At my son’s kindergarten graduation ceremony, when the teachers asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, at least a few expressed high hopes of becoming “YouTubers.” So it came as little surprise when, about a month later, my son set up some toys on the table and asked me to record a video of him to post on YouTube.
Honestly, I was reluctant. It’s one thing for him to watch YouTube videos, but an entirely different story when he wants to star in his own. But tons of kids are posting videos online these days. And I think there may be some benefits: Kids get to explore their creative side; learn about camera angles, lighting and video editing; and practise proper articulation.
Creating and posting videos can also offer a self-esteem boost, says Amanda Biggar, a teacher and mom of two. Her husband set up a YouTube channel for their six-year-old son, Brock, where he posts video game footage and commentary. “If someone subscribes or likes his videos, it makes him feel good about himself,” she says. “And he has a lot of fun making the videos.”
Katie Rose’s three kids, ages four, six and eight, post videos of themselves opening and playing with toys, sorting them by colour, and doing pretend play and cultural folk dancing. The kids get a kick out of seeing their videos running with ads, which they feel makes their channel seem more legit (see “How to make money from YouTube,” below).
But as with any social media site, there are risks to participating—and these risks can be magnified for young children. What’s more, according to YouTube’s terms of service, kids under the age of 13 aren’t even allowed to upload videos. If you do decide to set up an account in your name and let your kids attempt YouTube fame, follow these tips.
When you create the YouTube channel, set it to private, which means you’ll have to approve anyone who wants to subscribe and view the content. Older kids may balk at this, since many are driven by the number of views they might get. Be prepared to explain that it’s a compromise they’ll need to live with.
If you decide to make the account public—meaning anyone, anywhere can watch your kid’s video—then consider turning off the ability for viewers to comment and click “like” or “dislike.” “The option is in the settings, and it takes about five seconds to do,” says Paul Davis, an educator who provides training in social media safety and privacy issues. That’s what he did when his 13-year-old daughter wanted to post a slime-making video. Negative comments can be a serious hit to a child’s confidence and can lead to bullying, says Davis.
Take precautions to ensure your child can’t be tracked down based on the information provided alongside or within the video. When you’re setting up the bio section, don’t include your or your kid’s real name, or any website links.
Most important, always preview the videos before your kid posts them to make sure they don’t contain any identifying details. Consider not showing the child’s face at all. Brock’s videos, says Biggar, only feature his voice, and Davis’s daughter’s slime video only shows her hands.
Kids see YouTube stars like EvanTubeHD, who boasts more than 6 million subscribers and upwards of 3.7 billion video views, and get stars in their eyes. Be sure to explain that posting videos should be about sharing their creativity, not trying to gain fame. “Kids shouldn’t be programmed at a young age to be looking for acceptance online,” says Davis. You can encourage your kids, but make it crystal clear that the likelihood of becoming famous on YouTube is minuscule.
Most videos won’t garner more than a handful of views. But if your kid’s videos happen to take off, you can look into monetizing them. Once a channel surpasses 4,000 “watch hours” over a 12-month period and has at least 1,000 subscribers, you can apply for a Google AdSense account and decide what types of ads you’d want displayed. Then, just wait for approval—and start that RESP account!
With parental involvement, YouTube can be a great tool for kids to learn about technology and express their personalities. Just don’t let them navigate the waters by themselves, says Davis. “There are a lot of positives to YouTube,” he says, “but it all starts with parental guidance.”