The ten year old strutted across the stage wearing her sparkly blue dress and kitten heels. She went directly into the spotlight. The emcee at the Little Miss Independence Pageant politely asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up, and why?” The dolled up adolescent leaned in towards the microphone with a smile and proudly stated, “A YouTuber because I want to teach people how to use makeup and be famous.” She took home the crown that night.
As a judge in the crowd, I was a little shocked at that answer at first. If this pageant was held 10 years prior we could probably expect most answers to be a veterinarian, a basketball player, a teacher, a cop, or some other heroic career often celebrated in children’s books, television, or in their extra curricular activities. Not to say that today’s kids don’t still see those as options - they are just their secondary options. Reflecting back on the time I spent watching Disney Channel and Nickelodeon at the turn of the millennium, I remember I idolized the sitcom stars. However, the first thing in my mind wasn’t “I definitely want to be an actress like Hilary Duff when I grow up." I believe a big reason behind the difference in the way children experience filmed entertainment today vs the generations prior has a lot to do with the way the adults in the room discuss the celebrities or today’s “YouTube Stars." I never once heard my parents talk about how much money the Disney channel stars were potentially making. Maybe that’s because that lifestyle was so unattainable to us and far away in Hollywood. It was a lifestyle where you had to either know someone who was already in it or risk everything you know to get there. Today, my sisters, parents and I openly discuss how these average people are becoming millionaires for playing video games or with sponsored toys on YouTube after simply making a decision to create a YouTube channel that my nephews and millions of other kids enjoy watching. Fame has become more attainable than ever, and the younger generations have taken notice.
A lot of parents may still have a hard time accepting this as an answer to the "What do you want to be” question. I challenge parents to encourage their kids to think less about just becoming famous, and really think about what the objective of their YouTube channel would be; Remind them that successful YouTube channels serve a purpose to the viewers. That purpose could range from comedic entertainment to plumbing tips! Maybe your child has a strong interest in cars and they enjoy helping Dad or Grandpa in the garage. This could open the door for them to become mechanics and share all of their car maintenance tips and tricks on their YouTube channel.
Another good reminder for the aspiring YouTube stars is to be prepared to do the filming, editing, graphics, marketing, etc. for their YouTube channel. That's right, a successful monetized YouTube channel isn’t as simple as quickly uploading a raw and candid video taken on your
iPhone to YouTube one day. A lot of knowledge and creativity goes into planning content and editing that content in a way that is going to be captivating to the targeted audience. The world is continuously evolving, which includes the way we work and what kind of work we do. The next time you hear a Gen Z or Gen Alpha member proclaim that their dream career is to be a YouTube star, rather than laughing it off, ask them questions about it. Will they use the platform to be an entertainer? Or will they be a teacher? Will they do all the filming, editing, and marketing themselves? Or will they hire a team to help them? These questions may ignite the spark inside of them and help them feel supported in their dream. Or these questions may enlighten them to the fact that YouTube stardom looks a little different than they had originally dreamed up. Either way, it is important that we encourage and empower our future generations as they enter the workforce, regardless of which career path they choose.