This post leads on from my last post – When I started to tell you how I let my daughter be on YouTube. Up to speed? Excellent. Shall we continue then?
So here’s how the whole ‘my kid was on Youtube’ thing came about.
Throughout all of last year my eldest daughter begged to me to let her audition to be on this kids collaboration YouTube Channel. I said no. No to being on YouTube. No to having a presence on the internet full stop. If I’m honest it was a no to making videos; I knew she’d need help with it and I was already feeling overwhelmed with a newborn baby and getting used to being a mama of three. After feeding, washing, homeworking (let’s pretend that an authorised verb) and caring for each individual child I’d be lucky if half the rooms in the house didn’t look ransacked. I definitely did not have any surplus time to be filming and editing videos thank you very much.
No. Just no.
I thought it would be a phase. That the idea would grow tired in her ever expanding mind. But it didn’t. She kept watching these videos with appreciation, curiosity and longing. And she kept asking her mama if one day, could she make videos too.
And then I did something that I’m ashamed to say I don’t do as often as I should. I stopped, and I listened to what she was asking. Beyond the words. I thought about what she was longing for and moreso, what she was comfortable – no, excited to do.
So that all of this makes a lot more sense, let me tell you something about this girl of mine. She has, since toddlehood, been plagued by self consciousness and an intensity that would give any brooding teenager a run for their money. Before she grew out of her highchair she would cry hysterically if anyone laughed at something she had done that had been cute or funny. Throughout her first years in primary school she shied away from the spotlight. She took everything so seriously, and compulsively bit her nails for years. All opportunities for a new experience were internally overanalysed and risk assessed, each time inevitably coming to the conclusion that it was probably best not to do it.
My daughter was the eternal pessimist who hated the unknown, dodged being centre stage and didn’t feel she was very good at anything.
Over the years I have begged her to just relax (which, looking back is as equally stupid as telling someone not to be sad), looked for ways to nudge her out of her comfort zone and encouraged her to take risks and be silly. Yes. Silly can be the best thing for over-anxious children.
Yet here she was. Finally. Wanting to try something new. Willing to take rejection on the chin. Facing potential criticism and negativity head-on. Wanting to be on the other side of life’s camera for the first time in her ten years. And I just didn’t see it. I saw the risks. I saw the inconvenience. I thought I saw an unreasonable request. But I wasn’t really looking. Like, really looking.
It makes me wonder what else I’ve overlooked over the years of motherhood when I’ve been distracted by household responsibilities, work and tiredness. What other opportunities had I missed?
But when I did see it, I couldn’t unsee it. It was etched into the mama-consciousness and it niggled and wriggled. This was a huge milestone for my girl; an opportunity for her to grow and take some risks.
Because there were undeniably some considerable risks. There always are in the digital world. Would she be protected by this company who she’d be making videos for? What if she was knocked back at the first hurdle and never want to put herself forward for anything again? What if one nasty comment about one of her videos destroyed this small amount of confidence that she had built up?
So I had a choice to make. I could try and protect her from the world she is growing up in; try and prevent disappointment, embarrassment and shield her from the online world. I could maintain the ever so convenient status quo where I didn’t have to squeeze in yet more ‘to-dos’ each week and where my daughter was safely in our little family bubble. Or I could trust her; to be strong enugh not to break if someone said they didn’t like something she did, to have the confidence not to crumble if anyone laughed with, at or alongside her over something on a video, and ultimately be completely transparent with us in this.
If I’m completely honest I thought it was a win win situation if I let her audition. I’d be giving her the freedom to do something way braver than she’d ever done before, but with so many other young people auditioning, she was likely not to get a place on the channel. She’d be disappointed for a while but we could mark it down as a good life experience.
So as a family we worked on her audition ‘skit’ and sent it off. That was that. On with our lives. Only, a few weeks later we got an email from the SAK channels, inviting her to take the Saturday spot on Seven Twinkling Tweens. Well there went my naïve plan.
I was thrilled for Clover, I’ve genuinely never seen her so excited and I’m so glad I grabbed my phone and caught her reaction on video, its a moment to treasure. But then we had a huge decision to make very quickly – were we really going to go for it? It was very real now; lots of people were going to see these videos that Clover was potentially going to make for the channel (the subscription numbers stood at around 300 000 at the time).
My husband and I talked. Clover and I talked. My husband and Clover talked. We all talked together. And then talked some more. I emailed the company asking a load of questions, particularly in regard to being tied into to any long term contract and her online safety. Eventually, as a family we felt as comfortable as we could have done about this new venture.
We told Clover she could go for it.
There were ground rules; from the SAK channels and from us as parents. She was never to share her surname or any other personal information that could locate her geographically. I insisted she was very careful with the clothes she wore when filming – as fuddy duddy as it sounds, shorts and short skirts were a no-no. Filters were placed the commenting process by the SAK channels – this didn’t prevent petty criticisms but kept the girls on the channels safe.
And we were free to step back at anytime we chose. This was very important to us as a family.
As it worked out, Clover’s SATS preparation demanded more of her time and we stepped back from Seven Twinking Tweens after a couple of months. Each weekly video involved most of a weekend day to prep and film and several evenings to edit. It was a huge time commitment and we really needed the weekends to be chilled and pressure free in the lead up to SATS. But do we regret our decision to let our, then ten year old appear on a popular YouTube channel? Not for one moment. Not even a tiny bit.
This experience made my daughter believe that she is capable of following her dreams. She holds herself with greater confidence now, with the grace composure of someone more comfortable in her own skin. She has learnt about responsibility and difficult decision making; and she is so much more aware of online safety than she was before.
As a family we are captivated by the power of images; both still and moving. They can capture a moment in time and keep that moment preserved long after they have become hazy in our fallible memories. For that reason we will continue making videos, but within a small independent YouTube channel. Both our girls have fallen in love with film making throughout this whole YouTube adventure – it has sparked something in their creativity that lay dormant before now. If we start to feel it’s not right for us, we’ll stop. But until then we’re happy to keep doing our thing, embracing the good side to the online world and bringing our offering to the table.
Mrs C x