Google the term “Movie Stars.” Go ahead… I’ll wait. The result is a scrollable list of individuals that have captured the hearts of people all over the world through their character portrayals on the big screen. Their names include everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie to Marlon Brando. I scrolled through about three pages of celebrities, remembering the various roles they’ve played over the years.
Now, Google the term “YouTube Stars.” Once again… I’ll wait. The result is a scrollable list of…um…wait, who are these people? PewDiePie? Lilly Singh? Should I know these people?
People who have found fame through online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are known as “instacelebs.” The instacelebs category is made up mostly of teens and young adults ages 15 through 28. Their online content includes videos of gaming, style, makeup and sketch comedy. Instacelebs are masters at building their brand. They also are known for being very well connected to their fan base. They’ll often respond directly to fans who comment on their videos, ask a question, like their posts, etc. In return, their fans are overwhelmingly loyal.
Today’s youth culture views the stars of the small screen in a similar way as we look at the stars of the silver screen. The difference is that these new celebrities are not out of reach the way existing stars are. These celebrities don’t live in Hollywood with the glitz and the glamour. They are real people. Their fans have watched them rise to instaceleb status, yet they are still filming videos from their bedroom. Kids today have seen how people can share their ideas with the world and build a following through those ideas. The barriers to becoming a celebrity are much different for the Netflix generation. They don’t need famous parents, casting agents, runways or even money. All they require is a camera, an idea and a platform to broadcast. The path to becoming a celebrity gained a new avenue.
OMG YES! My child wants to be a YouTuber. How do I address this?
This is a widespread aspiration, especially among children between the ages of eight and 13. The allure of internet fame will fade for many as they mature and begin to develop more realistic goals. Like our parents used to say, “It’s a phase.” It is essential to handle their aspirations in this phase to instill the appropriate values as they grow into young adults.
My wife and I have three children. The older two fit in the eight to 13 demographic, and both have a YouTube channel. We only recently decided to allow the kids to pursue this. Here is how we chose to approach it.
- Be Encouraging — Neither of us loved the idea of the kids having a YouTube channel, but ultimately decided that allowing them to create and post videos was a skill that would be useful in the future. We looked at alternatives, such as uploading them to Facebook for just family and friends to see, but that did not provide an authentic experience for the kids.
- Be Honest — We have set the expectation for our kids that these people did not rise to fame after posting one or two videos. Finding success online will take a lot of hard work, dedication, practice and patience. These ideas translate so well to future interests that it was important for our kids to understand them at an early age.
- Be Responsible — This is where we had to put some parental controls in place. Ground rules were put in place around topics like appropriate language, treatment of others and personal information. Videos are viewed before being uploaded. One of us checks for comments, although since the channels are so new, there are no comments. We adjusted and re-adjusted the channel visibility settings, as well. You can google YouTube channel privacy settings to learn more about the options.
Don’t fret too much about this. Once kids see how much time it takes to think of an idea, film a video, edit and post it, many will quickly lose interest. For those children who stick with it, parents should continue to play an active role, especially in privacy settings, comment reading, and being an overall “watchdog.”
What about becoming a pro gamer?
YouTube is a highly competitive platform, and while there are many niche areas, finding real YouTube fame and success is rare. eSports (professional gaming) can provide teens with a more realistic pathway to success. The rise in popularity and viewership of eSports cannot be ignored. According to an article from Syracuse University, an estimated 250 million people watched eSports competitions last year. The tournament prize pools are nothing to laugh at, either. The 2019 Fortnite World Cup finals paid over $15 million in prize money to individuals and teams. Colleges, universities, and even high schools have begun instituting eSports programs since 2010. Similar to other traditional sports, these programs include daily practices as well as required exercise and nutrition plans to keep team members healthy and active. While I do not know any YouTube celebrities, I know several college students with full scholarships to respected schools for their gaming abilities.
I’m not suggesting that you remove screen time limits and let your child play competitive video games every day until the wee hours of the morning. Approach gaming as if it was a traditional sport. You can use this to encourage things such as hard work, time management and goal setting. All of those will be important regardless of how your child’s foray into eSports turns out.
- Do Your Research — To support your child in this endeavor, you’ll need to understand the eSports world. See what eSports leagues, team and tournament opportunities are available in your area.
- Focus — Gamers will want to focus their talents on a single game. Counter-Strike, League of Legenda, Fortnite and DOTA 2 are the most popular.
- Join a Team/Play in a Tournament — Just like trying out for a baseball team, sign up to join a team. Playing in a local tournament is another way to showcase talents. If neither is available, look for online opportunities.
Gaming may be a passing phase, but it also holds the potential to be something more. The key for parents is to encourage a variety of other interests and activities while supporting their child’s passion for gaming.
Mike Daugherty is a husband, father of three young children, author, speaker, Google Innovator, and possible Starbucks addict. He is a certified educational technology leader who has served in a variety of roles through his 18-year career in public education. Currently, Mike is the director of technology for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School district in Northeast Ohio. His blog, More Than A Tech, offers advice and ideas for parenting in a digital world.