My kid wants to have his own YouTube Chanel, but I am not a fan of tech so I don’t like the idea. Maybe I am over reacting. How do you think I should handle this?
Dear Analogue Momma,
First off, great anonymous name! You haven’t provided me with your child’s age, but my advice on this topic is fairly the same for children of all ages. I believe that if your child wants a YouTube channel it’s not a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but a series of conversations and discussions. Here are some questions to ask yourself; they should help you get the conversation started!
1) How important is fame to your child?
If fame is the reason your child wants their own YouTube channel, then it’s time to talk about fame!
Our kids can easily get swept into adopting superficial values, and begin assessing their worth, based on misguided traits such as fame.
According to author David Brooks, our emphasis on raising children with good self-esteem can often lead to some unintended consequences.
“Along with this apparent rise in self-esteem, there has been a tremendous increase in a desire for fame. Fame used to rank low on life’s ambition for most people. In a 1976 survey that asked people to list their life goals, fame ranked fifteenth out of sixteen. By 2007, 51 percent of young people reported that being famous was one of their top personal goals.” (Brooks, The Road To Character)
I can only imagine what the numbers look like now, more than a decade later, in 2018! Social media has opened the door to easy fame for children. They no longer need an agent or a Hollywood studio to back them. Instead, the tools required are at kids’ fingertips; a phone with a camera and an iPad.
So as parents, it is our job to offer guidance on character development. We need to explain that “likes” and “followers” do not elevate someone to some fictitious superior social position. Help them understand that, though these people may have many eyeballs on them, it does not say anything about their merit.
Instead, help your child focus on how they could make a positive contribution online. As humans we are all called to use our gifts and talents to be in the service of others. So, if their motivation is to share something positive, prosocial, and/or creative, you can consider that a healthy goal. And, it is one worth spreading and amplifying.
2) Have you done your research?
Stay positive about your child’s interest in creating a channel but be certain to do your research. Announce “that sounds interesting – let’s find out what’s involved and what the experts say”. It’s important that the research is done with your child. Do not skip this step. Read through the information on sites like MediaSmarts.ca and CommonSenseMedia.org which provide important evaluations of technology and social media platforms.
3) Have you taken time for training (TTFT)?
As with everything, we need to guide the child by training them. So often with technology our children have more knowledge than we do. But, they don’t have the fully developed prefrontal cortex to help them with decision making, planning, foresight, etc. So, while they can bring the factual intelligence of how the platform works, we can bring our intelligence and more developed brain. Done together, parent and child have a full set of skills to keep our kids safe online!
Take time for training by making the channel private (only visible for friends and family). With some time and attention, they can learn about safely using the platform and prove that they are good digital citizens.
4) What if they DO become a rock star?
Child stars are not a new phenomenon. Shirley Temple is not just some kiddie cocktail! Some child stars are pushed on stage by their parents, some get discovered (like Justin Bieber), and some fight long and hard hoping for a break. So, if your child does hit it big with the numbers, be sure they know that it is more of a curse and sacrifice than the glory we often associate with it.
Stardom creates unique issues that only a person with a solid psychological grounding can manage. Your child can probably understand that while Megan Markel is enjoying bring a royal, she can’t do anything without a body guard and paparazzi. There is constant scrutiny, haters, etc. Our kids really have to have their heart in what they’re doing, as well as a parent who can keep a sense of emotional equanimity.
With all that said; be sure to keep checking in, having conversations, and doing research to be safe and prepared. I wish you the best of luck, and hope your child uses YouTube as a positive and creative platform as it was intended!