My five-year-old son wants to be a future YouTube star - and who am I to stop him?
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
My youngest son has just turned five and with ambitions lofty enough to hold the Christmas decorations of my entire road, he submitted his birthday list weeks before the big day.
Aside from two games consoles, a Hornby train set, some chocolate and a Tesla (he's dreaming big) was the request for a GoPro camera. "So I can make my YouTube videos, daddy."
Although he's only been around for 60 months, he's already worked out that he plans on being famous enough at 21 to be driving a Lamborghini and to earn enough cash from making a couple of videos a week which means he won't be at university, taking orders in an office or doing some menial job that has no future.
Of course it may not happen but he's aiming for the sky, helped on by his role models and heroes who are mostly young American YouTubers who talk to their millions of subscribers as if they were their best mates.
Unless you have someone in your life under 10 you may not have heard of the likes of Jelly, Unspeakable, Slogo, Crainer, Preston, ZHC, Brianna and The Frustrated Gamer - and that's only the ones I can think of off the top of my head. They make videos mostly about video games and drawing, but also about them doing pranks and challenges that are utterly hilarious in the mind of a child. A video I had to endure this week consisted of a man throwing ice cubes over his girlfriend. Proper funny stuff.
It's kind of like The Goodies or Tiswas but American, modern and far more flash and brash.
If I think back to the years when my birthday cakes had less that 10 candles on them, my heroes were a motley crew of famous people who I thought might inspire my future. I wanted the grit of Bryan Robson, the all-round sporting ability of Daley Thompson, the brains of Sir Clive Sinclair and the looks of, ahem, Simon Le Bon.
To be honest, if my son wanted to be a mix of Jordan Henderson, Elon Musk and Justin Bieber right now I'm not sure if I should pat him on the back or take away all his birthday chocolate as punishment.
The big issue is, what if he really does make it? How do you tread that careful line between crushing their dreams with a slice of cold hard reality and massaging their tiny egos into thinking that they can be anything they want to be? Did Lewis Hamilton's dad stop him driving that go kart or did Ed Sheeran's parents tell Ed to stop with that busking lark and get a real job?
It takes me back to the mid-1980s when my primary school sent a letter home to all parents explaining why they were using school funds to invest in a very expensive computer. It was a BBC Micro, about as powerful as a chicken korma, but it was deemed essential for the future of us all as one day computers would be a big part of our lives.
Of course they are and they are everywhere and young children now know nothing else. In the last week my oldest son has been off school because of a positive Covid-case in his year. He's spent the week doing Zoom meetings with his class, copying drawings off the iPad, playing games on a laptop and watching videos on YouTube.
Most things they do involve technology so telling them not to get acquainted with something that will dominate their lives in the future seems very wrong.
Back to my five-year-old. He didn't get the GoPro camera, but did get a child's Hornby set which he loves and a basic camera which he can record videos on. He talks about his YouTube channel in the same way that we probably made up stories when we were younger. He tells me how many subscribers he's got, what his next video is on and how well his latest range of merchandise is selling It's all fantasy stuff at this age, but in the next year or so he may well be on YouTube, albeit with a big chunk of parental guidance.
We've all heard so much about the dangers of the internet and children but I think as a parent you have to go with it. If he can learn some skills that enhance his confidence and produce something that is genuinely engaging then it could be very beneficial to him. I'm sure he'll pick up a skill or two and probably learn a bit more about the brutal reality of the world he is so intent on climbing to the top of.
In the meantime, I had a nice reminder that despite his seemingly world wide view on life, he doesn't know it all just yet.
I've been asking him questions on the way to school. Nothing too taxing, just a little daily test.
"Who's the UK prime minister?" I asked him this week.
"Boris Johnson," came the reply.
"OK then, who is the US president?"
"Ah, that's easy... Donald Trump."
"But do you know the name of the new American president?"
"Yep," came the reply.