Ever since TikTok surged into popularity, especially with children and young people, every other social media giant has attempted to answer the accessible, trendy format with new features on their existing platforms. Instagram introduced Reels, Snapchat created Spotlight, and now video hosting platform YouTube is entering the mix with Shorts. Here’s everything you need to know before YouTube Shorts is fully released.
Note: the creator tools (and ability to create Shorts) were not available to the public at the time of this review
The Short of It
YouTube Shorts will be a new feature within the YouTube app that allows users to create short videos (lasting no longer than 60 seconds) on their phones. The content of these videos can be anything. Current trends include work out tutorials, popular dance moves, and funny dog videos. Once launched, users will be able to access Shorts via the home screen on the YouTube app. This is not a new app, but rather a new feature being added to an existing app. YouTube has no current plans to make Shorts a standalone app.
Shorts is still in beta mode – this means it is currently being tested by users selected by YouTube, but the full functionality of ‘Shorts’ is not available to the public. It is likely to receive new features and/or updates before being officially rolled out to all users.
However, all users within the UK can now access a beta version simply by searching for Shorts within the YouTube app. Although this only allows users to watch, comment, and report on the videos currently in beta. While users will not be able to use the feature to create a short video unless chosen to do so by YouTube, they can film and edit a vertical 60 second video or cross-post (use a recorded video they have already posted on TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram) to upload to their YouTube channel. Users can add the hashtag #Shorts when posting the video to try and get chosen for the Shorts beta. This will link their video to existing Shorts videos and heighten their chances.
This might seem like a lot of work for a chance to be included, but the payoff is a big one. YouTube is hoping to attract many high-ranking creators with the introduction of Shorts. They are allegedly holding nearly £72 million to distribute amongst the best Shorts creators in 2021 and 2022 as an investment in the feature. Details on how this money will be awarded have not been released.
YouTube is aiming to make Shorts a feature that will bring overnight fame to users. There are already stories of creators increasing their following using the feature, which suggests YouTube’s algorithms are benefiting those creators. One story involves an online magician based in the UK going from 17,000 followers to over 3.8 million after switching to use Shorts. Incentives like this make Shorts more appealing to creators of all ages, who may feel they will have a better chance of being an influencer on a newer platform.
For more information on what an influencer is, and how this might be shaping your young person’s life, check out our free resource here.
How does Shorts work?
YouTube Shorts is designed to be simplistic and familiar to use. Creators can use a variety of editing features to make their videos stand out, including:
Clips from other Shorts (similar to the Stitching feature in TikTok)
Audio from any YouTube video
Shorts will be viewed through downward scrolling, exactly like TikTok and Reels. A product manager working on YouTube Shorts claimed it is designed to keep users “swiping forever”. The videos within a feed are decided on by YouTube’s algorithms. Users have no control over the videos that will appear. This may be affected by the videos a user watches within their normal feed, as well as a user’s personal data (covered by YouTube’s GDPR agreements).
Users can leave comments below Shorts, even if they are not a creator within the beta testing. They can interact with other users as well as the Shorts creator. Comments can be disabled on videos, though it is unclear if shorts will be subject to YouTube’s comment ban on videos featuring children. Users can also report specific Shorts to developers.
If someone is not signed into a YouTube account, they can still view Shorts and the comments left on them. They are also able to report videos and share them to other social media pages. They cannot, however, leave comments.
Because of the relaxed privacy settings, the YouTube Shorts feature poses several potential safeguarding risks to children and young people.
If a child or young person uploads a public video to YouTube, it can be used in a Shorts video by anyone. This means strangers may attempt to engage in interaction with them as their YouTube profile will be referenced in any Shorts that use it
Young people may be drawn in by YouTube’s eagerness for creators to become famous using Shorts. This can inspire a vulnerable young person to engage in fame-seeking tactics while using the feature, such as wearing revealing clothing, engaging with fans (strangers), or sharing personal information in an attempt to connect with fans
The Shorts feature is purposefully designed to be addictive. It may encourage excessive screen time in your child or young person
There is an increased risk of inappropriate or harmful content being posted to Shorts, as the shorter length and volume of videos may make it more difficult for moderators to check. TikTok has this same issue, with inappropriate content often being looked over or “hinted” at by creators to obscure moderating algorithms
Users are not able to control the types of videos that appear within the feed, meaning your child might be exposed to something inappropriate
Teach young people how to be responsible when uploading videos. If your young person is keen on using Shorts (or TikTok etc.) remind them not to disclose personal information, and to be mindful of where they are filming. It’s important to protect their identity when anyone could be watching their videos
Talk to young people about their social media perspective. Sometimes, it’s helpful to understand what they think about something important to them by hearing it from them. This will inform you of which platforms they like, and what influencers they may be investing their time in watching.
Remind young people that what they see on social media is only the tip of the iceberg. Being vulnerable is not the same as giving away personal information, and oftentimes people who appear upbeat are only posting what makes them look happy rather than the truth of how they are feeling
Start using the tech. Are you on Facebook? Do you use YouTube? Have you heard of TikTok? It’s always good to try and understand new trends and platforms, and even better to to use them yourself. This will give you a practical understanding of the platform, the pressures and risks your child might face
There is at time of press no public release date for YouTube Shorts and it is currently in beta testing mode. Our team will continue to monitor any developments and potential safeguarding risks.
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