What should I consider before I give them the green light?
The long-term impact of exposure on child
There are a number of key motivators for the young vlogger; some young people will be encouraged by the possibility of a financial reward for engaging in activities that they already enjoy such as gaming, producing music, socialising with friends or sharing their opinion on products or social and political issues.
If successful in generating an income, children and teens, as with all financial decisions, will need direction to make sound decisions relating to investment and purchases. As adults who have watched the rise and fall of child actors will know, fame can be fickle and yet the impact on a young person’s education, reputation and financial sense will last a great deal longer.
It can help to build confidence
For many young people, however, YouTube offers an opportunity to achieve a desirable level of notoriety that they feel is only usually achieved by peers whom they perceive to be more popular and successful than themselves. For some children who may have felt socially isolated due to a special interest, personal characteristic or due to a life experience, they may believe that the creation of a YouTube channel allows them the opportunity to gain visibility, credibility or a sense of connectedness with peers.
Complying with community rules
As previously explained, the sheer number of site users means that vloggers are often motivated to produce content that is controversial or shocking to ensure maximum visibility.
YouTube star Logan Paul recently did exactly this when showing the body of someone who had taken their own life during one of his videos. Whilst the outrage and demands for an apology with which Paul was faced will send a clear warning to would-be vloggers, the case exemplifies the drive to create content that increasingly shocking and attention-grabbing.
Adults need to support to ensure that they comply with policy and laws relating to copyright, fair use, slander, libel and harassment.
Some children will feel a sense of release and acceptance from the publication of a confessional style video, during which they talk about their mental health or an issue that they are facing and they are likely to garner positive feedback from others within the community. However, parents and carers should discuss with their children the implications for their well-being and reputation in the present but also in the future when their views and values may well have moved on.
Addiction to likes, shares and views
The popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube and the prevalence of young people who produce and view the content clearly indicate that vlogging is a highly rewarding activity. As in the case of texting and sharing and interacting on all social media sites, there is evidence to suggest that some young people and adults become addicted to the likes, views, shares and comments that they receive as feedback and feel unhappy or even depressed when accolade is not forthcoming.
This is due to the release of the neurotransmitter pleasure chemical dopamine in the brain which, in turn, motivates an individual to repeat an action or experience in order to receive a reward in the form of another dopamine hit.
A teenager may, therefore, be driven to create further content, perhaps at the cost of sleep, their school work or personal relationships, in the hope of attracting feedback. Some vloggers are compelled to create content that is increasingly controversial – perhaps including opinions or images that are offensive or shocking – in the hope that they will attract further views. The child may then be distressed by the criticism that they then receive, online and in the real.
Talking to them about what they share
A number of young children develop content in the full knowledge that they will provoke a negative reaction in others; this may be considered, in some cases, as digital self-harm, during which an individual deliberately provokes others in order to elicit the response from others that they feel that they deserve.
An important aspect of the dialogue between parents, carers and children should, therefore, address the motivations and the expectations of the young person to ensure that there is the opportunity to identify underlying issues that would benefit from exploration in a more private setting.
Identity play, experimenting with new ideas and opinions and attempting to seek out and align with a peer group is a fundamental aspect of adolescence. It is regrettable, in my opinion, that this stage of a child’s development has become, in the case of some teenagers, a public performance.
Teenagers are renowned for their misjudged, ill-thought out comments, but they are entitled to the opportunity for a caring adult to hold them to account in a supportive way, helping to learn and develop them the social skills that will enable to live successfully as an independent adult.