Everything I’ve said about photo sharing applies when we talk about video sharing on social networks. So take everything from the preceding section and replace “photo” with “video” and you’ll have 90% of this section covered.
The predominant video sharing site on the web is YouTube, with other video sharing sites serving up a wide variety of content. I hesitate to make too many recommendations because in my experience, despite the incredible amount of inappropriate content on YouTube, most other dedicated video viewing sites are even more problematic. For the purposes of user-generated content, I’ll limit my discussion in this section to YouTube. YouTube enforces age-appropriate content guidelines but with two important caveats: 1) getting past the roadblocks is fairly simple, with no real proof of one’s age required to gain access, and 2) inappropriate content may be uploaded and viewed if not properly tagged by the uploader, and will remain accessible to all viewers until someone complains or the content is tagged as inappropriate. The other problematic aspect of YouTube involves related videos that are shown as thumbnails on the same page as the video just viewed. Some of these thumbnails clearly show immodesty and otherwise promise to deliver prurient content and therefore can provide an easy slippery slope for a casual video surfer.
Commercially produced content (typically movies and television programming) can be viewed on sites like Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon Video, much of it for free. For example, Hulu and Amazon Prime provide access to a fairly large number of free movies and television programs that feature nudity or sexual content. Video podcasts on iTunes can similarly serve up inappropriate content at no cost to the consumer. Remember that teenagers are motivated by free access to online content since their online media budgets are mostly non-existent. Unfettered access to these video services is generally a very bad idea.
Lest I begin to sound overly negative about YouTube and other video sharing sites, I have to say that I love the positive value that YouTube has brought on a variety of levels. Music artists today can gain a following on YouTube without having to wait to be “discovered” by a talent agent. The same is true for performers of all types, as well as videographers and other creators of visual content. A number of successful companies have launched themselves primarily by using a YouTube advertising campaign featuring clever video advertisements that generated a following. The Church has had great success with its YouTube channel “Mormon Messages.”
One last issue deserves attention, and that is the tendency for kids to post videos of themselves online. We’ve talked about privacy issues already, and it’s well known to parents that teenagers often lack judgment and struggle to think too far into the future. Preeminent in the current trend of self-produced videos is Vine, a service that features six-second video clips. Many of these clips are interesting, funny, or otherwise entertaining, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the kinds of things you can show in six seconds if given the opportunity. Surfing vines is generally a bad idea unless they’re already filtered for appropriate content.
In summary, despite the large amount of valuable video content online, extreme caution is warranted, particularly when venturing away from trusted sources.