The “cheese challenge” has parents throwing slices of American cheese at their babies’ faces and posting the videos. But as stupid as that is, it’s what comes later that really bothers me.
What is The Cheese Challenge?
A couple of weekends ago I was on a trip with my seventeen-year-old son, and we were lazing around our hotel room on our phones when I showed him an article about parents throwing slices of American cheese at their babies’ faces and putting the videos online, known as the “cheese challenge.” His immediate reaction was, “You would totally do that.”
I. Was. Insulted.
Now, if I happened to be videotaping my baby (which rarely happened because I had my babies before we were all walking around with high-quality cameras in our pockets), and a slice of American cheese happened to fall from the sky and land on my baby’s face through no fault of my own, and I got the whole thing on camera, then yes, 100%, absolutely, I would totally put that video online. An accidental cheese challenge, if you will.
But I would never actually orchestrate that moment. I wouldn’t set my baby up like that. I just wouldn’t, and I was actually a little upset that my son didn’t see the difference.
The whole baby cheese challenge thing was apparently started by a dad in Michigan who did just that: purposely threw a slice of cheese onto his baby’s face while the baby sat in a high chair and video was being taken. And he put it on Facebook, which I’m not going to link to, because honestly, I find the whole thing a little disturbing. And with 4.1 million views and more than three-quarters of a million shares, he doesn’t need my attention anyway. Find it yourself if you’re curious—if you want to see it I’m going to make you do the legwork.
And suddenly people were copying him, all over the internet. Because humiliating our babies is fun in 2019.
Is The Cheese Challenge harmful?
Of course, the babies aren’t *actually* humiliated, because they’re babies and can’t feel that emotion yet. In fact, this probably isn’t harming them at all. Because they’re babies, and to them, it’s just the confusing sensation of something cold and sticky on their faces.
So on its face (pun intended), it’s stupid but harmless.
However, here’s why I worry: a parent who will throw cheese at his baby’s face in order to make a funny video is the same parent who will pretend to have eaten his child’s Halloween candy because Jimmy Kimmel said it was funny, and could turn into the kind of parent who pretends to launch his child 7,000 feet into the air in a balloon in pursuit of a reality show. It could end up being the parent who will set up a YouTube channel to showcase how “wacky” the family is in the hopes of making bank, even if the kids don’t want to participate. It’s quite possibly the parent who will play embarrassing pranks during a child’s milestone events (with the child as the butt of the joke, of course) while on Facebook Live.
We did an entire podcast episode about these kinds of parents over on Parenting Bytes a few years ago (which you can listen to at the bottom of this post if you like), and the problem has only gotten worse since then. At least one couple lost custody of their children because of the extreme ways they embarrassed the children on YouTube. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. The internet is filled with videos that highlight questionable parental choices, all in the name of attention, likes, and views.Did you participate in the #CheeseChallenge? What are you going to do next for attention?
The real irony of all of this is, we are all walking around with high-quality cameras in our pockets, and we use them a lot. So many things get recorded routinely now that fantastic (and embarrassing) occurrences are saved for posterity accidentally, without anybody having to set anyone else up for a prank, because we’re human and clumsy and funny and we do dumb shit with no help from anybody else. And I laugh at those things! And I would post those things, as long as the people in them didn’t object (and if it was my baby, well, my decision then).
So BY ALL MEANS, when funny things are caught on video, run with them. Post them. Get permission from the subject first if they’re at all identifiable, and if it’s your own kid, for goodness’ sake make sure they’re OK with it (and be prepared to take it down if they change their mind). Because laughing at ourselves and each other is healthy. Setting someone up to be humiliated for your own gain is not.