Camp YouTube

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


What’s up guys, it’s Julie here. Welcome back to another column. Wait, why am I suddenly talking like a YouTuber? Because today I’m going to tell you about YouTube summer camps for kids.

No, not camps where kids watch YouTube all day. (What children watch on YouTube is another column entirely.) These are day camps where kids as young as 5 learn how to shoot videos, edit sound and create a personal brand to get them on their way to YouTube stardom.

These camps bring up a debate raging in many households: whether to allow children to post videos on YouTube. It gets at perhaps the biggest question of parenting in a digital age, which is how much leeway to give children in this fast-changing frontier while also protecting them—from themselves as much as from others.

While many parents won’t even entertain the idea of allowing their children to be on YouTube, in part because it could invite bullying or predators, others view the medium as a creative outlet that can teach their children life skills, such as planning, storytelling and composure.

Kid Sceneboard

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


Nicole Champine, an executive at a Denver investment firm, is sending her 12-year-old son to a YouTube camp this summer offered by iD Tech Camps, which charges an average of $1,000 for its weeklong YouTube camps for 10- to 17-year-olds. Her son wants to post videos of himself playing “Fortnite.”

Because he’s a straight-A student and involved in numerous activities, Ms. Champine said she isn’t worried about him spending too much time crafting his YouTube persona. “It’s not his big life goal,” she said. “He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, so I’m perfectly fine with a little YouTubing on the side.”

YouTube posting is intended for people 13 and older due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, designed to protect children from the hordes of internet data collectors. YouTube parent Google says that to sign in to the video site, people must have a Google account and be at least 13. For younger children, Alphabet Inc. ’s Google provides the parent-managed Family Link service. None of the camps are directly affiliated with YouTube.

The companies that offer camps for kids younger than 13 get around the age policy by saying they don’t help campers create their own YouTube accounts but rather teach them how to make videos that they then share with their parents, who can choose whether to upload them to YouTube using their accounts.

That’s a decision parents shouldn’t take lightly, given the public nature of YouTube and the fact that untold numbers of strangers can see and comment on the videos. Still, sometimes kids create accounts without their parents’ permission. A YouTube spokeswoman said that when the company becomes aware of a profile created by someone younger than 13, it immediately terminates the account.

Patrick O’Connor, an insurance consultant in Geneva, Ill., recently found out that his 12-year-old son, Ian, has one. The boy had been asking his parents for help, but they’d had reservations about it. Finally, Ian admitted he created a channel anyway. (He learned by watching YouTube videos on how to post on YouTube, of course!)

"Parents have to be involved in the discussion and process, but a lot of parents don’t take the time to educate themselves...Honestly, I think parents should go to YouTube camp."

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


Mr. O’Connor said he was stunned to find his kid had done this, but relieved that his son’s YouTube channel was actually hard to find. “I felt better knowing he had only four subscribers.”

After reviewing the videos, Mr. O’Connor and his wife deleted one Ian had filmed in his bedroom where letter blocks spelling his name were visible on the wall behind him.

“We need to talk to him about what he wants to do with the channel, what he’d get out of it and if this is a way he could develop his creativity in a controlled way,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Like many parents, Mr. O’Connor feels overwhelmed by the technology Ian and his 16-year-old brother can access. “I know what YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Vimeo are, but how to manage them, I have no idea,” he said.

When Nikki Alore’s 10-year-old son, Jacob, told her he wanted to be a YouTuber, her first thought was, “Oh no.” She told him she would help him but that if it doesn’t pan out, he isn’t going to be living at home when he’s 35. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get a real job.’”

YouTube says one billion hours of YouTube videos are viewed daily. That’s a ton of content vying for eyeballs, meaning the odds are slim that any one kid’s videos will rise up in the YouTube algorithm. What does rise up is often a mystery.

“It’s very common for kids to want to have a YouTube channel and to be famous like the people they look up to. Just like with anything a child might want to do—whether it’s being in the NBA or winning an Oscar—they should understand that very few people actually achieve that and there’s a lot of work and luck that goes into it,” said Sierra Filucci, editorial director of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that promotes safe technology use for children.

Jacob Alore was turned onto the idea of becoming a YouTuber after watching videos of “Minecraft” players he admired. “Because he’s found a passion and he’s not typically one to have one, I didn’t want to squash it,” said Ms. Alore, an accountant near Vancouver.

She enrolled him in a YouTube camp this summer offered by Canada-based Level Up Learning Centers. The camps cost up to $300 a week.

Level Up also offers coding and robotics camps. Jeff Hughes, the founder, decided to add a YouTube camp five years ago after his son, then 11, struggled with developing his own YouTube channel. His videos weren’t getting many views, a kid at school was posting negative comments and he became overwhelmed by constantly creating new videos in an effort to build an audience, Mr. Hughes said.

Mr. Hughes said the stress his son experienced made him decide that Level Up’s camps should manage kids’ expectations.

“We try to stress that this should be a hobby they do for the enjoyment of making a video, and that if they do it with the expectation of becoming rich and famous, it will be a stress for the family,” Mr. Hughes said.

Some organizations offer YouTube camps for much younger children. Star Camps is offering a YouTube camp for the first time this summer at two locations in Los Angeles. “Become an Internet sensation,” its website says. The two-week camps, designed for first- through-sixth graders, cost $750. “We’re trying to give kids the tools to build their own voice, because a unique voice gives you the best chance at being a successful YouTuber,” said camp director Alexander Rossi.

John Pacini, co-founder of Houston-based marketing company Dad 2.0, fully supported his son, Adrian, when he wanted to create a YouTube channel at the age of 12. “We enrolled him in video-production camps—they weren’t called YouTube camps back then,” he said. “I’ve held boom mics, I’ve adjusted lighting. We made it a family affair.”

For Adrian, now 17, the goal was never to find YouTube fame, but to use the process of creating YouTube videos to practice creating short films. He has since won some international student filmmaking awards.

“Parents have to be involved in the discussion and process, but a lot of parents don’t take the time to educate themselves,” Mr. Pacini said. “Honestly, I think parents should go to YouTube camp.”

Camp Youtube

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


The Smart Way to Be Supportive

If you agree to allow your children to create their own YouTube accounts or to post under your own, here are ways to do it with safety in mind:

Don’t reveal personal information. Make sure your children know not to disclose their full name or location—neither in their channel name nor in what they say on camera. It also applies to what appears in the background. Make sure no identifying paperwork or other personal details are visible in the shot.

Monitor or eliminate comments. “Six or seven is probably too young to deal with the potential for mean comments from unknown people. If your kid is very young and you decide to help them create a channel, I would not allow comments to be posted on the videos or I would moderate them,” Ms. Filucci, of Common Sense Media, said. You can do this in YouTube account settings.

Make the account private. The whole point of posting to YouTube is to share videos with the world. But if your child just wants to get some practice shooting and posting videos, you can start out by making the content invisible to outsiders.

Discuss the content. Common Sense Media suggests parents develop a plan with their children for what they want to share on their channel and who their intended audience is. The organization also urges parents to discuss with their children what’s appropriate to post and to remind children that anything they say or do online will potentially be out there forever.