A Parent’s Guide to YouTube Stars

If you have kids or teens, no doubt you’ve noticed they spend a lot of time watching and talking about YouTube stars like Jake Paul, PewDiePie, and JennaMarbles. In fact, many of the biggest YouTube stars make millions of dollars thanks to their teen audiences.

YouTube stars are a major part of teen culture now. However, with this new part of teen culture comes the danger of cyberbullying. Specifically, there are two dangers. The first is that some YouTube stars engage in  cyberbullying themselves and model inappropriate behaviour. The second is that some YouTube stars encourage their followers to cyberbully each other. Before we get into that, a quick explainer.

What’s a YouTube Star?

If you mainly consume old media like movies and television, the idea of YouTube stars can seem weird. Basically, they are people who run channels on YouTube who become popular. Personality plays a big role here. In the same way that talk radio and late night TV relies on the personality of their hosts to bring in ratings, YouTube channels rely on the personality of their hosts to bring in clicks and views.

Some YouTube channels are one-person operations. Others are multi-million dollar media operations.

There are plenty of genres out there. Makeup tutorials, gaming, prank shows, reaction videos, comedy, and pop culture commentary are especially popular, but nearly any topic will have channels devoted to it. However, there’s one genre that seems to attract a lot of cyberbullying: YouTube drama.

YouTube Stars Who Cyberbully

Some YouTube stars have become popular because they bully others. For example, LeafyIsHere gained some infamy for cyberbullying a man with a learning disability. The main point of his channel is mocking others, with sad consequences.

Another example is Keemstar, who is known for falsely accusing a 62-year-old man of being a paedophile and making him cry.

Or maybe you’ve heard of Lil Tay, the 9-year-old social media star. She certainly isn’t famous because of her rap talent. Rather, she gained infamy after manufacturing a feud with Danielle Bregoli (the cash me outside girl) before, in turn, getting roasted by RiceGum.

YouTube Stars & Encouraging Cyberbullying

Aside from modelling bad behaviour, some YouTube stars encourage their fans to cyberbully. Fans of the aforementioned YouTubers have participating in their cyberbullying, harassing others and sending death threats. Sometimes this gets called “witch-hunting”.

Unsurprisingly, many YouTube stars with a predilection for cyberbullying also enjoy feuding with each other and other content creators. They and their fans like to call this “drama”, and if that word evokes the worst parts of your high school experience, then you probably have a good idea of what it entails.

Why Doesn’t YouTube Step In?

YouTube enforces community standards, but sometimes this is inconsistent. Keemstar, for example, has had four channels terminated from YouTube but is still able to broadcast.

The Bottom Line

To be clear, we aren’t making the case that all YouTube stars are a bad influence or that you should ban YouTube in your house. Far from it—the vast majority of YouTube personalities aren’t encouraging cyberbullying. We are making the case that that some YouTube personalities do behave badly and encourage their followers to do so as well. That’s why it’s important to get a feel for your kid’s preferred YouTube channels, to talk about the dangers of “witch-hunting”, and to familiarize yourself with different kinds of cyberbullying..

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Gaming Tips for the Non-Gamer Parent

Last time, we talked a bit about the online gaming world and what a parent needs to know in terms of how cyberbullying can happen in a gaming context. Here, we’re going to give you a few specific tips that’ll help you both minimize the risk of your gamer kids getting cyberbullied and respond appropriately when it happens.

Tip 1: The Friend Rule

If your child is younger, it’s a good rule to let them only be online friends with people they know in real life. This will prevent them from being harassed by bullies who target children.

Once your child gets older, it’s pretty normal for them to make friends online.

Tip 2: Recruit a Cool Gaming Aunt or Uncle

If you’re a non-gamer, it’s a good idea have a gaming adult whom your child trusts ‘friend’ them on their gaming platform, just to keep an eye on things.

Tip 3: Review Data Privacy

As with most social networks, gaming platforms have data privacy settings. Make sure they’re as tight as can be. If your child is the target of bullies on another social network or in real life, you don’t want them to be able to access another way to cyberbully your child.

Tip 4: Make Friends With the Parental Controls

The parental controls can help you keep an eye on what kinds of games your child is playing, track or limit their spending, find out who they’re interacting with, and even help you protect their account. Steam, Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and the Nintendo Network all have comprehensive parental controls.

Tip 5: Game in Public

Younger kids should play their games somewhere you can keep an eye on them, like the living room. This will help you pay attention to their emotional cues, listen in on their interactions with others, and maybe figure out just what the heck they’re doing anyway.

Tip 6: Think Hard About a Microphone

Lots of multiplayer games include the option of a microphone. There’s a good reason for this. A microphone beats a keyboard when a gamer wants to tell a teammate “Hey, there’s two guys sneaking in from the left.” However, it’s worth carefully considering whether your child should use a microphone. Some gamers like targeting young kids for harassment and a microphone will give their voice away.

Tip 7: Make a Rule About Trash Talk

Like any competitive event, online gaming comes with trash talk. It’s worth having a conversation about the line between trash talk and harassment. Some ideas: no racism, no sexism, no bigotry, keep trash talk on the game, no picking on someone who can’t defend themselves, and no piling on one person who’s being attacked by everyone else. Teach your child the golden rule of trash talk: if they can’t take it, they shouldn’t dish it.

Tip 8: Cultivate Peers

It’s good for your child to have a peer group online who can support them if they’re bullied. They can put their real life friends and family on their friends list. If they’re playing an MMORPG, such as World of Warcraft, they can seek help from the leaders of the organizations of which they’re a part.

The Bottom Line

Here’s a final tip: it doesn’t hurt to play a few rounds of whatever your child is playing. That’s the best way to get a sense of what they’re interested in and what gaming looks like from their perspective.

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