Our daughter, Rachel, is thrilled to have hit the 400 subscriber milestone on her YouTube channel. To celebrate and thank her fans, she created a “400 Subscriber Special” video this week that features an awesome “speed draw” as well as details of a special giveaway she’s having. I’m so amazed at how her video creation skills continue to improve. She’s using Screenflow software on a MacBook Air laptop, and I think she recorded some of the videos for this latest episode using her iPhone. It’s remarkable to see how she continues to appropriate new videography techniques from other YouTubers she likes and watches, as well as from her own creative mind.

I’m very cognizant of the dangers which are “out there” if someone would want to try and hurt or harm Rachel through her social media channels. We are having regular conversations about messages she is receiving and sending, and how she is choosing to communicate with others. For this 400 subscriber “giveway,” we had an important discussion about why she should NOT publish or share her email address, and instead use a Google Form with other messaging options to get the winner’s mailing address. There are SO many conversations relating to “digital citizenship” embedded in her digital life now, and I’m very thankful to be a part of them.

At this point, I actually hope she does NOT receive mainstream media attention or any viral attention from a source like Reddit, since that kind of widespread attention seems most likely to attract trolls and other “undesireables.” Back in 2009, when Rachel’s sister Sarah had a video response to President Obama’s speech to students amplified on Reddit and was getting thousands of views, I naively thought more mainstream media attention might be a good thing. I learned a lot of things during that situation and have learned even more about YouTube and social media since. Two of those “lessons learned” are that there are definite limits to the amount of control any of us have on social media, and regular communication between kids and parents is key.

While Shelly and I acknowledge the risks Rachel is facing by publishing a YouTube channel and using social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, at this point I do think the benefits of her learning, literacy development, and identity formation outweigh them. Decisions like these are definitely going to vary by family and by parent. I’m thankful we have open lines of communication to continue talking about what she’s doing and encountering. It’s certainly a dynamic situation that could change at any time. Fortunately today, it’s extremely positive (on balance) and filled with both good experiences and good learning opportunities for Rachel. I hope these trends continue. Rachel has come SO FAR in six years, since she recorded this video about the importance of “doing art” and being encouraged to be creative when she was in first grade.

Rachel's first take: Creativity Contest

At ISTE 2016, Rachel will be attending with us and I’m hopeful we can find an “unconference” opportunity for her to share some of her skills and lessons learned as a preteen YouTuber. Steve Hargadon has organized some ad-hoc presentations in the Blogger’s Cafe in past years, and I’m hoping he or someone else will do something similar. Although Rachel can be shy to watch some of her episodes together with Shelly and I, she IS keen to share her YouTube knowledge and skills with others. Rachel has had multiple opportunities to present with me at conferences and events over the years, and these have been very positive experiences for us both. We don’t have a local conference like SIT (Students In Technology) here in Oklahoma, but I might consider taking her in the next couple of years. I know the skills she is learning and developing are powerful and beneficial, and I want to continue encouraging her to grow into an effective multimedia communicator as well as doing my best to keep her safe online and offline.


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  • Ben Biddle

    I appreciate your involvement as a parent. I too have been very active in helping my daughter navigate social media and video content creation. I wish there was a way to get every parent involved with the digital growth of their child.
    But as a school teacher, there are too many liabilities to sending my preteen students to YouTube. Their own TOS states “the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.”
    I hope your readers are inspired to get involved and not simply send preteens to YouTube unsupervised.

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