The last several “Parent Talks” I facilitated for Common Sense Media all had one thing in common: concerns around YouTube, best known for its “how to” videos, music videos, and creation tools. While it can be helpful in many ways, it’s also been known to have an abundance of inappropriate content. Our kids are asking to create their own channels as early as elementary school. Here are some things to consider before giving the green light. – Jennifer Ehehalt, Common Sense Media. You can find her on Twitter @Jehehalt.Common Sense Media.
It may seem foreign to parents, but for kids, video is a fun way to communicate. All the coolest apps — Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Messenger — let users share video clips. So even though you may have concerns about the risks of broadcasting on the Web — and they are legitimate — your kid may see it as a way of expressing herself, learning digital video skills, sharing with friends, and experimenting creatively. It’s important to balance your concerns with the benefits she can reap.
It’s a good sign that she asked your permission. With your guidance and support, she can do it safely, and it might be a fun project that may be useful down the road. In fact, more and more kids are using their online channels — whether it’s a Tumblr blog, an Instagram photo collection, or a Snapchat story — as digital portfolios to showcase their work to employers, colleges, and potential collaborators. YouTube even offers free educational content for creators who are serious about their work.
Your kid’s age will determine how to proceed. YouTube is supposed to be for users over the age of 13, due to the fact that the parent company, Google, collects and markets user data. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) exempts kids from data collection. But, as we all know, plenty of kids have YouTube channels. One of YouTube’s biggest and highest-earning users is the child star of EvanTube.
It’s not illegal for kids under 13 to create social media profiles on sites that collect user data so long as the parent is aware of the account, knows user data is being collected and has approved the kid’s account. (Learn five ways to keep kids safe on YouTube.)
Choose one of these options if your kid is under 13:
- Use a parent’s account. If you have Gmail, you have a YouTube log-in. Simply go to YouTube, log in with your Gmail address, and go to the account settings. Pay special attention to the upload defaults (where you can make your videos private) and the comments, which you can approve before they go live or turn off altogether. If you use your account, you’ll do all the uploading, but your kid can still have lots of creative control in the design of the channel, the descriptions, and, of course, the videos.
- Create a Family Link account. If you have an Android device, you can use Google’s Family Link app that lets you create a supervised account for kids under 13. Learn more about Family Link.
- Use a different website. YouTube is the most popular video site, but other good options offer built-in safety measures for kids. Consider one of these safe social sites.
Here are some tips to set up teens for YouTube success:
- Have a plan. Ask her to create a proposal for her channel that describes what she wants to offer, who the audience is, how often she’ll post, whether she’ll take advertising, and other considerations.
- Talk about content. Now’s a good time to discuss what’s OK to post, what should remain private, and other basics of digital citizenship.
- Do a “beta launch.” Take a page from the book of many tech start-ups and start small to work out the kinks. Start with strict privacy settings and a limited audience of trusted friends and family, and ask for constructive feedback on what’s working (and not working).
- Check in. Once she’s up and running, continue to support her. Unexpected issues — both positive and negative — are sure to come up. Knowing she can rely on your support is a big deal.
- Handle feedback. Teens are often surprised to discover that not everything they upload receives universal praise. YouTube comments are notoriously harsh. But dealing with feedback is a learning experience. These tips can help you coach her through it.