When it comes to social media I am of two minds: grumpy old man who wants everyone to get off my lawn and subsequently doesn’t even try to understand the apps my kids and their friends are using these days. Snapchat? Forget about it, unless you are a dermatologist who could make me look like I had those flattering filters on at all times. And, of course, there is the part of me who worries constantly about what my kids are doing online; do I hover too much? Not enough? Are parental controls working? Should I give in to the animal ears and weird “this-snap-deletes-forever-but-not-really-because-everything-online-is-forever” dichotomy that has me flummoxed?
To top it off, it feels like tweens and teens all want to be YouTube famous. Unsurprisingly, this is true; a 2017 study conducted by the travel firm First Choice polled 1,000 children, ages six to 17 and the results were clear: 75% would consider a career in online videos and 34% stated they want to be a YouTube personality.
The kids who have made this dream a reality make it look easy, despite the astronomical odds of getting noticed out of the billions of YouTube videos online. One of YouTube’s most famous personalities is five year old (five!) Ryan, of Ryan ToysReview. This toddler rakes in millions of dollars a year opening and playing with toys. Any child will tell you: Ryan is living the dream. My own children have a running list of items they plan on purchasing once they attain the brass ring of internet fame (I don’t have the heart to tell them they should probably have an idea in place first). If my kid is ever spotted driving his custom golf-cart with personalized plates around the ‘hood you’ll all know he’s made it happen.
PlanHero is thrilled to have had the opportunity to sit down with two parents who have a son who has made that happen, almost overnight. Missy and Jake have a seventh grade son who is rapidly ascending the ranks of YouTube as the prince of slime as JSH DIY, a channel about all things slimy that has racked up tens of millions of views. And if you have tweens or teens, you already know that slime has oozed its way into the pop culture much like the Cabbage Patch doll or Rubik’s cube of our day.
PlanHero: Tell us a little bit about your family.
Missy: My husband and I have two boys and a girl. Our daughter is in high school, one son is in middle school, and the other son is in elementary school.
PH: How did your son get started on YouTube?
Missy: He’s always been a really crafty kid. He posted his first YouTube video just a few days after his twelfth birthday. It was a “how to” type video on making squishies. His dad and I thought it was really cute and we were both impressed with his ability to film, edit and make graphics for the video. Between our family and a few friends that he shared it with, it got a handful of views. End of story? Actually, this was just the beginning! Though this kiddo was constantly mixing, molding and making slime concoctions we didn’t really think much about slime until a few months later. It was spring break, my husband was working and I was home trying to entertain three kids on a non-existent budget. Our middle son was frustrated that we were stuck at home while all of his friends were in Bora Bora, or some other exotic destination. Luckily, boredom kicked in and he began checking out his YouTube account. One of his slime videos had suddenly gained thousands of views! Apparently, we weren’t the only family at home watching YouTube. From that moment on, he was on a slime video-making mission and has now created about 80+ videos. We never would have thought this icky, sticky, ooey, gooey stuff could bring so much joy to this young teen’s life.
PH: So necessity really is the mother of invention! What was it like when he started getting so many views? How did he handle it? How did you and your husband handle it?
Missy: You know how people remember where they were during different historical moments? It’s funny because I remember exactly where I was standing when our son ran to me with his iPad to show me that he had like 14,000 views. How did this happen? The perfect slime storm! Tens of millions of views later and all of this is still a bit mind-boggling.
PH: Is it disconcerting knowing literally millions of people watch your son’s videos?
Missy: For the first year, we did not let him show his face in the videos. He would just show his hands pouring, mixing, stirring, etc. Not showing his face was a really nice security blanket for his older sister, my husband and I. We told him that he could do a “face reveal” once he got to 100,000 followers — When we set this goal, we thought that we were buying ourselves a whole lot of time. No such luck, he was still twelve years old when he hit that mark and received YouTube’s Silver Play Button. We worked with a consultant at YouTube (can you believe they provide this service for free?) who encouraged us to allow him to do the face reveal. She explained that his fans were really interested in knowing more about him and that they would find him more relatable if they could see him in the videos. Though he was not a happy camper, we still made him wait until he turned 13 before showing his face in the videos.
PH: How do you and Jake approach internet safety?
Missy: We talk with our kids about the internet A LOT. They understand that there is content on the internet designed to hurt people – especially children. Also, our location or revealing details are not shared. They are very aware that social media users may not always be who they say they are. Though we haven’t yet disabled comments on his channel we encourage him not to get caught up reading and definitely not replying to comments. With lots of young and active followers, often comments can be downright mean. Though he says he doesn’t focus on their negativity, it’s hard to imagine such words not hurting. Reading overly critical comments about your child’s work is hard for the parents, at times, too. For every rude comment, luckily some sweet person says something kind. It sure makes a mama smile to read, “JSH diy, I love you.”
PH: What would you say to parents who have a child who wants to start a YouTube channel?
Missy: Go for it! YouTube has been a ton of fun for our family. One word of caution: Don’t get caught up with numbers. There are billions of videos on the internet and the formula that generates views for one creator may not work for another. Concentrate on creating and sharing content that is fun and rewarding for your family.
PH: What are some of the unexpected perks of being “YouTube famous?”
Missy: (laughs) Having him get recognized in the slime aisle of our local craft store was a fun experience. I think it went something like this… 10 year old girl looking at wall of glue options, “Are you JSH diy?” JSH diy while drooling over the endless amount of glue, “Yes”. Girl (still staring at slime supplies) in monotone voice, “Cool”.
But probably the biggest highlight, was the whole family getting to go to YouTube Space, LA and checking out where some of the really big YouTube stars hangout and work. As a mom, it was amazing to see my little man so in his element.
PH: Any downsides?
Missy: Sibling rivalry… How do you explain to the little brother it doesn’t matter if his video only has 50 views? Also, although we try and keep his slime crafting obsession to one area, I think every surface of our house has at one point been slimed!
PH: Let’s imagine the nation’s obsession with slime videos eventually fades away; does your son have a plan to keep his channel going?
Missy: I know that moms around the globe will rejoice when this slime thing has run its course. For JSH diy, we hope that the knowledge he’s gained from YouTube will guide him to his next interest. Will it be the next viral trend? Who knows, right? But it sure will be fun to watch and see!