Should I let My Child or Teen Post Their Talent on The Internet? The Pros and Cons of Creator Websites For Young People
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Let me start with a little story about myself related to today’s topic.
As a kid, I loved writing, and I spent a lot of my free time writing stories, books, and family newspapers. In my free time, I got out my notebook and pencil, and I let my imagination soar. Once I was done with what I thought was certainly a masterpiece, I proudly allowed my parents and grandparents to read it or put it in my drawer where it gathered dust.
No one else really saw my work.
But I often wonder if I would have taken advantage of creator websites if the internet had been around when I was a kid. I can totally see myself getting satisfaction from creating a great story and posting it online for others to enjoy. You know – people who weren’t my family members, that is.
These sites definitely have pros and cons when young people use them – and I’m going to dive into those pros and cons later in this episode – but I think that creator websites offer a unique way for young people to explore and develop their natural talents and abilities.
Hear me out.
Experts say that participating in regular, consistent practice in a talent or task is the secret sauce to becoming an expert in that area.
Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule?
One of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his book Outliers. He explains that to really master something, you’ve got to put the practice into it – and he cites a research study that suggests that 10,000 hours of experience with something seems to be the dividing line between amateur and master.
He describes two compelling examples of how starting an interest or talent early in life and then putting in frequent practice hours can lead to a rewarding – and lucrative – career. His first example is Bill Gates. I’m not sure if you know the story of his childhood, but what’s important here is that he had the opportunity to learn and practice coding at an early age. His family had access to a computer lab well before home computers were even a thing, and he took advantage of this opportunity in the lab to put in his 10,000 hours before he was even 19 years old. Now, he didn’t know he was putting in the magical 10,000 hours, but he did, and he eventually used the expertise that he developed to co-found Microsoft at just 20 years old.
The second example that Malcolm Gladwell cites is the musical group The Beatles. This group of ordinary boys became an overnight success only AFTER they put in their 10,000 hours. They did this by touring around Hamburg, Germany over a period of just 18 months in order to develop their skills and sound. By the time they hit it big in 1964, they had performed live in front of low-budget nightclub audiences a whopping 1,200 times! And in between all these live performances, they practiced their art while building on the knowledge and experience they were getting.
The 10,000-hour rule can be applied to most people that we think of as overnight successes – people like golfer Tiger Woods, singer Justin Bieber, business tycoon Mark Cuban, and many other successful individuals from all parts of life.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the purpose of parenthood is to create little “success robots” out of our kids; we ultimately don’t have that kind of power over them, and that’s just not fair to them.
But here’s the important lesson: every child is born with their own natural talents and abilities. In this age of technology, I’ve seen too many young people squander their potential to develop these natural talents and abilities because they waste too much of their time on passive tech activities like video games, social media, and YouTube.
What if your child or teen used tech actively instead of passively?
What if they used creator websites to explore and develop a natural talent or interest?
Just spending an hour a day – or a few hours each week – on an interest could go a long way in developing a masterful talent in an area.
When young people have a talent or interest:
- Their self-esteem skyrockets because they know they have a worthy element within them that is valuable
- Their confidence goes up
- Their connection with others gets better
- They experience less anxiety and depression
- They get excited about their future
- And they get way more interesting to talk to.
Creator sites can be a good thing if done correctly. It can help your child or teen develop their talents and interests – and give them confidence. So, let’s go over the pros and cons of creator sites, as well as how to use these sites in a smart and healthy way.
Protections For Minors on Creator Sites
The first thing you need to know is that you’ll need to be somewhat involved with your child’s creator site account. And this is a good thing. It’ll help you stay involved with your child’s mastery of their talent or interest and keep them safe.
All creator sites have safety and privacy policies regarding minors, and you can find each site’s policy on minors on their home page. I recommend that if you do decide to allow your child or teen to use a creator site, you first find this policy on the website and get familiar with it.
So what protections are there for kids and teens using creator sites? There are two protections that you should be aware of.
First, the Federal government created guidelines in this area by instituting the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – or COPPA. This legislation was recently passed and exempts kids younger than 13 years of age from online data collection. This means that creator sites are prohibited from gathering and storing information on a child 13 and under. According to the FTC website, the goal of COPPA is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online.
Second, most creator sites prohibit minors from owning their own accounts. According to their policy on minors, most sites expect that if parents allow their child or teen to use the site, the parent is the account owner, and the parent is actively overseeing how the account is being used.
Now, this isn’t to say that it’s easy to get around this policy – many kids create accounts and then outright lie about their age – but it’s a good idea to always be aware of what your child or teen is posting online. I know you know this, but it bears reminding you that once something gets posted online, it’s almost impossible to take it back.
The 5 Categories of Creator Sites and How This Could Be a Positive Experience For Your Child or Teen
Let’s transition to talking about the five categories of creator sites and how they could be a positive experience for your child if used right.,
Creator websites allow anyone to post original content on their site for other people to consume and enjoy. Some creator websites even allow creators to sell their products on the site.
Let’s review some examples of creator sites now so you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m sure there are some obvious creator sites that come to mind for you, but let’s review the five categories of creator sites now.
CATEGORY #1: social media sites like Instagram and Tik Tok.
These sites are popular because so many people use these sites to post their own videos, pictures, and written content, and we might not even think about the fact that they’re creator sites because of the social aspect of these sites.
But many enterprising young people have built careers using these sites as influencers, and I think this is definitely something that our generation of parents needs to take seriously.
Many young people tell me in my office that their goal is to become an influencer. When I first started hearing this aspiration several years ago, I would steer the young person away from that goal as an impractical career goal, but lately, I’ve acknowledged the fact that this is indeed a modern career option, and I’ve started to use this career aspiration as a way to connect young people with their natural talents and interests.
How do I do this?
When a young person tells me they want to be a social media influencer when they grow up, I ask them who their favorite influencers are. After they tell me who they admire, usually I’m able to open the young person’s eyes to the fact that these influencers are popular because they have a talent that helped them get noticed and liked.
From there, we explore the young person’s natural talents and abilities and how THEY can improve in these areas.
Many times, these young people who thought they wanted to be social media influencers become so involved in their newfound natural interest that we discovered in session that they also begin to explore ways they can use that talent in college, business, and as a career off of the social media site.
Let me give you an example. I once had a teenage patient who wanted to be a social media influencer. This young person came to see me because she was failing her classes in school and had low self-esteem because it was difficult for her to make – and keep – friends. When I asked her about her vision for her future, she told me that she didn’t care about school and friends because she was going to be a social media influencer later in life, and then she’d have all the money and friends she’d ever need.
So from there, we talked about the steps that would need to happen in order to get from 11th grader to influencer, and we also talked about what kind of influencer she wanted to be.
To make a long story short, after many months of sessions, this young person realized that she was drawn to fashion influencers and believed that she had a talent for fashion as well. I encouraged her to take small steps toward becoming someone known for her fashion, and she started paying more attention to how she dressed each day and she started noticing that she would get compliments and attention from her peers at school. This allowed her to find other friends her age with similar interests.
Today, this young person decided she was so passionate about fashion that she’s enrolled in a fashion college while she builds her influencer career. Now, I don’t know if she’ll be the next big fashion social media influencer, but she definitely has the start of a great career, and I saw her self-esteem and mental health improve.
I hope that example gives you some inspiration on how to avoid being a “negative nelly” if your child shows interest in becoming an influencer. Instead of invalidating their thought on this career, use it to help your child see that they need to develop their talents and abilities to meet this career aspiration.
CATEGORY #2: video-sharing sites like YouTube and Twitch.
These sites allow young people to create videos highlighting their talents and interests for other people to see.
Several of my patients over the years have created channels on YouTube. A popular channel to create is where the young person records or streams themselves playing and reacting to their favorite video game. But others have created make-up tutorial channels, magic shows, and cartoons.
Video-sharing sites can be a good opportunity for a young person to become comfortable putting themselves out there and speaking in front of a camera. As many adults struggle with stage fright, perhaps getting early practice with presenting on video-sharing sites can have a positive impact on our young people’s futures.
CATEGORY #3: merchant sites like Etsy.
These sites allow people to create a virtual shop to sell their custom handmade items.
I’ve had patients sell everything from homemade honey, to custom earrings, to masks during the covid crisis on these kinds of sites.
I’ve witnessed young people gain confidence when they see strangers – you know, people who AREN’T their moms or friends – buying their merchandise and loving it!
They also seem to really enjoy being a business owner, and this experience has inspired several of my patients to think about careers in business or as an entrepreneur.
CATEGORY #4: writing and storytelling sites.
There is a range of sites for writers, depending on age and genre. For writers in elementary school, sites such as Storybird, mystorybook, and WriteReader allow young people to create and publish their own storybooks on the website. They can also receive feedback from teachers and professional writers on some of these sites.
Fanfiction sites also provide another outlet for teen writers, but these sites are not exclusively for teens. This means that there’s some adult content on some of these sites, so make sure your child is aware of this.
What is fanfiction? Fanfiction stories are written by fans using characters from their favorite tv shows, movies, or books. For example, some popular teen fanfiction stories involve Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Twilight.
I mention FanFiction sites for two reasons: 1) because many teens like this genre of writing, and 2) my son wrote FanFiction in high school, which was a really good experience for him. It allowed him to have a creative outlet outside of the stress of school, and he was able to improve his natural talent for writing. Maybe some of this early practice with writing and putting his work out there for others to critique helped him on his path to becoming a lawyer. He’s about to graduate from law school in a few months, and law school demands a lot of writing and arguing, so I can’t help but think that my son’s FanFiction hobby actually helped prepare him for his future career.
CATEGORY #5: music-sharing sites such as iTunes and SoundCloud.
It’s no secret that Justin Bieber’s journey to success involved posting his early music on YouTube, where a music producer discovered his videos and eventually made him a superstar.
Now, Justin Bieber’s story is a one-in-a-million story. Still, many other young people post their music online, where they can practice their talent and gain feedback from their audience, putting them on the path to mastery.
So the five categories of creator sites – social media sites, video-sharing sites, merchant sites, writing sites, and music-sharing sites – all provide the opportunity for your child or teen to master a natural talent or skill. But just because the possibility is there, are these sites right for YOUR child or teen? Let’s discuss that now.
Does a Creator Website Make Sense For Your Child or Teen?
Now that you know what creator sites are – and the different categories of creator sites – let’s figure out if allowing your child or teen to use one of these sites makes sense for them. There are 5 points to consider.
POINT #1: First, your child must WANT to use the creator site.
Don’t be that parent who creates a YouTube channel for their child’s singing ability – and then forces them to sing while you record – simply because you believe your child is the next Justin Bieber. Your child or teen has to be interested in the project for it to be a positive experience for your child.
POINT #2: Your child needs to have a certain amount of patience.
It takes time for online creator accounts to gain traction. Does your child or teen have what it takes to post their creations without getting much attention at first?
POINT #3: Your child or teen must have some pretty tough skin to withstand the constructive criticism or downright negativity that is common on the internet.
If your young person expects ONLY praise and positivity concerning their art, then you’ll have to have a frank discussion with them.
If you think they can’t handle the internet haters, then you might want to hold off on allowing them to have a creator site.
POINT #4: They need to show that they can balance the fun of having their creator site with their other responsibilities too.
Just because your child might be getting daily comments and attention on their YouTube channel doesn’t mean they have permission to slack off on academic work, chores, and family and peer relationships.
POINT #5: They need to be able to handle starting out simple and building up to a more complex site.
For example, I had a patient who wanted to start a YouTube channel and got upset when her parents wouldn’t buy her an expensive camera and microphone. They wanted her to start with using her smartphone to film her videos, and after she showed that she could stick with this hobby, then they might invest in more equipment.
You don’t have to go financially overboard to support your child or teen’s new hobby.
Best practices for doing Creator Websites right.
So if you’ve gotten this far, you might be thinking that allowing your child or teen to have a creator site might be a good thing for them. Before you pull the trigger, let’s review my six best practices for doing a creator site right.
Best practice #1. Know the rules and guidelines about allowing your child to create their own creator account.
Your child’s age will determine how to proceed. Remember that COPPA – The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – and the creator sites themselves have policies to protect minors on their websites.
Best practice #2. Get involved in your child or teen’s creator account with them.
For example, if your child wants to open an Etsy store selling their homemade slime (Yes! This is a popular Etsy store, believe it or not!), know their login passwords, be available to help them with the tech involved and check in with them often about their progress.
Your child will probably also need your help navigating online trolls or negative reviews. Teach them the appropriate way to handle this kind of behavior.
Best practice #3. Have a plan.
Before saying yes to a creator account, ask your child to create a basic business plan explaining what they want to offer on their creator site, who the audience is, how often they’ll post, whether they’ll take advertising and other considerations.
This is a great exercise in helping your child prepare for adult life. Don’t expect your child to be perfect in their business plan, but start them thinking about the goal for their creator site.
In my online course for parents called Taming The Tech Monster, I go into way more detail about creator accounts AND I created a customizable business plan for your child to fill out. This business plan is designed to get your young person thinking about all the practical aspects of a creator account, as well as for you both to be on the same page about the purpose of the account.
Click HERE to learn more about Taming The Tech Monster online course for parents.
Best practice #4. Be clear on the costs of the creator site.
Some websites like YouTube and Etsy are free for basic content creators, but if your child wants to create a blog on their own website, there will be costs involved in purchasing the domain name and hosting the site.
In addition, it’s been my experience that these kinds of projects often involve project creep. Project creep is when a project starts out small and simple, but quickly explodes into more complicated stuff.
For example, let’s say at first your child wants to start their own YouTube channel where they teach makeup tutorials. You think that seems reasonable, so you say yes. But then your child asks for you to pay for lots of different brands of makeup to use, a better camera with which to shoot the videos, and advertising to get their name out there. All of that adds up! Be clear with your child about who pays for what.
Best practice #5. Talk about content.
Make sure your child knows what’s ok to post, what to keep private, and how to manage trolls and negative reviews.
Best practice #6. Make sure your child knows that their creator website can be shut down at any time for misbehavior, no matter how many followers they may have.
Your child needs to know that YOU are ultimately in charge and that just because they might have found a little bit of popularity doesn’t mean that they are immune to following the family rules.
These best practices are designed to help you parent your child in a way that encourages them to use their talents and interests to have a good experience on creator sites.
Take Home Message
Again, I think that when these sites are used right, they can be a great way for your child or teen to gain mastery with their natural talents and abilities, as well as to gain confidence in themselves, but if you decide to allow your child to use a creator site, you’ve got to do it right.
I go into WAY more detail about creator websites – as well as creating a healthy online/offline balance – in my online course for parents. My Taming The Tech Monster course will take away ALL your worries about allowing tech in your home because you’ll have the strategies needed to ensure that your child or teen is spending enough time on offline, worthwhile activities, maintaining family and peer relationships, and working on their natural talents and abilities so that they’re prepared for a happy and successful future as a young adult.
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