Doing anything online these carries with it an inherent amount of risk, whether it is risk in the form of identity theft or risk in the form of abuse and harassment.
YouTube is a fantastic platform, but it is not exempt from these dangers.
Indeed, anyone who has spent enough time in a YouTube comments section could be forgiven for feeling that YouTube might be one of the worst examples of online dangers. At least when it comes to abuse and harassment.
The dangers a platform like YouTube poses are not only varied by their intent, but also by the person using YouTube. For example, an eleven-year-old child faces a largely different set of risks compared to an adult.
Is it dangerous to be a YouTuber? As with many things on the Internet, all but the most sinister of dangers can be mitigated by or avoided entirely by your behaviour. To borrow an example from email etiquette—you can’t get a virus from an unknown link if you don’t click on unknown links.
In this post, we’re going to look at the various ways in which YouTube can be dangerous, explore what YouTube do to prevent this, and look at how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Is it Dangerous to be a Child YouTuber?
We’re starting with children because, despite the sensitive nature of online safety for children, this is actually the most straightforward aspect of this topic to cover.
Firstly, children under the age of thirteen are not allowed to have a regular YouTube account under YouTube’s terms of service.
The only way a young child could be a YouTuber (without breaking the rules) is if they are YouTubing with an adult, such as their parent.
The child could appear in the adult’s videos, or the child could entirely run the channel while the adult manages things from behind the scenes. Either way, there will be an adult there who can guide the child through various Internet pitfalls they might otherwise have fallen down. Most social media platforms have similar rules regarding age, meaning you shouldn’t have to worry about your child being exposed to the less savoury denizens of the web.
They could lie about their age, of course. Sites like Twitter don’t have any kind of age verification, how you handle that will be down to your own parenting style.
Once your children are older than thirteen, however, they are allowed to sign up for a wide range of platforms, like YouTube and Facebook. However, they will still be a minor under your care, and you would still be legally within your rights to prevent them from doing so.
Again, this is a decision that would have to be made by you based on your parenting style. You an read my blog on setting up a YouTube channel for your child here.
If you choose to allow your child onto the Internet, you must prepare them for what they may find. Have a real conversation with them about the risks, and about how people on the Internet can be less than pleasant sometimes.
Give them a thorough grounding in the basics, such as not giving usernames and passwords out, and how to spot a shady site. These are all things that your child will need to learn regardless, so getting a head start can’t hurt.
Is it Dangerous to be an Adult YouTuber?
The dangers of being a YouTuber as an adult are not much different from the general dangers of being on the Internet. Things like identity theft, fraud, and general mental well-being are all things to look out for.
If, however, you become a famous YouTuber, you should be prepared for the responsibility that brings. A person with a few thousand subscribers can make an ill-advised statement or be rude to someone, or let a bit of personal information slip out, and the world will keep turning.
A YouTuber with perhaps a few hundred thousand subscribers may see significant consequences from such behaviour. And a YouTuber with a few million subscribers could make mainstream media headlines from it.
While we understand the desire to rush to success, building a following as you would have with a successful YouTube channel is best done slowly for several reasons, not least of which is it gives you time to grow and adapt to your newfound popularity.
Another way in which being a YouTuber can be dangerous is in the real world implications of your content.
Granted, this probably won’t affect someone who is making inoffensive life hack videos, but if you have opinions of a controversial nature, and you are voicing them in your videos, it could have harmful side effects. In today’s reactionary world, your job could literally be at stake. And, while we might all have the dream of going full time with our YouTube channel, most of us still have to work a day job in the beginning.
What Can YouTubers do to Keep the Negativity Away?
Beyond simply ignoring negative comments, there are things you can do as a YouTuber to keep yourself, your channel, and your community as safe as possible.
Obviously, shutting down comments entirely and not having a presence on other social media platforms will all but eliminate the opportunity for bad faith actors; however, it will also hamper your ability to grow as a channel since community involvement is crucial in the early stages of your YouTube adventure.
So, with that in mind, we’re going to assume that you don’t plan to lock your channel and social media down altogether.
Set the Tone From the Start
Think of unwanted audience behaviour like a bad habit. It is much easier to cut it off at the start than it is to deal with once it has had time to take root and become ingrained. If you make it clear from the beginning that particular behaviour will not be tolerated, and enforce those standards wherever you can, it will be far less likely that you will have a problematic audience when you start to grow as a channel.
Of course, what one channel considers unacceptable may be fine for another channel. Swearing is an example of something that can be fine depending on the channel and the community.
The point is that by setting the tone early on, you’ll have less to deal with as you grow. You may even reach a point where your community polices itself.
If it is established that you do not allow profanity in your comments section, your audience will likely start letting newcomers know when they are behaving in a manner that is not in keeping with your community.
This also applies to behaviour that, while perhaps not offensive in nature, is nonetheless a bad precedent to set. For example, while getting involved with your community is a great way to grow your audience early on, it’s important to establish boundaries.
If you make yourself too available—beyond any reasonable expectation your viewers should have—you set the expectation that you will be similarly available in the future. And, as your audience grows, it will become more challenging to devote enough time to these kinds of interactions. This can lead to a negative reaction from your viewers, who feel they are being snubbed.
Separate Your Online Life From Your Real Life
Being a YouTuber can sometimes lead to problems in your real life. Those problems may be small, such as mild embarrassment over a family member seeing one of your videos, or very serious, such as your employer seeing you say or do something controversial that leads to your firing.
You may not feel like you have anything to hide from your real life, and you may be entirely correct. However, it can still sometimes be good practice to separate your YouTube personality from real life if possible. You can do this using a pseudonym, or being virtually faceless on your channel (though this can have longer-term branding implications).
You can also keep the two separate by not sharing YouTube things on your personal accounts, and not linking personal things to your YouTube account. A common practice is to have a private Facebook page where you can communicate with friends and family online, reserving places like Twitter for your “YouTube persona”.
Take Extra Care With Your Personal Data
There is a myriad of ways in which sensitive personal data can find its way into the public domain. For example, did you know that when you register a domain name, the details of the owner are publicly available unless you pay extra to keep them private? What’s worse is this data typically includes your address.
Another example would be giving out your address to receive packages from viewers, or sending a package to a viewer and having your home as the return address.
It is also worth putting a little extra effort into making sure your videos are free from any sensitive information. For example, if you do an unboxing video, make sure the packing label is removed or covered up before you start filming.
Preparing Yourself Mentally
While the material risks of being a YouTuber are very real, many dangers are less obvious and can creep up on you if you are not prepared for them.
Lack of Privacy
It may seem silly to think that a lack of privacy could be an issue for someone who chooses to put themselves online in a very public way, but as we mentioned above, there should be boundaries.
Still, even with firm boundaries in place, you are putting yourself out there, and there is an unavoidable degree of vulnerability about that.
Following directly on from that, there is the criticism. There will always be a negative contingent online who are looking to say unhelpful and hurtful things. As a YouTuber, you need to become proficient at recognising the line between criticism and insults.
Legitimate criticism should be taken on board, as it can help your channel grow, whereas insults and general hurtful behaviour serve no purpose. If a person is looking to hurt you and nothing more, you won’t gain anything by attempting to mollify them, and their words should be dismissed as they have no objective merit.
Or, to put it another way, you wouldn’t ask a friend who hates Chinese food for recommendations on where to get Chinese, so why would you listen to opinions about your YouTube channel from someone who just doesn’t like your channel.
Lack of Understanding
While YouTube has become huge over the last decade or so, and made many people very rich and very famous, it is still covered by the shadow of scepticism when it comes to people who do not spend much time on the Internet. Unfortunately, for many of us, our families and friends will include a certain number of these sceptics.
Explaining what you do and gaining the understanding of people like this can be difficult. This is especially the case if you are hoping for a supportive reaction from your friends and family if you decide to move into YouTubing full time.
The best you can do in these situations is explain things as honestly as you can, let them know how important it is to you, and then try to move past it if they refuse to take it seriously. Try not to hold grudges—YouTube is relatively new, and the idea of a YouTube career is even newer. It’s not entirely unreasonable of them to have a little skepticism about it.
Lack of Patience
Unlike the last one, this one is on you. Succeeding on YouTube takes time. Attempts to cheat the system and speed things along usually end in YouTube redressing the balance—sometimes by deleting your subscribers—so there is no quick fix to success.
If you do not have the patience for the YouTube long haul, there is a very real danger that you will run out of steam and quit.
It can help to visualise your goals, but never be anything less than brutally honest with yourself about the rate of growth you can expect. That way, you won’t be disappointed when you aren’t an overnight success.