Since its creation in 2005, YouTube has gone from strength to strength and it is the second most visited website worldwide, it is also the second most used social media platform after Facebook. With over 500 hours of video uploaded every minute and more than a billion hours of video viewed every day the scale of content is enormous.
We know that YouTube is very popular with children and young people, who watch videos on YouTube for various reasons, such as watching their favourite gamers (over 100 billion hours of gaming videos were watched on YouTube in 2020), learning about their hobbies, finding how-to videos and much more.
But not all content on YouTube is suitable for children and young people to see. There are settings that you can use to help such as ‘Restricted Mode’ but you should talk to your child about what they are looking at on YouTube. YouTube has a Child Safety page which gives parents and carers more information on what they’re doing to try and keep kids safe on the site.
What are the benefits and risks of using YouTube for children and young people?
Making videos can be a great way of learning new digital skills, help with writing skills such as scripts and storyboarding as well as promoting creativity and critical thinking but there are some risks that you should be aware of, such as:
Oversharing – Sharing personally identifiable information such as name, school name etc. Ensure you speak to your child about personal and private information and what is or is not appropriate to share.
Disinhibition – When hidden behind a screen it can be easy to say or do things that you wouldn’t do offline. This could be oversharing but it could also include sharing videos which are inappropriate, revealing or even offensive. You could agree with your child that you should view any videos they create before they upload them.
Pressure – They might feel pressure to create more videos or different content to keep up with trends which adults or influencers are doing. This could involve sharing personal information or age inappropriate behaviour or language. Keep the conversation going with your child and if you see that they are feeling under pressure, find out why and talk to them about this.
A child should be 13 years old to create their own YouTube account. Young people between the ages of 13 and 17 can create their own accounts, but only with the permission of their parents or carers.
Google provides support for parents who wish to create an account for their child, which includes using Family Link to manage the account.
What is their motivation?
Many children believe you can make lots of money by sharing videos, but whilst this is possible it is the exception rather than the ‘norm’ and it can put them under significant pressure. Talk to your child about how many users they think would be making money from their videos.
Discuss their ideas
What do they want to achieve? What do they want to share? This can be a great time to talk about what is appropriate to share and what isn’t.
Create an agreement
When agreeing rules and time boundaries, consider a family agreement that you can revisit periodically. This allows your child to understand your expectations which can be reviewed when you think you need to. What has worked and what hasn’t? This would include not sharing personal and private information, whether they are allowed to show their face in the videos, suitable clothing (e.g. no clothing that might identify the school they go to). It would also be a good idea to view their new creations before they are uploaded onto YouTube
Discuss time boundaries
Creating videos can be very time consuming and you don’t want this to interfere with other aspects of their lives such as socialisation and school work. You might wish to limit video uploads to one per fortnight, or two hours of creation every weekend.
Comments on or off?
Decide if you want comments to be turned on or off. If all the videos are being shared privately with friends or family you may be comfortable with leaving comments turned on, but public videos often receive inappropriate comments which may be upsetting for your child. If a video is public, you can designate it ‘For Kids’ when you upload, which means that comments will be automatically turned off
Be their number 1 viewer
Encourage and help your child through the creative process to ensure they stay safe whilst using YouTube.