:  Parenting Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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In my experience, boys are most influenced by their fathers and the thought of being helpful to his father means a lot to a young boy.

He probably learned from all this that his father is a clever, resourceful man who used his talents to bring amusement to others and money to his family.

Some of the admiration he is getting from his schoolmates is likely because he has such a good dad.

I don't expect moms, even if they have sons to understand any of this.

Posted by: loyalsyst | April 15, 2010 1:15 AM
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This really is way overblown. "Why was he focused on filming his son rather than comforting his son?" Well, that's because his son probably didn't need his father's comfort at the moment as he was still heavily medicated and was quite happy without his father hugging and kissing him right that moment. Was the father also not supposed to focus on driving after he was done filming?

This statement deserves the Drama Queen Crown Award: "David has already been re-shaped by all of this. His self-worth has already been re-calculated. The damage is done." Can you specify what horrible damage was done? His life was re-shaped, but how can you judge that it was re-shaped for the worse? He may be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, and may be is now a popular kid in his school -- you don't know any of it and certainly cannot judge.

It also amuses me that you are judging his father's entrepreneurial ambitions. As an entrepreneur yourself, you should know that entrepreneurs see an opportunity and run with it. That is exactly what this man did. He is no worse than parents parading their kids at children's beauty contests or taking them to many auditions in hopes that the kid lands a spot in a commercial, or parents who send in videos to America's Funniest Videos and then bring their kids to the actual show. I agree with the poster who says that you are jealous of this man's wild entrepreneurial success. I disagree with you that this somehow ruined David's life, and you have absolutely no evidence to prove otherwise.

Posted by: Dura | April 14, 2010 7:27 PM
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OH... You write for the Examiner as well?

This explains so much.

Posted by: mason08 | April 14, 2010 5:57 PM
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Hey there... it's Marissa. First, let me say thank you for all of the comments! As a writer of multiple columns, I enjoy debating controversial topics. I know if I'm going to dish it out, I have to be prepared to take it. So I'm fairly thick-skinned.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are two of the greatest things about this country, so as I continue to write, please continue to challenge me.

We can all learn from one another.

I also write the Women's Entrepreneurship column for The Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/x-12152-DC-Womens-Entrepreneurship-Examiner), and I write for www.womengrowbusiness.com, www.salesgravy.com, and Yahoo.

I'm also on Twitter (marissalevin), and for professional/personal contacts, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thank you for the read, and I look forward to dialogue-ing with you on future topics.

Posted by: Marissa Levin | April 14, 2010 3:57 PM
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So is this targeted towards anyone that has submitted video to America's Funniest Home Videos.

This opinion piece is worthless and it seems like if I were Marissa's kid, I would need therapy.

Posted by: beaupre33 | April 14, 2010 1:20 PM
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Way, way overblown.

Have you seen the video? It's light-hearted and hilarious. The kid is basically high on dental anesthesia. You have no evidence to suggest (or even assume) that he has been traumatized.

The asinine contemporary assumption that parents can (and must) completely control the fate of their children is the real problem.

Posted by: tsottek | April 14, 2010 12:46 PM
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"Call me an over-protective parent, but I'm not in favor of exploiting my kids for fame or for money."

You're an over-protective parent.

There are certainly some parents out there who exploit their kids for gain, but given the casual circumstances that surrounded the upload of this video in the first place (Welcome to the internets, his internet fame was 2 months ago. =P ) I hardly find this one of those cases.

There are thousands of videos that get uploaded to YouTube all of the time, most with only a passing desire to share with friends and family. Occasionally one takes off and we all laugh and LOL and buy the t-shirt.

Yes, David is 7 and had no way of making decisions for himself. I doubt he'd recall much of this moment either (especially hyped up on drugs. =P ) At the very most he has another home video of himself that his parents, and the rest of the world, found endearing. 24 hours of internet fame, LOL, end of story, we moved on with our lives.

I think the real basis of this piece lies in this statement:

"As a business owner who has bootstrapped her 15-year old firm, I find it somewhat offensive that David's father's actions are categorized as a business"

In other words, "I worked for 15 years to start a business lecturing other people, and this hack posts a video of his kid online and somehow ends up with 6 figures. WTF."

Stinks to be you. =P

Posted by: Digitalman | April 14, 2010 12:26 PM
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How do you know that David has been "re-shaped" and his self worth "re-calculated?" Did you talk to him, or is this pure conjecture? I understand that you are trying to tease this into a traumatic situation, but I don't believe at all that this was a "vulnerable moment" for the kid. It is likely he doesn't remember anything about that car ride, and he was just talking nonsense anyway. All this talk about child abuse and exploitation really just makes me cringe. The kid is lucky enough to come from a good home where his parents love him and take care of him and people think it's abuse? Give me a break.

One last thing: I think it says something about the author when she says this: "I'm fairly certain that when I was 6, I lacked [the ability to know what was good for me], and I am absolutely certain that my two sons (now ages 9 and 12) also lacked this ability."

How can you be only fairly certain about yourself, but absolutely certain about someone else? I think this woman just believes she knows what is best for everyone, and wants others to believe this, too.

Posted by: collegekid | April 14, 2010 11:45 AM
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"David has already been re-shaped by all of this. His self-worth has already been re-calculated. The damage is done."

I agree that his life will be *different* because of this, but please don't claim "damage" without backing it up with evidence, either particular to the kid or general studies. Otherwise, your argument basically resolves to "this feels icky to me and therefore must be bad."

Also, I find it amusing that your definition of "business" requires "good intentions." That's not what appears in my dictionary.

Posted by: hbc1 | April 14, 2010 11:04 AM
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Disgusting. In the realm of balloon boy. Aren't there child protection laws?

Posted by: SarahBB | April 14, 2010 8:17 AM
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