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What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Have a YouTube Channel

This week I received this message on the Social Citizens Facebook page...

My son wants to make videos of himself gaming or doing whatever and become a famous YouTube gamer. My non-tech brain is freaking out because I don’t get this.

First of all, you are not alone.  This is a dilemma facing many parents due to the sheer volume of YouTube channels created by or targeted at our kids.  I remember when my son told me he wanted to make videos of him playing his video games and put them on YouTube.  My initial question was, "Why?".

When I looked into some of his favourite gaming YouTubers I had a better understanding.  "Stampy" has more YouTube subscribers than the population of the Province in Canada I live in. (He has over 8 million subscribers.)  He posts at least one video a day of himself playing games like Minecraft. 

My next phase in my education was when I worked with two YouTube Vloggers Ben Brown and Steve Booker during the summer of 2015 for a project at work.  I had no idea what a vlogger was.  In case you don't either, it is someone who records a video blog and shares on YouTube.  In Ben's case most of his videos are viewed over 100K times and he shares his adventures of his travels and life with his fans around the world.  They are both charming, talented and are making a successful living off their YouTube content.

I can totally understand the concerns you may have concerns about the risks of broadcasting on the Web -- and they are legitimate -- but your child may see it as a way of expressing herself, learning digital video creation skills, sharing with friends,  and sharing their creativity and passions.

The decision of whether you let you child do this or not is up to you.   It's important to balance your concerns with the potential benefits of this experience too.

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Mom, I want to have my own YouTube channel. 

If you do decide that it is ok to experiment, I suggest you establish clear rules and boundaries. For example:

1. Have your child create an outline that describes what videos they want to create, who they think will watch the videos, how often they will post their videos.  This exercise will demonstrate to them that a successful YouTube channel takes planning and work too, not just making fun videos.

2. Discuss what content is ok and what is not.  

3. No videos can be uploaded without your approval.  This way you can see all of the content and have a discussion before anything goes "live"

4. Ensure you discuss whether or not they can use their names in their videos.  You may want to consider using a character name like Stampy does.  Also be clear about sharing of personal information, like where you live, or information about your family and friends.

If you start here, the next step is deciding whether or not you will let them proceed with a channel and posting videos.  According to the rules of YouTube, you must be 13 years and older to create a channel.  If you do decide to proceed you can consider using the shared family account that I recommended in a previous article

Good luck with your decision!  

4 Ways for Your Kids to Watch YouTube Safely

My kid doesn't watch TV, instead he watches videos on YouTube.  I'm sure you might have some of the same concerns that I do "Is he watching too much?" and "Are the videos appropriate?".  Unfortunately, there are dangers on YouTube -  you can find porn, profanity and other inappropriate content for kids without even trying.  I am sure you would want to do all that you can to help avoid your child accidentally seeing any of that.

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Here are 4 tips to help you encourage your child's experience will be a positive one:

1. If you have younger children, download the YouTube Kids App on the device (tablet, smartphone, smart tv) they watch videos on.  It is FREE to use and only shows family-friendly videos. You can also control the search functionality if you want to allow your child to explore the content or not. 

The app has some cool features such as the ability for you to set a timer to set how much time they spend watching videos.

You can select the age level of videos you want:

  • nursery school age
  • school age
  • all kids

The app will provide recommendations of other videos based on the age you have selected.  You have the flexibility to update the age level setting at any time.

The complete Parental Guide  for YouTube Kids is very comprehensive with information on how to set parental controls, how to customize your content and other helpful tips

2. You can set parental controls known as Safety mode on YouTube too.  It is easy to do and will take you less than a minute. Log in to your account. (YouTube users can sign in with either a Google or YouTube account)

  • Navigate to YouTube, and open the safety settings.

  • When the YouTube home page loads up, look for the "Safety" link near the bottom of the page, and click on it.

  • Turn the safety mode on and then click the Save button.

  • To lock these changes so no one can change them without your password, click "Lock safety mode on this browser".  You will be prompted to enter your password and this feature can only be unlocked if you enter that password again.

  • Log out to lock in the changes.

You can test if the feature is activated when you do a search - a video that would not meet the requirements will say "Some results have been removed because the safety mode is enabled"

On a tablet like an iPad, or on a smartphone the only parental control on the YouTube app is SafeSearch. To do this:

  • Open your app and click on the 3 dots (more menu) on the upper right hand corner.

  • Click "Settings"

  • Click "General" 

  • Scroll to the bottom and find "Restricted Access" and slide to on.

This feature will filter out most of the inappropriate content but it is not always fool proof.

3. Set up a shared family account or use your account to sign in Youtube. This allows you to see what videos they are watching when you look at the history button.  I personally like this and check the history daily.  You can set up an account the same way you would creating a new Gmail account, click "Create An Account" and you are good to go!

4. Ask your child what they are watching.  I frequently ask my son, who is your favorite YouTuber? This creates an opportunity to learn more about what they like to watch, and for you to do some homework on who your child is watching.  Use Google to find out more about these online video creators.  Perhaps you heard about the YouTube celebrity PewDiePie in the news lately?  A couple of years ago my son was obsessed with the Minecraft videos he had on YouTube, so needless to saywas very concerned.  Fortunately, at the time I had previewed the Minecraft videos and never heard or saw anything inappropriate but this certainly raises a reminder we have to continue to check in with our kids. 

Another option is to ask, "Can I watch with you?" If they quickly close the video, it may raise a red flag for you.  I try to find videos we can watch together so that he feels comfortable with me sitting next to him from time to time rather than an abrupt "show me what you are watching" approach.

Some suggestions of YouTube videos we enjoy are Eh Bee Family and of course, Ted Talks especially their TedXYouth Channel .

YouTube can be a great site for discovering new things and exploring ideas. 

Let me know if you have any tips on how you ensure your children are watching YouTube safely, I would love to hear them.