A Digital Parent’s guide to YouTube
In the AmanTECH “Music and Movies” section, we looked at the range of online entertainment that is available to children through their smartphones, tablets, laptops, games consules and even internet-enabled televisions. In this section, however, we will switch our attention to focus on just one of the many video-streaming services in the Digital World.
At the heart of online entertainment
There is no denying that the at the very centre of online video entertainment is just one company – YouTube. With more than one billion users watching 1,000,000,000 hours of video every day, YouTube is the biggest single media outlet in the world. It has local versions in more than 88 countries and can be navigated in 76 different languages including, of course, Arabic and English.
YouTube gives users access to a vast array of content, from official music videos, movies, educational content, tv shows and news channels, to a diverse range of user-generated content like DIY videos, fashion and health tips, sports and gaming, not to mention a huge number of videos featuring cats and dogs.
Five key YouTube facts for Digital Parents
1. A lot of YouTube content is actually pretty good!
It can be tempting to think that we should make every effort to stop our children watching videos online – many parents are understandably concerned about fake news and inappropriate, violent or sexually explicit content. The truth, however, is that there is a lot of genuinely interesting, entertaining and educational content on YouTube including English lessons for Arabic speakers and sports tutorials.
2. YouTube is everywhere…
According to its own website, more than a half of YouTube views come from mobile devices. Children with smartphones are able to access their favourite videos wherever and whenever they choose to, not just on a laptop or tablet at home. It is vital that parents who want to help their families to use the internet safety take every opportunity to learn about YouTube and how to use it safely.
3. YouTube is creating stars – and millionaires
When the internet first started being used by members of the public, rather than academics and government officials, few people could have guessed how much it would change the world. One of these changes is that superstars are no longer limited to music, movies or sport. People who started off making short videos in their bedroom about gaming, fashion, sports or just playing around, now have hundreds of thousands, and in some case millions of viewers. One of the most popular YouTube stars, DanTDM, earned $16.5 million dollars in 2017 alone. If you have a child who enjoys playing Minecraft then there is a good chance that they have watched one of DanTDM’s videos.
4. There is a lot of advertising!
YouTube, which is actually owned by Google, makes a lot of it’s money through advertising – and there is a whole lot of advertising on the website… Whether it is promoted videos turning up in searches, or the adverts at the start of many of the videos, companies are determined to make the most of all those billions of views each year.
This isn’t entirely negative – advertisers generally only pay for their promotions to be shown before videos which contain approved content – and there is almost always the option to skip the advert after a few seconds. It is very important, however, for children learn how to deal with all of the advertising on the internet; you can visit our Understanding Internet Safety page here to find out more.
5. YouTube can be highly addictive
YouTube is designed to keep you watching. Many videos are linked to one another, with lists of recommend or related videos appearing alongside the video being watched. There is a default “auto-play” function which starts the next video playing as soon as the first has finished. Like social media, gaming and many other aspects of the online world, watching videos online can become quite addictive. Parents have an important role to play in helping their families stick to sensible limits in terms of time spent online.
A side note – it’s not just about the videos…
One aspect of YouTube and other video-sharing and social media channels that parents need to be aware of is the comments section. Just as apps like Twitter allow other users to respond to what is posted online, YouTube videos often collect tens and even hundreds of comments from the people who have watched them. Many comments will be enthusiastic about the video, but some users persist in posting negative and even abusive comments.
Where can Digital Parent’s get help to understand YouTube?
There is actually a lot of helpful information for parents online, and the best place to start is with YouTube itself. The company has a whole section devoted to helping parents, which you can visit here, and other websites like Common Sense Media (English only) and Vodafone’s parents’ guides hold a lot of helpful information.
YouTube also has its own channels and services specifically aimed at children and teenagers. These include:
- The YouTube Kids app for smartphones and tablets which can be downloaded from Google Play and the App Store. Although the app isn’t perfect, it does help parents to help their children use the video sharing service more safely
- The #Education channel which contains hundreds of videos on different subjects These videos are mostly in English and designed for an international audience; some of the subjects being covered – for example health education for teenagers - some parents may not be comfortable with their child learning about yet, but it is a great starting point for finding educational content.
What else can Digital Parents do to help their families use YouTube safely?
Finally, here is a short list of actions you might consider taking which could help your family to enjoy the best, and escape the worst, that YouTube has to offer.
- Start by watching some videos yourself; it’s good to get an idea of how it works and the type of content available
- Talk to your children about what they watch and ask them to show you some of the videos they particularly enjoy. Many children and teenagers watch videos related to their existing interests and hobbies, and are ready to chat about them enthusiastically when given the opportunity
- If your children are young, think about having a rule that internet-enabled devices can only be used in family rooms in the house. This may not be easy – and is very difficult to introduce later on – but it does establish the idea that part of having access to the online world includes parents knowing what is being accessed
- Listen out for the names of channels and YouTube stars that your children enjoy and speak with other parents to find out what their families are watching. Then you can spend a bit of time finding out more about who and what is being viewed