If you’ve never heard of Logan Paul (or his brother Jake Paul, for that matter), then you probably don’t have a preteen. The 22-year-old American is one of the most popular daily YouTubers out there, with 15 million subscribers and around 5 million views on each of his videos. He’s not just a big deal on the internet—Paul was on Top Chef just last week, and has appeared on talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
His videos largely feature juvenile, physical humour—frat-boy stuff, vapid but mostly innocuous, aimed at the preteen and teen crowd. But on January 1—a day when many school-age kids were hanging around at home, watching Netflix and YouTube—he posted a video that can only be described as wildly inappropriate. It horrified my Logan Paul-loving nine-year-old.
The now-deleted video shows Paul and his crew visiting a Japanese forest known for suicides, ostensibly to see if it’s haunted. But perhaps unsurprisingly, they come upon a body hanging from a tree. The person’s face is blurred in the video, but the camera gets very close to the body, and shows a close-up of the person’s hands.
Paul asks someone to call the police, and says, “This is a first for me. This literally probably just happened.” Someone who can’t be seen on camera says, “I don’t feel good,” and Paul replies, “What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” The person says no, and Paul begins to laugh. “It was gonna be a joke. This was all a joke. Why did it become so real?”
In the parking lot of the forest, Paul turns to the camera and explains that his smiling and laughing “is not a portrayal of how I feel about the circumstances. Everyone copes with sh*t differently… I cope with things with humour.”
Reaction to the video was swift. People were rightly outraged that he essentially made a joke out of depression and suicide, and made “content” out of a tragedy, especially considering his young, vulnerable audience. (Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between 10 to 24 in the U.S., according to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.) He has since deleted the video and issued an apology on Twitter—although, like many public apologies, his is being widely criticized for being inadequate and self-serving.
This event would be barely a blip on my radar if it weren’t for the fact that my nine-year-old is a huge Logan Paul fan—so much so that “Logan Paul merchandise” featured heavily on his Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists. Which meant that this morning, before the rush to get him to sports camp and myself to work, we had a long, serious talk about the video.
The good news is, he didn’t watch the actual video when it was first released. He did watch a different video of other YouTubers talking about it, though, and that was enough to scare him off watching the original. But he admitted that even hearing about it made it hard for him to fall asleep that night.
Part of me wanted to ban him from watching Logan Paul ever again. And I still might. But this morning, I decided to use the video as a teachable moment. At 7:30 a.m., over coffee (me) and a bowl of Chex (him), we talked about mental health and suicide; about the power that comes with having a huge audience; about things that are more important than “likes” and “views”; about mistakes, and how to handle it when you make a huge one; and about compassion and forgiveness. I’m upset that this video was ever published, but the small upside is that it gave me the opportunity to educate my intellectually curious kid about these important topics.