internet fame for kids
July 3, 2018 4:32 PM   Subscribe

My eight-year-old son desperately wants to be a “youtuber” whereas I, boring mother, would like to see YouTube razed to the ground. What’s our happy medium?

He loves making movies (stop motion, vlog-style stuff, acting out scenes with his little brothers, etc), and he wants to share them with the world. I want to encourage his creativity and skills, but he is a sensitive and fairly sheltered kid and I’m worried about exposing him to *gestures wildly at youtube trolls and the alt-right and flatearthers* alllll that.
I’m not at all familiar with sharing videos on youtube myself...are there ways to lock it down or moderate comments or anything? Are there any other video-hosting sites geared towards kids? Other ideas or suggestions?
posted by logic vs love to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've used parental controls on YouTube with my kids and it's seemed to work. I've also combined it with human moderation (us parents) and communication (setting out rules and expectations).

YouTube does allow you to upload videos privately, and share privately. You could also use Vimeo. Google Photos is an even better choice, since the service allows commenting by people who have specifically been allowed to view the videos, and no one else. Presumably your son just wants to share with family.

As you would probably agree, being 8 is far too young to be sharing stuff on the open Internet. With my older son I monitored what he did until he turned thirteen or so. Then I didn't want to know (he experimented with swearing), but I did say that I did not expect him to harass people -- I wanted him to be kind. I also stressed that besides harming others or putting himself in danger, how he behaved online reflected on me, his parent, and I would be responsible.

But until he turned 13 or so there were no devices allowed in his room; media had to be consumed/watched in a common area.

We paid attention.
posted by JamesBay at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

It's almost as if I wrote this question.... *sigh*.
Similar issue in our house, but my daughter is 11. She has a phone and is allowed to consume YouTube media but is not allowed to share content with the world until she is a bit older (likely 13). I'll start with allowing her to share things to people she knows that do not involve her face/voice- like live action Lego movies set to music that she's made. I would doubt that your son will be interested in platforms that his friends are not using, at least this has been my experience.

With the platforms my daughter uses I've been consistently trying to educate her on internet safety and behaviour: set privacy settings, things you send to a friend/post are there forever, do not share personal information with internet strangers, look at these nasty comments- don't be that person, etc.

I'm hoping that this is helping to set the stage for when she's a totally autonomous user of YouTube and social media.... fingers crossed!
posted by DTMFA at 5:09 PM on July 3, 2018

He might like DIY.ORG. It's not specifically just for sharing videos, but kids can learn new skills, earn badges, & share videos that they've made as part of these skill challenges. I'd point him towards the Filmmaker, Journalist, Animator, and Special Effects badges.
posted by belladonna at 5:42 PM on July 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Say no as long as you possibly can. It's the social media aspect that's dangerous because the gaming addiction of the popularity metrics can get toxic on self esteem. Plus there's having their face and RL identity online when they're older. My youngest wants to be online so badly, but is forbidden for now. I've agreed she can maybe later put up some voice-over or animated videos under a fandom name where I'm moderating her comments and she can't see her metrics as a first step.

Sounds strict? A kid a year older in her social group has a YouTube channel and is upset regularly about hits and does 'sexy' songs for more likes etc. The parents say it's up to her. My kid is half envious half horrified.

It's a Pandora box for children. Delay. And monitor heavily - don't rely on auto monitoring, watch with them every now and then so you know who they're following and can discuss their topics.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:11 PM on July 3, 2018 [15 favorites]

Commonsense Media seems to have pretty good advice on this.

...YouTube was not a thing when I was 13, but if my parents had forbidden me to make videos, if I had any private device access at all, I would have made one and hid it from them. I am not a parent, but if I were, I would rather my kid have a YouTube account I monitored than one I didn't know about.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

Quintin Smith of boardgame-reviewing site Shut Up and Sit Down gave a talk to a classroom of 10/11-year-olds about being a Youtuber, and discusses the stress of having to produce content continuously. It might help your kid think about how hard it would be.
posted by amk at 6:52 PM on July 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

YouTube in a face mask?

The compromise I and my 14 year old have reached is that she can take videos that contain no identifying information whatsoever and contain no words. She puts them on instagram. I am not thrilled but tolerant that her dance moves are unlikely to be weaponized against her.
posted by corb at 6:59 PM on July 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

It seems like having him make videos that you share privately with your network (family, close friends) is a good compromise.
posted by k8t at 7:10 PM on July 3, 2018

I would point out to him that these days anyone is guaranteed to get haters and if he can't take abuse, he shouldn't be posting. Since he's not a girl I'm not quite as concerned about his getting stalkers and SWATTed and all that shit (though if he is of color, well, back to worrying), but putting yourself out there is guaranteed to get abuse unless he stays private, shuts down all comments, etc. If he wants feedback and attention, let him know that he'll get at least as much hate as he will love for his videos. If he gets popular it can get dangerous these days.

Right now you can still claim since he's under 13 that he can't do it (more or less) since you do not approve, but once he's 13, well...let him know just how bad it can get and tell him that he will have to handle that if he shares his work with the world.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:11 PM on July 3, 2018

Not only are there real concerns about the toxic environment of YT (abusive commenters, fearful content, the anxiety of views and stats), but in this day and age being a youtuber, especially a succesful one, is a full time job. An adult’s full time job. (Any kids who are doing social media succesfully are not doing it off their own back, they are as much stage kids with stage moms and dads as any child being pushed into any entertainment industry.)

Back in the day you could just throw some vlogs up and become moderately successful, but with monetisation and YT becoming more professional, it isn’t as simple anymore. He’s a young child and shouldn’t be comparing himself to these professional adults or thinking he’s failed because he doesn’t get views. That’s an adult’s full time job he’d be trying to keep up with. I’d keep it scaled down to “playing youtube” at home with his brothers and you, the way kids used to play war or firefighters or any other profession. He’s too young to be doing it seriously, but unfortunately even with parental guidance and moderation I don’t think there’s a way to make being actually on youtube not serious and potentially harmful to a child. It’s not a game.

A closed arena where his creations are shared with family, like google photos, is a good idea. It’s great that he wants to be creative with video! The high stakes and real dangers of sharing via youtube just don’t need to be in the picture at his age.
posted by mymbleth at 12:37 AM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I know you can disable comments on YouTube videos. You can also filter out any comments containing certain words, but I am not sure if you'll still end up seeing them be held for moderation when you're logged in (I'm a YouTube watcher but not a YouTuber). So, it may not actual shield him from them in that case.

But beyond comments, I'd also keep in mind that, either way, the videos are still out there in the world. Once something is on the internet, it can live move beyond where you intended it and live forever whether you like it or not.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:59 AM on July 4, 2018

I saw my kid's desire to become a Youtuber as a decent opportunity to talk about a few different issues*:

1. Internet privacy. The DA's office in Massachusetts speaks at schools about internet safety and one of the best things I ever heard was, "Don't put anything on the internet you wouldn't stand onstage at the Boston Garden and scream to 10,000 people, plus those people are really nasty and opinionated, they're recording everything you do and it will NEVER go away."

2. Really consider why you want to do this thing. Opening a lemonade stand makes sense because you do some work and you make some cash. Wanting to be a dinosaur or fireman as a 4 year old makes sense because they're both awesome. Why do you want to be on YouTube? Do you really need strangers looking at what you do and giving you feedback?

3. Lastly, the chances of becoming a successful YouTuber are teeny to none. Of course, everyone knows someone who knows someone who is making a fortune, and this is an excellent time to consider risk versus reward in a healthy way. Make those movies, share those movies with friends and family, hone your craft and create a digital portfolio, but don't do it with an eye to become the next Logan Paul.

I know this is really a generational get-off-my-lawn situation. Kids went from dreaming of becoming Judy Garland to the next Diana Ross to the next Eddie Vedder--all famous artists who worked their craft--to winning a TV talent show, then achieving Paris Hilton-like fame for getting a camera crew to film your life, then that morphed to the current situation of becoming famous for either narrating Minecraft games or taking pictures of your food while wearing kooky hats. It's a whole new type of fame that only happens because one gets an audience. It doesn't matter how you get the audience, the fame itself is that you have one. I feel like that's an important discussion to have with your kid.

*Also, because he wanted to do this when he was 10, it lasted for a hot minute, then he moved on, so there's that.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:02 AM on July 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

she can take videos that contain no identifying information whatsoever and contain no words.

So much this - when my kids were born (oldest will be 20 in September), they got alternate online email addresses and "personas" - because, seriously who wants the things posted during childhood and adolescence to stick with them for life.

What I didn't factor into the future at that time was the rise of "big data" linked to social media and ability to combine disparate information to uniquely identify users.... mix this with facial/voice recognition and, "they" will know who is posting unless you take extreme measures...
posted by jkaczor at 9:33 AM on July 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have a 14 year old son. I did not let him have a phone or social media before he turned 13. When I needed to have some of the pressure taken off from the endless pleading and attempts to persuade me otherwise, I would often fall back on reminding my kiddo that, on social media at least, the 13-thing isn't MY rule. It's YouTube's, Twitter's, Instagram's, etc.'s rule. And I would let him read their terms of service and weep.

It was important for me to do this in part because, as a woman, I wanted my son to know that things like rules do apply to him, too -- that he can't just do whatever he wants because he wants to do it or because he thinks it should be ok.

I will say that every. single. one. of my parent-friends who let their kiddos get online before they turned 13 had a bad experience: from bullying to scams, from relationships with creepy strangers to fixations with the phone/computer/whatever that ended up affecting things like kiddos' school work or the quality of their everyday, interpersonal relationships. I would say that my parent-friends' experiences confirmed my sense that young kids just don't have the cognitive or developmental wherewithal yet to parse the nuances of online communication, the complexities of how our digital selves relate to as well as diverge from our analog selves, or the self-control and the ability to imagine the consequences of our actions it takes to navigate these technologies successfully.

Making my kiddo wait was a good way for us to talk a lot about how, for example, what you do online can follow you for the rest of your life, can have real effects on real people, can open you up to certain risks, and can sometimes threaten to disengage you from the people and things that are right in front of you. While we waited for him to turn 13, I offered to consider sharing things he especially wanted to share on my own social media accounts, which was a good way to help him practice thinking about how his projects or ideas might be perceived by others. And I found extracurricular activities -- camps, after-school programs, etc. -- where he would have opportunities to do things like make digital videos, games, etc. His school also includes lots of activities like these (I think they all do these days) in the classroom, and I encouraged him to really go to town on projects like class blogs, digital music ventures, whatever.

My 14 year old is far from perfect. But he is great when it comes to this kind of stuff. He only occasionally checks or updates his social media. He seems eminently reasonable and responsible in what he posts and how he engages with other people online. He isn't obsessed with his tech and walks away readily to do things like homework, watch a movie, eat dinner, pursue a hobby, or hang out with his family and friends.
posted by pinkacademic at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Try and support his interests, and be there throughout. Get involved in YouTube with him, develop an interest in his interest. Guide him, but don't limit him. Become the movie making youtube navigating mother he deserves.

I think your desire to protect him is natural and completely understandable, but then so was your mother's desire to protect you from the evil of rock music, or horror movies, or whatever it was she saw as the bad influence in your generation. You turned out fine.

Be there for him, try and understand. Guide him through the knowledge you have gathered together. There is nothing more a child wants than the love, support and interest of their parents. When he gets older and doesn't want that (teenage years) he will have developed a keen sense of how to navigate the big wide scary world on his own, because you supported him, and not because you turned off the thing he cared about and hid him from its influence.
posted by 0bvious at 4:23 PM on July 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

He wants to make video art and he wants to share them with others, especially people who aren't near him. That's totally fine. That doesn't mean he's trying to be a YouTube Personality TM!

I was one of those kids that got online at a very early age (if YouTube was a thing at my age I would have been all over it - I was mainly writing) and I think I was all the better for it, especially since I grew up fairly isolated and outcasted. The Internet was my only creative & social outlet that accepted me for who I was. Yes, trolls were and still are an issue, but there were also so, so many good people and so many good opportunities that I could only have gotten online.

If you're near any sort of in-person clubs, classes, etc geared towards young filmmakers, great! They'd be able to figure out good pathways for him including good YouTube practices. (Libraries may be a good starting point.) Vimeo has less of a comment problem than YouTube and is generally geared towards people making video art, so that's an avenue.
posted by divabat at 12:03 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older iPhone Photo Restoration After Deletion   |   how tired is this tire? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.