With YouTube becoming more and more of a legitimate career path, and with the barrier to entry being so low that anyone can get started from the comfort of their own home or even bedroom, it makes sense that many young people would be eyeing YouTube success before they have even left school.
At the same time, increasing concern over the safety of children online has led to ever more restrictive guidelines regarding what you can monetise on YouTube, which complicates the matter for children looking to make money on the platform.
The only real restriction on children making content on YouTube is the minimum age of thirteen. You have to be at least that age to have a YouTube channel. There are ways to work around this that we’ll touch on later in the post, but that is the only real hard limit, but it is a limit on creation, not on monetisation.
When it comes to earning money on your channel, the content you produce is more relevant than the person making it. You could be fifty years old, but if your content is designed for children, it will be subject to the additional restrictions that apply there.
Similarly, if you are fifteen years old but making content that is primarily watched by adults, you would not be subject to those restrictions.
This may all sound a bit vague, but don’t worry, all will be explained. So, can you make money on YouTube if you are under 18? Let’s find out.
Videos With Underage Audiences
Thanks to COPPA regulations, there are now considerably stricter limitations on the information that can be collected from underage watchers. While this in and of itself is not an issue regarding monetising your content, it has an indirect effect that is an issue.
The fact that YouTube is not allowed to collect as much data on their underage viewers is a significant deterrent for advertisers since one of the most compelling factors of online advertising is the ability to target your ads at increasingly narrow demographics.
If YouTube isn’t allowed to collect the information that will allow them to identify what kind of demographic is watching, advertisers can’t be sure their ads are being shown to the right kind of viewer.
It is not just videos that are marked as “for children” that fall afoul of monetisation denial, however. YouTube’s can determine if a video is primarily made for children—if for no other reason than the audience will be predominately children.
Even if you do not mark your content as intended for children—even if you do not intend for your videos to be watched by children—YouTube will mark it as such if the audience turns out to be mostly youngsters.
Making Videos As An Underaged YouTuber
There are two ways to consider the term “underage” when talking about YouTube. The first is in the legal sense of you not being able to make certain decisions for yourself due to your age. Some kinds of decisions have different age limits (drinking alcohol vs living on your own, for example) and all of them differ from region to region.
The good news is YouTube does not make much distinction here. If you are over the age of the thirteen, you are free to make content and earn money on the platform.
If you are under thirteen, however, you are not allowed to have a YouTube channel under YouTube’s terms of service. That is not necessarily the end of the road as far as your YouTube dreams go, and we’re not just talking about waiting until you are old enough. You’re just going to need a little help.
Officially speaking, your channel won’t be your own, but you can enlist the help of an adult (typically a parent) who will be in charge of the channel, while you make the content. This is perfectly allowed under the terms of service, and many very successful channels have risen to prominence in this manner, both before and after YouTube clamped down on videos by and for underage people.
Now, it is important to note that we are not trying to give you advice on how to circumvent YouTube’s terms of service here. There can be debate over whether YouTube’s approach is the best way, but few people would disagree with the intent behind it. The Internet can be a dangerous place for children, in both an emotional and physical wellbeing sense.
We are not advocating you get your parents to sign up for a YouTube account and just hand you the login details and leave you to it. And if you’re a parent, we strongly advise against doing this. The adult who officially runs the account should be overseeing the content that goes on it, even if it is just to cast a watchful eye over the final edit before it goes live. They should be moderating any contact the child has with people online, and they should be ensuring the child does not get taken advantage of.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but, for the most part, children need protection, so while we are giving you advice on how to make money on YouTube if you are under 18, it shouldn’t be taken as an encouragement to break YouTube terms of service.
How to Earn Money With an Underage Audience
As we mentioned above, there are restrictions on videos with underage audiences that all but rule out the conventional route of monetising your YouTube content through the YouTube Partner Programme, but that does not mean that you cannot monetise your videos at all.
Here are some ways you can make money with your videos even when your audience puts your channel below YouTube’s threshold for an underage audience.
Patreon (and similar platforms) may be something a long shot if your audience is primarily underage since underage viewers are less likely to have money of their own to give. But, sites like Patreon have their own restrictions for who can use it. Patreon, for instance, has a minimum age restriction of thirteen years old to sign up, and eighteen years old before you can sign up as a creator or support another creator. They also allow under eighteens to be a creator or support one with written permission from a parent or guardian.
This means that if you have an audience that is prepared to support you through Patreon, you don’t need to worry about their age because Patreon’s terms of service will have ensured they are old enough or have permissions to do so. And, if you are too young to become a creator on Patreon, assuming you are over thirteen, you can get written consent from a parent or guardian and get started!
Promote Other Ventures
YouTubers with a young audience often build their content on top of something that appeals to that audience, such as video games. If you are able to, there may be a way to translate that appeal into a monetisable thing.
To take one popular example, Roblox—a video game where anyone can create their own mini-games for others to play—is especially popular among young gamers. It also provides the ability for people who create content for it to earn money through in-game transactions. If you have built an audience around such a thing, you could promote the games you create and potentially earn money that way. Another example would be an arts and crafts channel which also promotes an Etsy store where your own arts and crafts can be purchased.
If you go down this route, it is important to remember that the thing you are promoting needs to be relevant to your audience. There is no sense in building a channel around Marvel comic book-related content and then trying to promote a SquareSpace affiliate code. Of course, this is true of any age of audience, but it is especially true of younger audiences.
Target Older Viewers
Not everyone can shift their content in such a way that it changes the average ages of their audience—at least, not without drastic changes to the channel—but for some, it is definitely possible, and it may be the answer to your monetisation problems.
By shifting your content in a more mature direction and ensuring that your videos are not marked as made for children, you should be able to qualify for the YouTube Partner Programme—assuming you have met all the other criteria.
Of course, if you are making content aimed at very young children—seven to ten-year-olds, for example—this kind of shift will not be a practical solution. But, if your audience is a little older—fourteen to seventeen, for example—it may be worth looking into.
Tips for Being an Under-18 YouTuber
Firstly, if you are a parent or guardian reading this, we would recommend familiarising yourself with YouTube’s child safety page as a bare minimum. If you are the child YouTuber, it won’t hurt to read through that page either.
For the success part of YouTubing as a minor, we have some tips.
Don’t Take Things to Heart
There are mean people on the Internet, and they often don’t have much to say in the way of being constructive. YouTube disables comments on videos that are intended for a young audience for this very reason, but if you find yourself in the comments of yours or another YouTuber’s video and people are being mean to you, do not let it affect you.
There is a way of delivering constructive criticism that you may take some time to learn recognise. As a rough example, someone telling you that your videos are too quiet is useful feedback that you should take on board. On the other hand, someone telling you that you are ugly is not useful, since being ugly is a subjective comment and even if it were true, you can’t change how you look.
Learning to separate the useful criticism from the just plain insulting is a skill that will take a lot of practice, but in the meantime, do not let any mean comments you might encounter ruin your day.
Hone Your Craft
If you have dreams of becoming a professional YouTuber, take this opportunity to get as good as you can at making content. There are two important factors for young people here;
- Their developing brains learn things more readily than when they are older
- You will likely not have as much free time later in life as you do as a child.
You may be currently trying to balance homework, a social life, and any extracurricular activities you have with YouTube and wondering how that second point could be true. But trust us, while there are always exceptions, most people will have far less free time when they get older, start working full time, have a family, etc. Take advantage of all the spare time you have now to improve your video-making abilities.
If In Doubt, Don’t!
If you are in any doubt that something you are planning might be a bad idea, don’t do it. Or at least get a more experienced opinion before deciding. This can include things sharing personal stories online, expressing controversial viewpoints, and more.
Many people who did not grow up with the Internet (and some who did) have said and done things online that have had a significant and negative impact on their lives. Don’t risk saying something you might regret for the rest of your life this early on.
Privacy Privacy Privacy
We can’t stress this enough, but privacy is crucial, especially for under-18 YouTubers. If for no other reason than the YouTuber will almost certainly be living with their parents or guardians at that age and any privacy violations will affect the people you live with as well.
Don’t share personal information in your videos, and make sure there is nothing in the video that someone might be able to use to work out your home address or phone number, or anything of that nature.
YouTubing when you are under-18 is something that can be a fun hobby or a solid foundation for a future career, but you have to be careful. And, if you are a parent, remember that there is a reason you are responsible for your children.