There’s a saying in Silicon Valley and it goes like this: If you’re not paying for the product then YOU ARE the product. It’s a metaphor for the way tech companies treat their customers. On YouTube, content creators are definitely the product. The challenge, then, is to make sure your kids who are making the product, maintain their privacy, aren’t exploited, develop entrepreneurial skills and turn that product into a social following and potentially a little bit of cash too. If it sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is.

Parenting a YouTuber is parenting on steroids. It’s not peeking over their shoulders to see what they’re posting on Instagram, it’s hands-on involvement in every aspect of social media, brand building, and content creation. It’s practically a full time job. Not convinced? Read on…


When Facebook launched in ~2006, parents and educators across North America scrambled to add digital literacy and privacy awareness to school curriculum. Facebook was the coolest thing going and the prospect of audience, followers and DIY stardom made a generation giddy. The word “Friend” and “Like” took on new meaning. Kids were writing their own headlines (status updates) and starring in their own story. Bathtub and bikini shots filled news feeds, cell-phone enabled students’ uploaded angry-teacher images, and kids were merrily building followings with friends of friends of friends.

Parents didn’t understand Facebook’s privacy settings so schools were forced to do the heavy lifting. They called in the police and privacy experts, to get things under control. Phrases like “digital footprint” and “think before you click” were drilled into digital native’s brains and “cyber-bullying” and “you’re not anonymous” became themes at school assemblies everywhere.

Fast-forward 10 years and privacy is still a word in transition.

Youtube Golden play button

Kids get they shouldn’t post their address and phone number online.  They understand the geo-location feature on Instagram allows them to be tracked. Their parents, now the user backbone of Facebook, also have a better appreciation of privacy.

But the YouTube juggernaught and the realization that bedroom dwelling kids can now be video stars – and indeed rich video stars – has changed the privacy paradigm, forever. The new gold standard for fame is no longer 500 followers on a social media platform. It’s – as 7 year old Jackson tells usthe Golden Play button a million subscribers on your channel, a fitting metaphor for the #BrandofMe generation:


So, yeah parents, privacy is changing.….and young people don’t understand the far reaching implications of privacy, because they’re kids. It’s the reptilian brain thing. Which means it’s up to you to educate them.  You need to pay attention; we all need to pay attention. It’s not about Facebook anymore.

It’s no longer about a following. It’s about an audience.

Kids hear the word audience and they think applause….. As youth marketing expert, Mary Maddever tells us, our kid’s new heroes aren’t big screen stars anymore; they’re mobile screen content creators on YouTube, Vine and Instagram. Most of us have never heard of these celebrities – Nash Grier, Arden Rose, Michelle Phan, Rachel Levin, for example. But our kids know them. And the new intimacy of YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, where kids can follow 13 year old MattyBRaps and get tweeted back or know the ins and outs of Ingrid Nilsen’s, Bethany Mota’s or Joey Graceffa’s day …. that’s a level of intimacy they never get from Miley or the Biebs.

That virtual proximity and the “personal” connections kids feel they have with these creators, has reframed the concept of audience. It’s no longer enough just to have followers. Smartphones and tablets can shoot and edit HD video, turning kids and teens into instant video makers/studio execs! Producing videos is what kids do after school and the end goal of #instafame and “audience” is within easy reach.

Parents are going to want to talk about the “lure” of audience before their kids create a YouTube channel or an Instagram account.  Johnny YouTuber is not just a dream anymore; it's a reality.

Video production is the new arts and crafts. TIME TO Roll up your sleeves! 

Young creators love those iPhones and Androids but what they really want is the new Canon EOS 70D.

Youtube star, joe thatcher

As content creators and disciples of YouTubers like Rosanna Pansino, Grace Helbig, Joe Thatcher and Zach King- young audiences quickly realize the quality of hand-me-down iPhones or iPads is not quite up to snuff. Maker skills – scripting, set design, production management, shooting and editing – are the new arts and crafts for kids and it’s a pretty impressive thing to see an 11 year old producing videos and uploading them to YouTube. For many of these talented kids, this artistic process requires creativity, flair and a ton of work. When it’s supervised and championed by parents – or older siblings – it becomes a family affair.

The key is to keep the privacy discussion alive so young creators appreciate what’s in and out of bounds. As Jonathan Davids, CEO of Influicity Marketing tells us, let your kids experiment, but help them understand NOTHING ever gets posted until you see it first.


connor franta

johnny and meredith orlando

The lemonaid stand has scaled into the digital world. Innocent business ventures "scale" in this new digital world. If you haven’t listened to our interview with Meredith Orlando you should. From Toronto to LA: a YouTuber Parent’s Journey Down the Highway to Fame details Meredith’s story of her son’s experience with #Instafame. When older sister Darian uploaded Johnny’s cover of Justin Beiber’s Mistletoe to YouTube, fame came fast. Now, 140 million views later, the family lives in LA and deals with life in the fast lane. Crazier still, at Johnny’s school in LA, there are many more “famous” YouTubers. Meredith’s advice - privacy even with her celebrity son, guides all decisions:

  • Kids - fans - are smart. They know how to track down where you live even if you keep your address out of videos. 
  • Like it or not, you will become part of the fame. Fans will hope to find out more about your child through your social media accounts. How will they find you? Don’t underestimate fandom! Google Earth is a click away and enterprising fans will stalk your street, your kid's school and your local Starbucks to find their favourite digital celebrity.  


We talked about this is our previous study #Instafame, and our research and work with young people continues to bear this out. It’s a heady experience to have an audience, and hits and subscribers are the new dopamine rush for a generation of kids. In fact, many young people invest an unhealthy amount of time curating likes and follows with some purchasing an audience (see our Gaming the System Listicles) to shore up their popularity. But what happens when viewers don’t show up? What is your child’s emotional investment in social media?  How connected is their self-esteem to their digital vs. real world persona?  If they ask for a TBH (to be honest) or TBR (to be rude) on their Instagram, do they understand the risk?


Self-esteem, can also take a beating from the trolls, bullies and sub-tweeters in comment streams. Although your children may demand privacy, as Gary Vaynerchuk – head of Grapevine Media tells parents, “It’s a dictatorship”. If your child is a social media creator, they lead a public life. You’re going to want to stay engaged. Self esteem is fragile and easily broken. 

Kids are building big personal brands with thousands of followers in the hope they’ll be discovered. Study this link to understand the phenomenon.

Kids want to monetize their social media. Not all, but the digitally astute, social entrepreneurs who have followed social media stars on Awesomeness TV, Machinima and YouTube, see the potential to build and monetize a fan base.  They may not have a large inventory of content, but they understand the concept of a “vertical” (fashion, makeup hauls, bro culture). The really smart kids have cross platform social accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterst, Snapchat) to complement their YouTube channel, accelerate their audience building and amplify their message. Often before they turn 16. Which makes them more than ready (!!) ready for “brand ambassador” offers.  

To truly understand how the brand integrations are used by advertisers, see this Google case study on Johnson and Johnson’s teen targeted product Clean and Clear.


photo courtesy: broadband tv

Gen Z and Millenials are being solicited all the time to be branding agents. That solicitation generally includes promises of audience, brand integrations and money. Young people are generally pretty stoked by these offers; and parents are often in the dark (because how many parents really know what their kids do on their mobiles?). 

According to Jonathan Davids, CEO of Influicity, Multi Channel Networks are in the business of building networks of influencers and they regularly approach YouTubers, Instagrammers and Viners to act as brand ambassadors.

Today, advertisers buy young influencers - in “bulk units”  - to deliver a campaign.  A young person with 500 followers and a penchant for posting food images may be an attractive marketing vehicle for a fast food chain and an advertiser may hire 10 of them to create YouTube videos for the brand. A popular beauty YouTuber with 100,000 followers may be hired by a hair manufacturer like Garnier to create a branded video to influence her followers. Or brands will shower youth with free product in return for a tag/hashtag (i.e. #iweargarage) and an endorsement.

If your child has a channel or social platform with a large following, MCN’s will find them.  They’ll often sweeten the pitch by offering additional monetization deals including product lines, custom store launches, websites for hosting original content off YouTube (pays more for them and for you), and more.

Keeping an open channel of communication with your kids is the only way for you to really know what's going on. How many followers do they have? Who do they follow? Ask if they've approached – or been approached - by any brands. The narrower the focus of their profile, the more appealing they are to marketers. Keeping tabs will not only help you be comfortable with your child's online presence, but it'll help you keep on top of what they’re posting, and what trends they're following. 


A quick peak at the social ranking site Social Blade indicates 5 of the top 20 YouTube channels in the world are children’s sites and four of them feature kids in unboxing and haul videos.  Parents the kidsmediacentre spoke to acknowledge it’s tempting when you see the revenue ($$$millions) accrued to these videos. There are rules and organizations governing brand sponsorship in social media, the protection of children’s online personal information (COPPA), consumers of children’s advertising, etc, but parental YouTubification of kids is a whole new discussion (see child protection policies below).

YouTube relies heavily on self-regulation for content but who protects the kids being parked in front of the camera. Parents are responsible for managing a child’s digital footprint but what happens when parents allow potential revenue to trump privacy? This is a very concerning situation given the content in many of these videos is kids and not the parents.


Everyone has boundaries. This includes you and your child.  As your kids get older and demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of “privacy” – personal and institutional – parents can start to pull back. The gold standard for advice: "Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandma to see."

If you're open about following your children and keeping up with their content, they'll likely be very aware of what they're putting online and the suitability and/or risk that goes with it. The Internet is forever, and that can be a tough lesson for all. These videos, this content, never truly disappears, and that message can never be over-stated. 

Policies and Organizations Protecting Kids

We have advertising, transparency and privacy laws to protect minors. Why? Because the laws recognize that kids and youth are a vulnerable population. Here are policies across a variety of key media and entertainment sectors.

1. youtube - Advertising and Brand Sponsorships

While paid product placements or endorsements are permitted in video content, they still need to comply with the same policies as advertisements as well as applicable laws and regulations.  

Content creators are required to notify YouTube if their video has a commercial relationship by checking the Content Declaration box in a video’s Advance Settings tab. Any further notice to viewers is made at the creator’s discretion and in compliance with the legal guidelines of a region.

 As content with commercial relationships through product placements or endorsements, they must also follow YouTube’s Ad policy. The policy warns that YouTube possesses the right to reject, suspend, disable, or remove any ad they find in violation of these guidelines.  It is the advertisers’ responsibility to ensure that their ads are appropriate for the site, which caters to an audience aged 13 or older. With so many youth under 13 using YouTube, however, creators should take into account that ads appropriate for the site may not be appropriate for children 13 and under.

Editorial note: It’s fair to say advertising regulation between television and YouTube is like night and day. Many of the haul and unboxing videos staring children on YouTube are not clearly labeled as brand sponsorship and are clearly advertising. These would never be allowed on broadcast television in Canada. YouTube largely ignores the television advertising safeguards that prevent kids companies from jamming kids’ television shows full of marketing messages. In the case of YouTube videos, parents benefit financially from integrating brands in children’s videos, and transparency is woefully absent... not to mention the ethical issues around child trafficking!

More information on YouTube’s policies can be found here: (, while information on their Paid Products and Endorsements Policy can be found here (

2. Advertising and Brand Sponsorships in the YouTube Kids app

Youtube kids app

The YouTube Kids app has recently been launched with the original site’s younger users in mind, as both content creators and viewers. Consequently, the app follows adjusted ad policies to better protect their underage audience. Before being shown on the app, advertisements must go through an approval process to be accepted as family friendly and complying with YouTube Kids ad policies. These ads won’t include any clickable links to websites or purchase pages, and any ads that feature topics such as video games, food and beverages, or contests are prohibited.

The app also features ad intros, which are short animated messages played before a paid ad informing the viewer that their chosen video will be played after the ad. Although videos with paid product placements or endorsements will be removed from the app, videos uploaded by users (called UGC - user generated content) to YouTube are not considered ads and do not need to adhere to advertising policies. This means that a brand targeting kids (i.e. Hot Wheels, Hasbro's Play Dough)  may have a third party video produced for their brand by parents/kids, or a user may upload a copy of a television commercial, and neither would be considered as paid ads by YouTube. You can read about ads in the YouTube Kids Parental Guide here (, or learn about the specifics of their advertising policies here (


In Canada, The Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children is used along with the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards to outline ethical advertising practices. Both are published and administered by Advertising Standards Canada. Any advertisement shown on broadcast media such as television or radio must be evaluated and approved by the Children’s Clearance Committee, who use the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children. All broadcasters require a license from the CRTC to operate, and must abide by the Children’s Code as a condition of keeping their license. Meanwhile, advertisements in non-broadcast, including the internet, are not required to pass a pre-clearance process. However, the Advertising Standards Council can provide a pre-clearance if requested to, where they would use the criteria listed in Clause 12 of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (“Advertising to Children”).

The Children’s Code and Canadian Code of Advertising Standards are incredibly detailed. It includes procedures and guidelines along with the specific rules regarding advertising to children. These rules include restrictions on:

  • How many times a commercial can be aired in a half-hour block
  • What kinds of products can be shown by a broadcaster targeted towards children
  • Price and purchase terms
  • How a product is presented in the advertisement

…to name a few. The full Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children can be found here ( As previously stated, if Advertising Standards Canada is asked to evaluate an advertisement for non-broadcast, they use Clause 12 of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. The Clause itself is only a few lines stating that advertisements must be honest and not exploit the children they are shown to, however, the clause also has an interpretation guideline that goes into much more detail regarding guidelines and restrictions:

  • Safety
  • Comparison claims
  • Healthy active living
  • Excessive consumption

…to name a few categories. The clause and full Canadian Code of Advertising Standards can be found here ( while the interpretation guideline specific to advertising to children can be found here (

If individuals feel that an advertisement has violated either of the Codes, they can submit a Consumer Complaint. If a complaint proves to be a valid concern, the case will be reviewed by a Standards Council, and if the Code is proven to have been broken, the advertiser will be asked to fix or take down the advertisement. More information on the consumer complaint process can be found here (

The Advertising Standards Council is also active in promoting a healthy diet and active lifestyle to children. This can be seen within the guideline outlined in the code, and through the Canadian Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative, which promotes Canadian food and beverage companies to use their creativity and marketing activities to encourage and support a healthy lifestyle to children under 12 years of age. The initiative can be found here (

4. Influencer Advertising. FTC - Truth in Advertising Guidelines

Goals: to ensure consumers have a fair understanding of which product endorsements involve some kind of compensation from advertisers.

In 2015 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their guidelines regarding endorsements. These guidelines were first made in 2010 to ensure truth in advertising, that endorsements remain honest and transparent as to when influencers are providing their honest opinions about a product, and when an endorsement is paid endorsement. The new 2015 guidelines include rules that take into account the recent boom in online social media marketing. Specifically, the FTC added rules addressing endorsements done through tweets and image posts. As a general rule, the FTC advises influencers that it’s better to be safe than sorry, and disclose if they have received any monetary reward or incentive for a review or endorsement. These disclosures can take the form of hashtags in tweets, verbal statements in videos, or just typed sentences in blog posts.

While the FTC’s Endorsement Guides don’t have specific requirements regarding child or youth influencers, the guidelines put a lot of responsibility on marketers and their brands. Along with some rules that are specific to them, advertisers oversee that influencers are complying with the guidelines. They must ensure that both endorsers and customers know what can be said about their business or products, and also inform influencers if they are not abiding by the FTC guidelines. Unfortunately, the majority of marketers may not even be aware of these guidelines, and very few both know and understand them. You can become familiar with the FTC’s new guidelines here ( 


5. COPPA - Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act - See kidsmediacentre ethical framework or visit the FTC

First adapted for the digital space in 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) from the United States is responsible for protecting children’s privacy by prohibiting websites from collecting personally identifiable information (PII) from youth under 13 years of age without verifiable parental consent. PII includes any information that can be used to identify, locate, or contact someone with or without additional information. This includes one’s full name, address, phone number, email address, or birthdate. The area of COPPA legislation includes countries of developers whose products are used by American citizens. In the case of the Internet, this can be worldwide, and most certainly involves Canada. As a result of COPPA, the age of 13 is now considered the “age of consent” on the Internet.

Along with the general rule regarding PII, COPPA also has guidelines that apply to all operators of online services or websites targeted to children that may collect, use, or disclose their personal information. Even if the digital property is not targeted towards children, having the knowledge that children under 13 are using the property would then require the COPPA guidelines to be observed. These guidelines include the need to post a clear and complete online privacy policy, and other policies that give guardians control over the information collected from their children. You can read the full details on COPPA and any recent amendments on the FTC site here ('s-privacy).

6. ACTRA Kids Policy – Protecting rights of minors in media production

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) takes great care in protecting the rights of minors and child performers. Those involved with a production must follow guidelines that maintain a safe work environment and ensure a child’s safety, education, and healthy development are not compromised while participating in a production. The ACTRA Kids Policy refers to individuals under the age of 18 and covers their policies on how long children are permitted to work, how they will be paid, parental responsibilities, and other related matters. You can read the specifics in section A27 – MINORS of the ACTRA Independent Production Agreement (IPA), found here ( ACTRA also has “The Stage Parent Survival Guide” which aims to easily explain these policies to parents and guardians of underage performers. This can be found here (

7. WOMMA - meaningful disclosures around marketing

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) was founded in 2004 as a non-profit trade association dedicated to the integrity of word of mouth marketing. Along with their 8 Standards of Conduct, WOMMA members are expected to follow the Code of Ethics and Standards as a requirement of membership. The Code outlines responsible marketing practices through self-regulation, and is constantly being evaluated to ensure it is up to date with current marketing trends, technologies, and laws. In the case of children and adolescents, WOMMA members aren’t permitted to include youth under 13 years old in any word of mouth marketing plans, and should comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). If a member does not follow the guidelines outlined in the Code, they may be reproved with a warning, a suspension, or even an expulsion from the association. You can learn more about WOMMA’s Code of Ethics and Standards here (