Looking at the back-to-school pictures this past September, I noticed many included kids holding chalkboard signs with categories such as teacher’s name, grade year and favorite subject. The part that stuck out for me was under the headline “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A majority of the ones I saw said “YouTuber.”
This is quite a departure from when I was growing up in the late ’80s/early ’90s and everyone wanted to be a singer, actress, gymnast or cheerleader. Yet, I understand the appeal. The most popular YouTubers get paid pretty large sums, depending on the number of views their videos get, along with free merchandise from companies wanting promotion. Who wouldn’t want that?
My daughter became enamored with YouTube about two years ago. We cut out television because our provider’s costs were getting too high, and we barely watched enough to justify the expense. My daughter started watching YouTube videos on American Girl dolls, including stop-motion stories and vloggers opening new brand items.
Within the past year, she has been asking if she could have her own YouTube account focusing on American Girl dolls and products. I feel really torn. I love that she wants to come up with creative videos and share them with others — not just sit and watch them. But, on the other hand, the internet can be an awful place, where people hide behind their keyboards hurtling snarky and abusive comments.
I also do not know how to edit videos. I enrolled my kids in a one-day class at an area arts center to learn about stop-motion movie making. (Long story, but the instructor didn’t teach at all, and we still need to find some instruction in that medium if readers have any ideas.)
Deciding on a compromise, I told my 8-year-old that she could have an Instagram account focusing on her American Girl adventures. This way, she could build a brand while mastering some creative skills before segueing to a YouTube channel.
Since starting right around the New Year, I’ve been working with her on getting a better understanding of photography. While I am certainly not an expert, I did learn a lot of great techniques while serving as a photographer and photo editor of my high school yearbook. My teacher taught us to avoid subjects looking out from the edge of the photo, because it causes the reader to look off the page. She would also discuss how cropping can help sharpen the focus of a picture.
My daughter and I have gone over some different camera angles and discussed the importance of properly lighting up a photo set. She has become interested in styling her dolls before shooting photos by coiffing their hair or picking out an outfit and making sure the doll is in the proper positions before taking pictures. She also has come up with a ton of unique ideas for photos so she is not posting the same images each day.
But just like her future YouTube account, I have some strict rules. She cannot show her face since the account is public. When she gets older, that rule may relax, but not when she is an 8-year-old. She can view and like photos but only on my device. She does not have a phone yet.
The account, for now, is jointly run by both of us, and I really enjoy it as a great mother-daughter bonding activity. When I was looking for accounts to follow, I found a number that are mother-daughter run so I am glad we are not alone on this venture. One day, my daughter can run it by herself. But for now, I’ll cherish that she wants to do this account together.
By Gina Gallucci-White