Just last week a parent approached me and asked, “My son is a YouTuber. Should I be worried?” Like with most things internet, yes and no. The minimum age for creating a Google account (thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) is 13 years old. That being said, as you know, there’s a huge number of underage YouTubers. Whether you have given your kids permission to have an account, or they created one without you knowing (but you know now), always discuss the potential dangers because knowledge is power. And they need to know.
I always say, It’s impossible to keep up with how all the new Apps work, but in the very least, you should know how to use what your children are using. If your child is posting videos and not selecting the Private action, then he may receive profanity, hurtful, racist or hate comments — not exactly ideal for kids under 13. Half the rush of being a YouTuber comes from seeing the comments people make, getting likes and accumulating new subscribers. Kids learn quickly that it's good internet etiquette to respond to comments. So OF COURSE your child will be tempted to have a conversation with a stranger. ASSUME he will (I’ll explain later). Because YouTube allows comments, it's no different than Instagram and Facebook in the way of being a Social Media outlet. The scary part is, anyone can set up a YouTube account under a secret alias. That's why you still have to be cautious. (And just so you know, there is a feature that allows you to turn comments off. Click this: Comment Moderation to know more about how you can manage comments)
You can’t actually make your channel private, but you can make your videos private. Here's how: How to make videos private. A private video can be shared with up to 50 people invited by the YouTuber. If you have a budding young YouTuber in your home, doing this will keep him safe from unknown and unwanted solicitors.
Kids under the age of 13 don’t need an online presence to help them with their future online footprint, so it’s best to keep their videos private to protect them from bullies, jerks and perverts. Sorry, but it comes with the territory. Once they reach the age of 15, it’s recommended that they begin to partake in a healthy online presence to impress future employers and colleges (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves today).
If your child wants to be a YouTuber, create a family account so that you can see what your child watches and what he’s uploading. If you don’t know how to do that, click here and learn: How to set up a Youtube account. It's also a good idea to visit the Youtube Safety Centre with them to learn about harassment and bullying. Before they upload a video of themselves, they should ALWAYS consider these two questions:
- What does this video say about me as a person?
- Can this video ruin my reputation or embarrass me in the future?
Although YouTube has a Safety Mode option that you can enable (found at the bottom of YouTube.com page), remember that it's not 100% safe. But having it on will help filter a lot of inappropriate content.
Having regular fair and non-judgmental dialogues with your kids about their online activity will help them understand why they need to take extra precautions in their younger years. They shouldn’t object to allowing you to see what they post and what they watch if they have nothing to hide. The rule of thumb is Whatever you post online is no longer private, so there’s no reason I can’t see it too.
If you happen to have a defiant child who tries to tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that you’re exaggerating with your safety precautions, here are two videos that should give him a good wake-up call:
The Sextortion of Amanda Todd (45 min. I recommend you watch this with your child (9+) to teach them about the dangers of chats and webcams).
Too Much Info (An 8 min. video I present to students when I speak in schools).
For much younger children, watch this video to prevent them from seeing inappropriate content:
How to make Youtube safe for kids (What I like about this video is that it shows you how to turn the Safety button on. You can lock the safety mode too so that your children can’t turn it off. Awesome!)
For the ultra safe parent, you may want to consider install a Web filtering software like Norton Family, Care4Teens, Covenant Eyes or Net Nanny to block access to inappropriate content. Mobicip, Kids Place, MM Guardian and MobileMinder are good Web filters for Android devices. Every parental control filtering software offers its own stuff. Don’t be afraid to Google them and see which one best suits your family.
The thing is, YouTube can be fun. Lots of kids use it for entertainment, education or to express their creativity. It’s our responsibility as parents to show them how to use it responsibly. Although there are funny, amazing and informative videos, there is also ugliness. Instead of being afraid of technology and discouraging your kids from using it because of your own fear, get Googling. Learn about it. And show your children how to use it safely.