Online video sharing is a world-wide phenomenon: according to YouTube, 20 hours of videos are uploaded on to the site every minute, and a billion videos are viewed every day. Canadian kids are part of this trend, spending several hours a week on video sharing Web sites.
Video sharing sites work by streaming content directly to computers. Unlike file sharing, we don’t have to download and store the video files; streaming allows us to watch videos directly on the host’s site. It’s important to know that each time your kids view videos online, they are still using up a fair amount of bandwidth. If your Internet plan doesn’t cover the additional bandwidth taken up with activities like video watching, you could have an unpleasant surprise at the end of the month.
When it comes to video content, the Web provides a veritable smorgasbord: from tutorials on doing practically anything – from making a soufflé to playing the guitar – to riveting speeches by inspirational thinkers, news events recorded by bystanders, TV shows, commercials, amateur home videos, and all kinds of live music. Along with the wonderful, educational and entertainment videos, however, there is age-inappropriate content as well.
Many parents worry about YouTube and if it is an appropriate site for their children. The YouTube experience is very diverse, with videos of all kinds for all ages and tastes. The site states it is not intended for children under the age of 13, and while there are countless videos on YouTube that are appropriate and entertaining for young children, parental supervision is a must. In addition to video content, another Challenge on sites like YouTube are the comments that are posted below videos: some are positive, but many are offensive and even hateful. YouTube has set up a “Safety Mode”, a filter which prevents videos with mature content, or that have been age-restricted, from showing up in video search. According to YouTube, the filtering is accomplished through the following means – "(…) we (YouTube) use community flagging, hide objectionable comments and use porn-image detection to identify and hide inappropriate content." The Safety Mode is accessible at the bottom of each YouTube page.
SafeShare, a free software, gives you the opportunity to "clean up" a YouTube video from its comments and "related videos", which can also be inappropriate.
Tip: For a fun YouTube activity introduce your kids to television programs or cartoon characters you loved when you were young – and have your kids share videos they enjoy with you.
For older teens, find with them civic-oriented videos – or incite them to shoot their own on issues they feel strongly about. YouTube is a wonderful platform for that: because the whole world has access to it, it has become a force for change.
Creating and posting homemade videos
One of the best ways for young people to understand media is to produce it: as kids create and share videos they can learn techniques such as scriptwriting, directing, camera work, editing and online posting. YouTube has a whole section on creating videos, from the lighting to the uploading.
Video sharing is not just about creating; it’s also about audience. Often these videos facilitate genuine “conversations” as viewers comment on a video or respond with ones of their own. This notion of conversation is a central part of “vlog” – video blog – culture where vloggers use video sharing to speak out about matters they care about and elicit responses from viewers.
When kids create their own videos to post online, creativity, self expression and community-building are positive byproducts of this process; however, they should be taught to observe caution and respect as online content can be easily reproduced, reposted or modified. Young people need to think about the impact and possible consequences of what they post online (on themselves and others) by considering:
- What does my video say about me?
- Could I be recognized in it?
- How might I appear to someone who doesn’t know me?
- Could this video embarrass me or anyone in it?
- Can other people be recognized in this video? Have I asked their permission before posting this online?
- If I’ve included music, do I have permission from the artist or have I used music that is in the public domain?
And finally, parents should vet videos before they are posted.
Tip: Check out the privacy settings on the video sites where your children want to post. For example, YouTube lets users decide who can have access to their videos.
Posting movies and TV programs
As is the case with P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing, copyright needs to be considered when posting videos online.
To control copyright infringement, YouTube limits the of videos posted on its site to ten minutes, making it more difficult to “cut and paste” together full programs protected by copyright. This has not put an end to the practice, however, as users simply cut up long programs into 10-minute segments in order to bypass this restriction.
Video sharing sites are only considered to be legally responsible for videos that infringe copyright laws or contain illegal materials if they are notified about them and then fail to remove them. Otherwise, it’s up to users to obtain any rights or authorization needed for content they post. Under Canadian law, users are responsible if this is not done.
The Copyright Act of Canada is in the process of being revised. To find out more about the latest developments, visit the Web site for the Copyright Board of Canada.