My nine-year-old son recently asked if I could help him create his own YouTube channel. I thought it was a great idea. He’s a bit shy and I figured it would be a good way to bring him out of his shell. He’d also learn valuable skills by creating videos, editing them and sharing them online with his friends.
Then I stopped and thought about what a YouTube channel really means. I asked my son why he wanted a YouTube channel so badly. His first response was that one of his friends at school has his own channel and he wants one too.
That’s fine, I thought. He wants to be like his friends. No big deal.
But then he added, ‘Oh, and I want to get millions of subscribers and when I’m popular I can sell my own merch.’
A sobering thought hit me. Is this what I want my child to be like? To strive to gain heaps of subscribers who will ‘like’ him. And then plan to sell his own line of plushies merchandise.
The influence of influencers
My son is allowed to watch YouTube on our family iPad, which is pretty much used solely by him. I occasionally check on him to see what he’s watching, and most of the time it’s young adult gamer dudes taking a walk-through in Minecraft or Roblox, or talking about their outlandish conspiracy theories within those games.
I get that my son wants to be like them, to emulate those gamer celebrities. And the way that he wants to do that is to start his own YouTube channel. But the idea of allowing my son to post videos of himself on the Internet where literally anyone can see them is a bit scary.
While my son would probably only have a few friends viewing his YouTube videos, the idea that some random adult could view his videos is unsettling. What if that person subscribes to my son’s channel? Would I be happy with that as a parent? I’m not sure.
Growing up in a technological world
On the other hand, am I holding my son back by not allowing him to create his own YouTube channel? Perhaps we could work together to build his channel and make sure not to share any personal details, like showing his face. That would give him a level of anonymity and allow me to feel less anxious. I just wonder whether that would be enough to keep him safe.
Because that’s all I want as a parent — to keep my child safe. To keep his world innocent. But is that hindering my child’s progress? I want to help my child navigate this world of uncertainty, but I don’t want to be an overbearing parent. I want him to be aware of the dangers out there, and to take precaution.
It’s a bit scary how fast social media has encompassed our world. In fact, for many of us, our world is social media. I can’t say that I don’t regularly check my Facebook feed or Instagram, or watch YouTube videos. Because I do, and I enjoy it.
But I’m an adult and my child is only nine. How can he know about all the dangers within social media? It’s my job to teach him, but how can you teach someone without letting them see for themselves?
I suppose the questions is whether being a viewer of YouTube is different to being a creator. There is a line that’s crossed when you start sharing videos online about yourself. You open your world up to scrutiny, to other people who may not agree with you, or just want to make your life miserable.
As an adult, I feel as though I’m capable of dealing with negative scrutiny, which is why I’m sharing my writing online. However, I don’t know if my nine-year-old son is ready for that. Or will he ever be ready to deal with that?
Doing what’s best for your family
In the end, I think you need to make the choice that will ultimately lead to your family’s happiness. It may be hard, especially if your son is determined to start their own YouTube channel and if you say no, then you’re in for weeks of tweenage moping and tantrums. But maybe that’s better than the alternative.
For now, I’m still “thinking about it,” which is my answer to every question that I’m not really sure about. I need to weigh the positives and the negatives of whether I think a YouTube channel is going to help my son’s life or hinder it.
I want to give him the opportunity to challenge himself, to find out who he is by trying different things in life. But is allowing him to start his own YouTube channel at the age of nine something that I shouldn’t even contemplate? Should I wait until he’s a teenager? Or an adult?
It’s going to take some more thinking to really figure out what’s the best option. I know I’ll keep my son’s happiness in mind, as well as his safety. I only hope I make the right choice.