No more doctors. Or vets. Or teachers. No aspirations for superhero-dom. When I asked my son what he wants to do when he grows up, he said ‘I want to be a You Tuber’. Sound familiar? You Tube is the number one tech experience for kids. And they start young: nearly half of 3-4 years olds have watched You Tube, rising to three quarters of 8-11s. Children are watching cartoons, pranks, music, gaming, unboxing videos and more. And there are many children creating their own videos.
So, your kid wants to become a You Tuber. What now? Here are 4 tips for parents on how to respond:
1. Get to the why
A helpful first step can be for your child to explain why they want to be a You Tuber. Do they want to play games all day for a living? This could be an opportunity to tackle the allure of fame and money. Do they talk about ideals such as self-expression, learning and creating? Perhaps they have a passion they’d like to share with the world. Do they really want to make videos, or is there another way they can be creative? Maybe they’d like to play a game pretending to be a You Tuber, or create animations rather than real life video. Your child might be more interested in the technical side e.g. video production. As a parent, we may not feel comfortable with the idea of our children creating their own videos. What are your fears, and are they well-founded? You Tube has been criticised for nonsense cartoons, violent parodies, dangerous pranks and promotion of extremist views. But could your child have a positive experience on You Tube? The minimum age to create videos on You Tube is 13, but this rule is not strictly enforced. What age do you feel your child needs to be before they can create online content? Is s/he emotionally mature enough?
2. Who is influencing your child?
Maybe one reason your child wants to create videos is to copy someone they’ve seen online. So, who are they watching? A You Tuber may advertise certain products, a particular lifestyle or beliefs. They may livestream, or demonstrate age-gated games. Some promote other You Tubers or influencers. They may encourage their viewers to visit other social media platforms. Do you need to steer your child towards more appropriate online content?
There are a variety of things you can do to control what your child accesses on You Tube. For younger children, You Tube Kids provides some extra protection against inappropriate material.
For older children on the main You Tube site or app, create a new family login to You Tube rather than using yours. This avoids your child seeing your subscribed channels and your chat. (You Tube may also recommend videos to your child based on your own browsing history). Using a family log in means you can subscribe to channels you trust for your child to follow. If you want to create, share and comment on videos, you must be logged in. To create a family login, click ‘Sign in’ and follow the links to create a new account. This will be through creating a new Google email address Once logged in, turn on restricted mode (to filter out some inappropriate content). You’ll need to do this for each browser your child uses. Also, try playing a video and ensure that autoplay is switched off. Subscribe to channels you trust, so your child watches these channels instead of openly searching for videos. You can also create playlists (list of videos for your child to play). Watch a sample of videos that your child would like and read the comments below them. Check the suggested videos that You Tube recommends (listed at the side of the current video). Explain to your child if you are planning to check their watch history. Google (which owns You Tube) provides tips and tools for parents.
3. Agree ground rules and empower!
Agree with your child: what is OK to share in a video, and what is not. Talk about why we protect personal information (our own and others’). Agree whether your child is allowed to create videos on their own, and whether they can include family and friends. Where and when can they make videos? Are they allowed to livestream? Are they aware of copyright issues? Can they chat with friends on You Tube? Perhaps you can create videos together as a fun family activity. Be clear about what your role is going to be – fully involved, or checking final content? Who will do the filming and editing?
You Tube is not a passive experience. Yes, you can watch videos. but you can also make your own videos, livestream, share and comment on videos and chat with friends. Ensure your child is aware of the risks of livestreaming and messaging. This includes being asked to make custom videos or switch to a more private chatting service with a stranger. You Tube recently decided to disable comments on under-18’s videos. But ensure your child knows how to deal with negative or inappropriate content, comments or messages. How would they react if a video went viral? How will they feel about videos they’ve produced when they’re older?
4. Make a plan
Ask your child to write a plan for their channel. They should describe what topics they’re going to cover in their videos (and why). Include who will be involved, who is their target audience and how many videos they have in mind to create. Ask them to reflect on the videos they’ve watched – what they like about them and don’t like. What technical skills do they (and you) need to learn? How much time are they willing to put into this project?
You can upload videos as private, unlisted or public on You Tube. If you decide to go ahead, start with creating private videos. A private video can only be shared with someone else through their email address. It won’t show up in You Tube search results or on your channel. Comments are also disabled on private videos. This approach allows you and your child to test out the experience. Your child can get some constructive feedback from people they trust. Over time you may wish to consider unlisted videos (which can be shared via a hyperlink) or public videos. You child may wish to use a different video platform – see further advice about vlogging and livestreaming here.
Those are my 4 tips to respond to the budding You Tuber in your family. Continue to check-in with your child as they grow in confidence. Ensure they can talk to you about any issues that arise. Good luck!