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Someone’s turning 15…

It seems hard to believe that it is only 15 years since the first, thrilling (!) video was ever posted on the platform that has since become a part of everyday life for most of us. The video was titled ‘Me at the zoo’, uploaded on April 23rd, 2005 by the site’s co-founder Jawed Karim, and recorded by his high school friend Yakov Lapitsky.

It’s unlikely that anyone – not even its founders – could have predicted from this original video that 15 years later some of today’s YT stars would be multi-millionaires. It is not uncommon to be told by pupils in the schools we visit that when they leave school they want to ‘become a YouTuber’, and according to a recent article in The Guardian, the number of creators earning five or six figure incomes has increased by more than 40% year on year since the site began. 

YouTube’s highest earner in 2019 was an eight-year-old called Ryan, who netted a whopping $26m. More recently, in an effort to keep up with his own growth, his channel has evolved from its original incarnation of Ryan ToysReview, on which you could see countless ‘unboxing videos’ as he opened different toys on camera, to Ryan’s World, full of science experiments and explainer videos for kids.

YouTube is undoubtedly a fantastic resource. As a teacher, I can vouch for its educational benefits, and it provides an amazing space to create and share projects with a wider audience. Kurzgesagt or Khan Academy are just a couple of examples of the wealth of channels available for independent learning, and Rushton Hurley’s fabulous NextVista project is just one example of how powerful and educationally empowering video can be.

Until December 2018, YouTube’s most disliked video, currently at 11 million+ dislikes!

As tastes change and its popular stars rise and fall, YouTube has continued to change and grow to keep pace with developments. With over 2 billion users currently, it can be navigated in 80 languages which cover an incredible 95% of the world’s population; it now creates its own premium content and offers a paid user subscription service and is the world’s second most popular social media platform (Statistia, 2019). It is of course not without its critics and controversyeither. While still far from a foolproof measure, in a more recent attempt to further manage content appropriacy, and a positive step forward, users are now required to answer the question ‘Is this video made for kids?’ before being allowed to post.

The official age for having a YouTube account is still 13+, although the reality is that many children younger than 13 already have their own accounts or content channels. Our research tells us that 18% of children aged 8-13 years old have already appeared in a YouTube video, and 15% have posted a video on the platform. Like any online platform, YouTube comes with its own inherent risks to privacy and safety: unless properly managed it is worth remembering that YouTube can be a (very) public space! While becoming a famous YouTuber may be a perfectly valid career goal in 2020, it also bears mentioning to young people that only a small percentage of YouTubers ever make it to the level where they can live comfortably from the content they create. 

If you are using YouTube in your home and on mobile devices, here’s a few simple tips we recommend to get the best out of it for you and your children:

  1. Use YouTube Kids app which can be downloaded onto Android and iOS devices. All content is tailored to children and should contain no appropriate content, however inappropriate content does sometimes slip through the net. It’s a good idea to ensure that the ‘Search’ option is switched off. If you are using a computer, check out the new platform, a new online version of the app. 
  2. Restrict access for older children: access can be restricted by selecting ‘Restricted mode’, in the YouTube settings. This will prevent kids from viewing content that has been flagged as inappropriate. Ensure that the ‘Lock Restricted Mode’ setting is selected to prevent this setting from being removed. Switch off the ‘Autoplay’ feature.
  3. Keep your eyes and ears open: remember that the restrictions are not foolproof. It’s important to keep an eye on what children are doing and seeing online at all times.  If your child starts telling you about a particular YouTube channel or YouTuber that they are following, check them out and make sure the content is appropriate. CommonSenseMedia is a great site for checking out YouTubers and whether their content is appropriate. Make sure kids are watching videos at home with headphones out so you can catch any content that slips through the net. 
  4. Agree rules for creating YouTube videos: a great rule if you are allowing children to make videos, is that they don’t show their faces (or faces of others without permission) in the videos and that they always allow you to check videos before they go online. The same applies to anything personal such as real names, licence plates, address, school crest etc. Set published videos to ‘Unlisted’ when uploading so they can be shared by the link and are not publicly searchable. 

The all-time Top 10!


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CyberSafeKids is an Irish charity, which has been empowering children, parents, schools and businesses to navigate the online world in a safer and more responsible way since 2015.