Whether you are a parent with children who are just hitting those teenage years, or a teenager yourself, YouTube can be something of a daunting prospect.
Although we’ll admit that worrying about things like YouTube is typically more of a parent thing. And it shows by the number of posts and guides there are online aimed at parents.
While it’s not a bad thing that parents have ample resources to help them guide their children through potentially sticky areas of life, there comes the point where those children start taking on a little autonomy and making decisions without their parent’s input, and it is important that there are resources for those children as well.
For most people, that time is during their teenage years, when they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. YouTube do have their own little section on staying safe as a teen, though “little” is the operative word there.
Now, teenagers are not necessarily known for their willingness to listen to older generations’ advice, something that has been true for teenagers throughout history. Still, there is advice to give, and it should be there when it is needed.
With that in mind, we’ve put together these YouTube tips for teenagers, both for teenagers who are going to start making videos and teenagers who are just watching.
The Standard Common Sense Talk
The chances are, you’ve had some version of this message through your life—or at least we hope you have—but it amounts to using your common sense when it comes to your own actions.
It can be easy to get swept up in things, whether its peer pressure from your friends or wanting to be part of a global Internet trend. It is crucial that you take a step back and ask yourself if whatever action you are considering taking is wise.
Could you hurt yourself? Could you hurt others? Are their lasting ramifications of what you intend to do?
Though it’s not a hard rule, it can help to ask yourself if you would do the thing you are doing without a YouTube audience. If the answer is no, explore all of the reasons why it is no, and try to judge if those reasons outweigh getting views on YouTube objectively.
A perfect example of this is the “Tide Pod Challenge“, where a concerning number of people—granted, not all teenagers—chowed down on dishwasher detergent pods for a ridiculous Internet challenge that, as far as anyone can tell, started because the pods in question look a bit like candy.
Unfortunately, the whole area of Internet challenges is one that requires you to use your judgement, and judgement is subjective.
For example, while it may be a bit daft, the Planking trend that swept across the Internet in the early 2010s—which involved people laying face-down in strange and unusual places—was relatively harmless… depending on where you chose to lay face down. Similarly, the “Cinamon Challenge“, while a little riskier than planking due to the possibility of choking, was more or less safe, if not a little embarrassing. We’ll get to embarrassment later, by the way.
From those somewhat innocuous examples, there have been far more dangerous trends that have involved eating corn on a cob using an electric drill, and the detergent chomping we mentioned above. These are not safe and innocuous examples of Internet challenges, and can (and have) caused injury, all for the sake of trying to get a viral video.
These are cases where judgement has failed people. Dishwasher detergent is not meant to be ingested, and can cause serious harm. Most people know this, and that is why they would not choose to do that outside of a silly Internet challenge.
As desirable as a high-profile YouTube career may be, it is not worth risking your health—and possibly your life—over.
The Internet Lasts Forever
This particular point is a hard one for younger people—not just teenagers—to come to terms with.
We, as a species, struggle to plan long term, and this is more evident among our young than anywhere else. It is why we feel invincible when we are young, and why we are willing to take risks that, as an older person, we would never dream of taking.
Unfortunately for the current generation of children, teenagers, and young adults, not thinking long term is a luxury they can’t really afford to have.
The phrase, “the Internet lasts forever” refers to the fact that once something has been posted online, you can never truly be sure that it can be removed.
Sure, if you post a video to YouTube that gets zero views and you delete it, you can probably feel confident that the video is gone. If, on the other hand, you post a video that goes viral, that video will never leave the Internet, even if you later come to regret it and take the video down, it will exist in hundreds of other places across the web.
And you don’t have to be a viral sensation for this to happen.
We talked about long term planning because it is difficult for teenagers to muster up the concern for how something like an offensive or silly video might affect their life ten or twenty years down the line, but that is exactly what you have to consider.
It is already hard enough to judge what is safe, given that things that were a bit “edgy” ten—and even five and sometimes less—years ago are now getting people cancelled, but there are plenty of things you can be sure are not going to play well at any time. For example, discriminatory content, even for comedic purposes, can come back to bite you, regardless of who the discrimination is against, and there are many examples of this happening.
There may be situations where risky content like this is not a problem, such as would be the case for someone who makes a career out of outrageous and offensive comedy.
But we humans are not traditionally very good at picking out a career path early on and sticking to it, and the number of career paths that an offensive video resurfacing wouldn’t harm is pretty small.
With that in mind, it is generally best just to steer clear of anything that might be considered offensive or particularly silly in a dangerous kind of way.
Viral isn’t Viral Anymore
Asking yourself if you would do something without an audience is a good starting point for making a sound judgement about whether something is a good idea.
However, we know that the Internet would be a boring place if people only ever made videos of them doing things that they would be comfortable doing alone.
For example, we can fully believe that the guys behind the channel How Ridiculous might be dropping things from great heights purely for fun if they weren’t making viral videos out of it, but it’s safe to say they probably wouldn’t be dropping cars onto giant axes were it not on camera.
However, the thing about viral videos is that “viral” does not mean what it once did. In the earlier days of the Internet—and of Youtube specifically—a viral video would take over the Internet.
It would be all people were talking about for a short period. These days, viral videos may rake in the millions of views that they used to do, but they are just one viral video in a sea of other viral videos, since lots of people and organisations are trying to make viral videos. Furthermore, they are not worth nearly as much as you might think in terms of monetary value.
There are instances of YouTubers having viral hits that get millions and millions of views, only to make a few hundred dollars from it.
The reason we are going over all this is that when you make those judgements we were talking about, you should have a realistic idea of the benefits. Internet fame can be incredibly fleeting, especially when it is off the back of a viral video.
Seriously consider if what you are planning is worth the potential rewards, even in the best-case scenarios. This is especially true for the trends we mentioned above. For something like the Tide Pod Challenge, lots of people (unfortunately) were attempting the challenge, which means that any boost the videos got would have been minor since they would effectively have been shared between all the other Tide Pod videos.
In other words, people were risking severe injury for what amounted to a relatively minor bump in viewership.
It’s also worth noting that a viral video alone does not usually translate into many new subscribers, so, for most of those people, it was risking serious injury for a one-time minor bump in views.
So far, we’ve been focussing mainly on teenagers who are looking to create content, but this section applies to both teenage YouTubers and teenagers who just watch YouTube.
Firstly, the comments. YouTube has a well-deserved reputation for not always being the most welcoming of communities. Some YouTubers actively work to keep toxic voices out of their comments and chats, but there are a lot of users on YouTube, and a lot of those users are not nice people.
The best-case scenario would be if you could mentally shield yourself from mean comments, or discriminatory language that affects you.
If you can dismiss those comments as the unsavoury ramblings of a troubled person, you will be safe from this kind of attack on your mental health, whatever platform you are on. If, on the other hand, you just can’t get that barrier up, don’t go looking for trouble.
There is no way to block people as a user, and YouTubers can only opt to hide certain users from their channel’s comments. If you are likely to be affected by offensive comments, it may be best to steer clear of the comments altogether, and certainly on videos where the community is known to be less than friendly.
As a viewer, it is also important to remember that what you see on YouTube is not necessarily real life.
If you are watching vloggers in their picture-perfect bedrooms with their faces perfectly lit and their hair looking immaculate, try to remember that regardless of how perfect their life looks on YouTube, they are real people with problems that don’t necessarily make it onto their channel.
Work to better your life in your own ways, and don’t compare it to unrealistic representations of Internet strangers’ lives.
Teenagers on YouTube
YouTube is not presently allowed to track children (those under thirteen years of age), so statistics on demographics aren’t necessarily comprehensive. That being said, in 2019, 81% of 15-25-year-olds in America used YouTube.
What’s more, YouTube is fifteen years old (at the time of writing this post in 2020) meaning that all of the teenagers alive today either grew up with YouTube or are too young to remember a time before YouTube.
What this may mean for the future is for smarter people to predict, but it is interesting to note that today’s children and teenagers will be the first generation of kids to grow up with YouTube. They will have significantly more opportunities to make their lives harder through unwise YouTube-use.
But at the same time, they will have a lot more examples of the consequences of misusing YouTube than anyone who came before they did. Millennials grew up in a proto-Internet world and were taken somewhat off-guard by the always-on nature of the modern Internet, that is mostly why we see YouTubers who became popular during the early days of the platform getting cancelled for things they did a decade ago.
Children today can learn from those experiences.
YouTube Tips for Teenagers Careers
For the first time in history, “YouTuber” is seen as a valid career choice. And, unlike actors and pop stars, it is something that you can achieve through hard work and smart decisions alone, rather than relying on luck.
Just try not to live and die by the validation of your channel; there is more to life than YouTube.