What Parents of YouTube Influencers Need to Know to Keep Their Kids Safe

Opinion: Remember that the video site was built for adults, not children

80 percent of kids under the age of 13 are already online
funstock/iStock

YouTube is flooded with influencer content that targets the under-13 crowd.

Take Ryan ToysReview, the six-year old “kidfluencer” who took home a staggering $11 million last year. He’s posted hundreds of videos to a massive following of 12 million subscribers, reviewing everything from Power Wheels to Disney Lightning McQueen cars.

The reality is that 80 percent of kids under the age of 13 are already online. Children aged five through16 spend an average of two hours per day watching YouTube content, according to the recent Childwise Monitor Report. The numbers warrant a certain amount of parental oversight.

In the wake of the explosive growth of online influencers, today’s kids spend much of their time mirroring their favorite YouTubers, seeking the same creative freedom, self-expression and fame of current content creators. It’s important that parents keep a watchful eye to avoid egregious content creation like we saw in the recent anti-Semitic PewDiePie scandal.

So how do parents of internet influencers guide content creation and handle the flood of finances that are exponentially more than a typical six-year old’s allowance? How do parents decide which advertisers align with their child’s “brand” and core values?

There are some simple steps parents can take to navigate the burgeoning kidfluencer sphere.

Understand that the platform has limitations

Remember that YouTube was built for adults, not kids. Millions of kids use YouTube daily, but it doesn’t mean that it’s an inherently safe platform for kids.

Even with the massive and ever-growing number of children using the platform, issues of content moderation and data privacy will always be a factor. Parents should avoid trusting YouTube to make the right content calls for their children. The platform faces the implausible task of moderating millions of pieces of content uploaded daily. It’s vital that parents closely monitor both the content that their kids are creating and the content that their kids are watching.

Keep a watchful eye

Keep an eye on the comments on your child’s videos, proactively moderating and deleting inappropriate content.

Make it clear to viewers that you’re doing this by amending the channel description to specify that the channel is parentally moderated.

At home, make sure that your kids aren’t filming for extended periods of time.

Ensure that your child understands the concept of digital permanence and recognizes the risk of creating inappropriate content that could live forever on the internet.

Guide content creation

No matter what theme your child is exploring on their dedicated YouTube channel, establish clear parameters early in the game. As a rule, content should never:

  • Show kids engaging in physical, mental or moral harm, nor show kids in dangerous situations.
  • Seek to undermine parental authority.
  • Include profane language, violent content or nudity.
  • Include alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or weapons.
  • Encourage other kids to share their personal information.

Parents can guide content creation by being present during filming and vetting content before it goes live. They can make sure that kids aren’t following dangerous trends (Tide Pods, anyone?) and ensure that their kids understand that once content is online, anyone can view it.

Creativity should be encouraged, but the danger of vlogging over blogging is the risk of exposure. It’s easy to hide your identity in text, but much less easy over film. Kids need to understand that giving away identifying information is dangerous and risks inviting harm to themselves and their families.

Be wary of penalties and permanence

Not surprisingly, many YouTubers have had their accounts deactivated or demonetized following inappropriate content creation. It seems like a nominal penalty, but, paired with serious damage to your child’s reputation and credibility, it’s unlikely that brands would work with them across other platforms. The internet is forever. Once a would-be influencer finds themselves the center of a scandal, it will always be remembered.

Be judicious in selecting advertising partners

Six-year old Ryan ToysReview’s $11 million paycheck is evidence that influencer marketing is a million-dollar industry. It’s chock full of opportunity, but also dangerous.