I’ve had several what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up conversations with my kids. They run the gamut from the typical to the exceptional to the implausible.
Ballerina. Police officer. Astronaut. Garbage collector. Mud taster. That last one came from my five year old. I’m fairly certain he wants to be a comedian.
As they’ve grown a little, the conversations have morphed into selecting college majors. When I asked what majors might interest my 12- and 10-year-old daughters – without missing a beat – they replied in unison: YouTube.
“Huh? You want to major in YouTube?” I asked.
“Yep. We want to be YouTubers.”
Not one to shoot down the dreams of children, I simply said, “We don’t have that major at YSU.”
I could immediately hear the disapproval from my wife in the other room.
“Wrong answer, Dad,” she said.
She was right. Although the major doesn’t exist, the pathway does. The trick to picking the right route to YouTube stardom starts at an unlikely point: content.
“What is it exactly that you want to talk about on your YouTube channel?” I asked them. “Whatever it is, you need to focus on that in college. You need to be experts in that thing, whatever it is.”
I was simply echoing the advice of YouTube star Jim Chapman. His “How to Become a YouTuber” video has over 1 million views.
In his video, Chapman recommends committing to your goal. He also argues that you don’t need fancy equipment, although he’s obviously using more than just the built-in camera and microphone on his laptop.
The rest may require a little help from a college degree.
Knowing more about presentational skills, writing, marketing and advertising, and media production will set your kids in the right direction for success.
This is the advice we’re giving our kids now: pick the right college courses.
Here’s the college pathway we think our kids should consider when considering a YouTube career:
Presentational skills. Charisma will only get you part way. Being spontaneous and making direct eye contact with the audience (i.e., the camera lens) will make most YouTubers look and sound natural. You learn these strategies in public speaking classes.
Writing. Reading from a script is a snooze-fest, but you still need to know what you’re going to say and in what order. Similar to outlining a paper, use a keyword outline to keep you on track when recording. You learn these tools in basic writing classes.
Media production. Pick up as many media production courses as possible to learn how to operate the best equipment, to get good lighting and sound, and to learn more about the media industry in general.
Marketing. Take as many business classes as possible. From overviews to in-depth marketing and advertising courses, the strategies you learn will set you apart from other YouTubers who are getting by on charm alone.
The more things change the more they stay the same, at least when it comes to social media.
A new report from the Pew Research Center didn’t use those exact words, but their findings suggest our social media habits haven’t changed much over the past few years.
Most adults still like Face-book and YouTube, while the 18- to 24-year-old crowd still prefers Snapchat and Instagram.
Early 2018 data show that Facebook and YouTube still boast the highest number of users among all social media platforms. However, younger Americans tend to use a wider variety of social media platforms, and with more frequency than older users.
“78 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat,” the report shows, and almost three-quarters of that age group will access the platform several times a day. “Similarly, 71 percent of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half are Twitter users.”
Don’t be surprised if some of these numbers sound familiar. We’ve been seeing them for the past two to three years, and the results always show the king of all social media still sitting on the throne, even if his crown is a little askew these days.
“As has been the case since (Pew) began surveying about the use of different social media in 2012, Facebook remains the primary platform for most Americans,” the report shows.
“Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.”
The typical American is using three of the eight major platforms on a regular basis. Along with Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, we’re using LinkedIn, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
Next to Facebook, YouTube has the largest user base. Although not considered a traditional form of social media, the site utilizes some of the same features we see on other platforms (i.e., liking, sharing, commenting).
Three-quarters of U.S. adults and nearly all (94 percent) 18- to 24-year-olds use YouTube.
“These findings also highlight the public’s sometimes conflicting attitudes toward social media,” the report suggests.
“For example, the share of social media users who say these platforms would be hard to give up has increased by 12 percentage points compared with a survey conducted in early 2014. But by the same token, a majority of users say it would not be hard to stop using these sites, including 29 percent who say it would not be hard at all to give up social media.”
Whether or not these groups will abandon social media altogether or find new platforms for connecting with others has yet to be seen. But for platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, now may be a good time to ask them to stay.
I had a dark social media time period for about two months last year. Fed up with the negativity and lack of connections to real friends, I started to rebel against the social media establishment.
My angst was palpable. Just ask my wife. “These people are idiots,” I once exclaimed very loudly, referring to the Zuckerberg types who control social media, not to those who post pictures of babies and kittens and Donald Trump.
After eliminating some social apps, significantly curtailing time spent on other apps and a short fast, I was on the path to social media enlightenment.
Deepak Chopra would be proud.
Of course, this didn’t stop me from writing about and lamenting on the experiences.
Others noticed a change in my normal social media cheerleader tone during my anti-social media emo phase.
You remember emo kids, right? Head-to-toe black clothing. Dark eyeliner. Black hair. Depressing music. A generally withdrawn disposition. Hating the world. That was me (minus the black hair, of course).
Call it a reaction to the disillusion the world was having with Facebook, but I was concerned about the psychological effects it and other platforms were having on me.
Then I found Reddit. Again.
In case you missed these knowledge-filled nuggets, I’ve written about Reddit here, on my blog. Use "reddit" in the search bar to find more.
First, it’s important to know what Reddit is not.
Reddit is not Facebook or Snapchat.
It’s not Twitter, although I suspect in many ways, Reddit users would more or less liken their activity to tweets, retweets and hearts than other forms of posting.
This is because, like Twitter, Reddit bills itself as a social news aggregating and sharing service. Though to be sure, the news content is not always reliable.
But that’s where Reddit shines, separating the wheat from the fake news chaff.
Users post stories and other content in a message board-like environment, while other users “upvote,” “downvote,” and comment on the worthiness of that content.
How I envision Reddit saving social media has more to do with that user activity – the community curated and approved content – than it does with negativity, grandstanding, self-promotion, and the hated algorithms that control the content you see first on “big social” (e.g., a term used to reference the big social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram).
To be sure, Reddit has all of those features, but the community and functionality are what draw people in.
Reddit is not pretty. Don’t expect glitz and glamour. The interface is simplistic by traditional graphic design standards, and the desktop and app interfaces are nearly identical.
As you consider migrating from traditional social platforms, dividing your screen time between the accounts you’ve had since the birth of social media and the search for something new, maybe it’s time to show Reddit some (more) love.
Learning that your kid is a victim of cyberbullying may leave you feeling helpless and defensive. Those are natural responses. It might also make you feel like the worst parent in the world.
Now imagine you’re the parent of the cyberbully.
Are you still feeling helpless? Defensive? Angry? Or worse, are you in denial?
If you still feel like the worst parent in the world, you’re not.
As a member of the National Communication Association’s Anti-Bullying Task Force, I have been working to identify strategies and tools to curb bullying behaviors – in schools, in the workplace and online.
You can access these tools in the NCA Anti-Bullying Resource Bank.
While much of the attention has been focused on assisting cyberbullying victims and their parents, many researchers and practitioners continue to discover avenues for preventing these kinds of attacks.
What we know is that healing the cyberbully is just as important as healing his or her victims.
Healing the cyberbully, in essence, is one of the primary tools for preventing the next cyberbullying attack.
Below are general steps to follow when talking to your kid, but note that you’ll find extensive resources online. Do just a few minutes of research and you’ll find additional answers:
1. Who hurt you? Knowing what led to this moment is often the most difficult part of the process, because it requires revelations of pent up pain and anger in your child.
Also note it’s not unusual to learn that your cyberbully was once a cyberbullying victim.
In a quiet space, free from distractions, talk about what led to this moment. What was the motivation? Is your child hurt?
Discussions with your child may have already transpired with school officials and others. You may be the last person to know what has happened, but you might be the first to learn why.
Regardless of how angry and disappointed you feel in that moment, you need to be the safe space for your child to share. Ask your child questions, but with a sense of curiosity rather than blame.
2. Restrict internet access. Consequences are important, but don’t assume that simply because you’ve taken away the smartphone that the bullying will stop. Kids connect with friends through gaming consoles, laptops, televisions and other “smart” devices.
Have a discussion with your child about trust. Together, create a road map for slowly earning back those privileges and, more importantly, your trust.
3. Get help. Remember that your child may have been bullying others for a long period of time. Depending on the extent of cyberbullying cases and those involved (e.g., school officials, police), you may need assistance from professionals.
Don’t beat yourself up, but do your homework. Seek out guidance counselors and request referrals for therapists with a history of helping cyberbullies.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.