Why We’re Letting Our Sons Have a YouTube Channel

My oldest son wants his own YouTube channel. He wants to film science experiments, modify maker projects and test out different “life hacks” to see if they actually work. He wants to film stuff with drones and make up his own challenges (think bottle flip or mannequin challenge).

His younger brother wants to record Minecraft videos, create video diaries, make his own sketchy videos (similar to what I do) and record the fiction that he writes.

At first, my wife and I answered with, “Maybe when you’re older.” We worried about trolls and online privacy. We discussed the dark side of metrics and the “fame culture” of YouTube. However, we ultimately decided that both of my sons can create their own YouTube channels if they allow us to screen the content first.

They started with digital ethics. We had them develop a set of ground rules they will follow as they create and share content. Righ now, they are refining their initial videos and designing their YouTube cover art. They’ve been scouring the interwebz for inspiration. They can’t wait to launch in January!

7 Reasons to Let Your Child Have a YouTube Channel

The term “digital footprint” is often associated with fear and risk-aversion. Just stay offline as much as possible. Be anonymous. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. But I actually think there are some real benefits to allowing children to publish their work online:

  1. They connect to a creative community. Henry Jenkins describes certain online spaces as “participatory cultures” where the barrier of entry is low and there’s a strong support for sharing one’s work with others. When this happens, people grow and learn and network. It’s a chance to work on one’s craft in a sort-of long-distance creative guild.
  2. They have a real audience. Instead of just creating work that ends up on the refrigerator, they will have a chance to create videos work for a real audience. This is powerful for boosting creative self-efficacy. This was a key idea in Launch. Something powerful happens when kids find their creative voice and then share it with the world.
  3. They learn to face criticism. Both of my sons will experience the downside of creating a video that gets only a handful of page views. People will give them a “thumbs down” after they pour their soul into a work. They might even experience trolling. But this is also part of what it means to share your work with the world.
  4. They work harder. Although I want my kids to be internally motivated, people tend to work harder when they are creating products that they will send to an authentic audience.
  5. They learn to communicate more effectively. As both of my sons refine their videos, they will learn how to communicate with a real audience. This is one of the transferable life skills that they will use forever.
  6. They grow empathetic. Something happens when you start creating work for an audience. You start thinking about what people want and need. You start designing products with people in mind. This can lead to empathy.
  7. They will have a positive digital footprint. Both of my sons will have years of creative work displayed online in a never-ending portfolio of thinking and learning and making. That’s powerful.

I realize that there are risks involved. Trolling is awful. The metrics can be a trap. Privacy is critical. But I also think it’s possible to be safe, ethical, and wise online and my kids know that I will always be there for them through this entire journey.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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