YouTube More Than Watching Videos

After, our family’s favorite video website is YouTube. We go on YouTube to watch music videos or interviews. One Friday, we all sat around looking up “cheesy 80’s videos”. The kids fell off the couch laughing at Lionel Richie’s Hello surprise ending and Ah-ha’s Take on Me graphics. These classic videos are lost on the iGeneration.

Kids are not just passively, watching cheesy videos. They are creating their own channels and sharing their own videos. They have fans that can friend or subscribe to their channel.  So if you are living with a future film director, here is what you need to know about YouTube.

Creating a channel on YouTube is free. YouTube does require a Google account and users to be over 13.  YouTube’s profile page is public and contains space for a lot of information such as hometown, name, age, school, interests, etc. Kids should definitely leave blank any field asking for personal information. YouTube does not require real names. Some kids do use these spaces creatively like entering Saturn as their hometown or their name as Elmo.

After filling out the profile page, parents and kids should talk about privacy including whether to allow them to film themselves. Some parents allow kids to post a video as long as it does not contain their face. If kids are filming themselves, they may want to make their videos private or at least unlisted. If allowing kids to post publicly, parents may want to prescreen videos. Also, parents should remind kids about asking for permission before including friends or anyone else in a video.

YouTube channels can connect with Facebook, Twitter, Reader, Orkut and MySpace. Kids should think twice before linking sites. Linking these sites together allows any information publicly visible on a channel to be available on these other websites. Sharing information across websites could allow a Facebook page containing a real name to connect with what was once an anonymous YouTube account.

Other YouTube users can Friends and/or Subscribe to channels.  Friends and Subscribers not only watch videos, they send messages and make comments. Anyone can subscribe to a channel but friends must be approved. Subscribers receive notice of all public videos and if enabled can comment on videos. Friends can see all videos, receive updates on all YouTube related activities and if enabled can make comments.

After kids post a video, they will see a screen like this:

Here, kids can choose to share their video privately and decide whether to allow comments, ratings, embedding and syndicating on mobile or TV.  Before posting, kids can also remove location information .
For more information on privacy, check out YouTube’s privacy ninja video.

In regards to content, YouTube has community guidelines to keep pornography, images of drug abuse, graphic violence and other objectionable material from being hosted on their service. Videos are not prescreened. With 48 hours of video uploaded each minute, objectionable content does appear on YouTube.

For younger kids, YouTube has a Safety Mode. Most older kids will quickly find a way around this filter. Here, Commonsense Media explains how to enable Safety Mode.

Before getting started, cruise around YouTube. On the home page is a list of the most popular videos and check out their safety section. Remember before opening a YouTube account talk with your kids about YouTube’s age restriction, sharing and what information to keep private.