photo: Wesley Fryer via Flickr

Does your kid obsess over YouTube videos like they’re the only thing on a screen worth watching? It’s only a matter of time until she wants to be a YouTuber herself. But… what does that mean, exactly? And, more importantly, is it OK?

The answer, says Common Sense Media, is, mostly, yes — as long as parents keep a watchful eye over their kids’ online endeavors and follow a few basic guidelines to help safeguard their kids’ privacy.

Why Is My Kid So Obsessed?
It may seem foreign to parents, but making a YouTube video isn’t all that much different from wanting to stage a talent show for friends and family; it’s just the audience that’s bigger.

“Even though you may have concerns about the risks of broadcasting on the web—and they are legitimate,” says this article from Common Sense Media, “your kid may see it as a way of expressing herself, learning digital video skills, sharing with friends and experimenting creatively. It’s important to balance your concerns with the benefits she can reap.”

“With your guidance and support, she can do it safely, and it might be a fun project that may be useful down the road. In fact, more and more kids are using their online channels—whether it’s a Tumblr blog, an Instagram photo collection or a Snapchat story—as digital portfolios to showcase their work to employers, colleges and potential collaborators.”

First, Know the Rules:
Officially, YouTube forbids children under the age of 13 to create their own accounts, and children between ages 13 and 17 are only allowed to open accounts with parental permission. Of course, these rules don’t say anything about parents opening an account for their child; this is allowed. And, it’s happening all over YouTube. In fact, a 6-year-old boy named Ryan is one of YouTube’s biggest stars, with 8.2 million subscribers tuning in to watch him open and play with toys (these “unboxing” videos are one of YouTube’s most popular genres with kids). And it’s no paltry gig: Ryan earns a reported $1 million per month in ad revenue alone. That sure buys a lot of toys!

“Ryan was watching a lot of toy review channels — some of his favorites are EvanTubeHD  and Hulyan Maya — because they used to make a lot of videos about Thomas The Tank Engine, and Ryan was super into Thomas,” his mother said in an interview with TubeFilter. “One day, he asked me, ‘How come I’m not on YouTube when all the other kids are?’ So we just decided — yeah, we can do that. Then, we took him to the store to get his very first toy — I think it was a Lego train set — and it all started from there.”

photo: Ryan Toys Review via YouTube

How to Set It Up:
1. Create a Gmail account for your child if he or she is under 13 years old. This will give him or her a YouTube account, but not a YouTube channel.

2. Create a YouTube Channel by clicking on “Select My Channel” on the sidebar on left side of the YouTube homepage. This is where users can select the name to be associated with their YouTube channel. For kids, do not use their real/whole names, since these names will be broadcast to anyone watching the videos.

3. Set the privacy settings so that everything is private or unlisted. Private means that only those you invite to view the channel will be able to watch the videos; unlisted means only those with the particular video links will be able to see them. In addition, turn off comments so your kid won’t have to read any unkind or inappropriate remarks from other users. Note: These privacy settings will make it so only friends and family can view your child’s page, which is great when it comes to keeping her safe; not so great if she’s trying to build a following.

For more details on setting up a YouTube channel, click here

Some Tips on Keeping Kids Safe Online:
Since putting up videos on YouTube essentially allows anyone (depending on your channel’s privacy settings) to see and hear your child, it’s important that parents keep a close eye on what their kids are doing to make sure they aren’t accidentally revealing any personal information.

We recommend that you don’t allow your children to show their faces in their videos. This means OK to narrating Minecraft games, sporting events and stop-motion animation shows, and yes to stuffed animal or puppet performances where they do the voices.

And, be sure to watch all of the videos your child posts. This can be tedious, but you have to make sure your kids aren’t accidentally revealing any personal information (where they go to school, where they live, etc.).

Put Limits on Recording Time   
Like any other screen time activity, it’s best to limit your child’s recording sessions to 30-60 minutes, just so they can spend their time doing a variety of activities.

Make a Video With Them
It can be a fun family activity if you help your kids make a video to publish online. They’ll love getting some YouTube time, and you’ll love being able to add some grown-up finesse to the project.

Want more information? Check out the video below from the mom of a YouTuber.

Would you let your kid have a YouTube channel? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.