I Brought My Kids to a Live YouTube Show and It Restored My Faith in Humanity

Plus, four tips for seeing the positive side of YouTube. By Sierra Filucci
I Brought My Kids to a Live YouTube Show and It Restored My Faith in Humanity

Like most kids, my 11- and 13-year-olds watch a lot of YouTube. Some of what they watch is unintelligible to me. Why would anyone want to see some guy yelling at the screen while playing a dumb video game? And what about all the horrible antics some of these YouTubers get into, from painful pranks to truly offensive material? But I know it's not all bad -- sometimes I actually laugh at some of the more clever stuff, like Good Mythical Morning. So when Markiplier, one of my kids' favorite YouTubers, announced a live show coming to our city, I decided to cough up the cash as a special treat for my kids.

Markiplier, 28, is known largely for his Let's Play videos, which is basically his face in a corner of the screen making wisecracks while he plays video games (Five Nights at Freddy's is one of his specialties). I find these immensely boring and so littered with profanity that I don't love to see my kids watching them. But for all his cursing and gaming, Markiplier (whose real name is Mark Fischbach) is also funny and charming, and he raises a ton of money for charity. The question for me was: What is he going to do on a concert stage? Because if I paid good money to watch him play a video game, I was not going to be happy.

Turns out his show was actually lots of fun. In fact, it's more about skits and improvisation than video games. He and his five friends (whom everyone in the sold-out audience knew by name) played the kind of classic improvisation games you'd see on Whose Line Is It Anyway? -- from making up skits based on audience suggestions to holding a very funny dance-off. And the audience loved it. In fact, the screaming was so loud, it may have reached Beatles-level frenzy.

But here's what made the night truly eye-opening for me: I saw approximately 2,000 kids enjoying themselves in a positive, supportive, and sincere atmosphere. This wasn't the dark side of YouTube and its teen fans that gets so much attention, where folks laugh at people getting hurt, make nasty comments, take unwise risks, or make fun of others. The audience cheered on the quirky kids Mark pulled from the audience to show off awkward dance moves or fight imaginary wizards. At one point, something truly astonishing happened. Markiplier invited a young man up on stage to talk about himself and I thought, "Uh-oh. The audience is going to turn on him." What was surely meant to be a brief intro to a silly sketch turned into a lengthy, uncomfortable story about this man's struggle with bipolar disorder and how YouTube had helped him during his recovery. Markiplier listened intently. The audience was rapt. It ended with a promise from Markiplier to raise money for mental illness treatment and the audience shouting encouragement to this stranger.

And this is what YouTube is really about -- at least at its best. It's where kids can find support, spontaneity, and authenticity. The evening ended with Mark and his friends sitting on a couch answering audience questions. While some fans asked about hair dye and subscriber goals, many others asked about how to find joy or motivation. And Mark and his friends gave these kids the kind of advice you'd expect from a teacher or parent: Find your passion, be kind to others, and help make the world a better place. The kids ate it up. For all the hand-wringing that parents do over YouTube and the internet -- some of it justified -- this evening was a sign that maybe some of our fears about raising antisocial kids who only know how to stare at screens is misguided. It was a peek into a possible future ruled by compassionate people who care deeply about each other and the world around them. What more could you ask for?

Tips for finding the good in YouTube

Ask kids to share their favorite videos with you. Not only do you get a peek into their world, but you open up potential conversations on bigger topics.

Share your favorite videos. Whether it's old George Michael music videos or a funny thing that passed through your Facebook feed, show it to your kids. They might not get it, but at least they'll see you engaging with one of their favorite mediums.

Use controversies to trigger important conversations. YouTube is always getting press for something new, whether it's kids doing dangerous challenges or a YouTuber making a bad decision. Kids -- especially teens -- love engaging in debates about issues they feel passionate about, from net neutrality to how much YouTubers should get paid. Help them exercise their reasoning and communication skills by asking them to explain their stance.

Don't judge. You may think watching people play video games is stupid (yep), but don't let that blind you to the other good stuff kids might get from their heroes. Positive messages about empathy, perseverance, and humility can be woven into just about anything.

About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (8)

Teen, 13 years old written by ParrotMan

I actually don't think Let's Plays are that stupid. YouTubers like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye have made a name for themselves in the last decade, and for good cause; they are funny people who play good games. At the time I am writing this, Markiplier has about 22 million subscribers. Markilpier has gained so much popularity because he is likable and funny. People enjoy seeing him on YouTube. After the first Let's Plays were made by a user named "slowbeef," the Let's Play industry is one of the most profitable on YouTube. The most subscribed channel, PewDiePie, has about 70 million subscribers. This is because Let's Plays blend everything we like into one video: video games, funny personalities and commentary, and a way to interact with other fans of gaming and have conversations about what you love to do. Different people have different hobbies, and many people do not judge other people's hobbies, such as reading young adult books or streaming dystopian thrillers; watching YouTube is a legitimate pastime that is entertaining and funny. Many kids love to see their favorite YouTube personalities on-screen and see people enjoy their favorite games, and they like to interact with a community, one that enjoys the same hobbies as they do. I have also heard many complaints about the foul language in Let's Plays, but I have noticed that many of the complaints revolve around more mature YouTubers such as Markiplier or Jacksepticeye. Kid friendly YouTubers such as StampyLongHead and AbdallahSmash026 still have great personalities, but play less mature games and use less foul language. The amount of foul language depends on the YouTuber. Additionally, many children have already been exposed to profane language, and the best thing you can do as a parent is talk to your kids about profanity. I know that YouTube does have a dark side, but I think that most gaming YouTubers are quite positive role models. Although many people think YouTube is the worst community on Earth, most YouTube communities just want to have a good time with people who are like them. I don't think gaming is a bad thing, and I don't necessarily see how it is any worse than watching Marvel movies or dystopian thrillers. I think that most YouTubers are there to be good role models for kids.
Adult written by Dawna D.

Rubbish.....,I am still waiting to read about the upside of YouTube. It does have a good side but I have not found it in your article.
Parent of a 14 and 18+ year old written by dinontom

As the mother of a 15-year-old, I don't want him watching videos that are punctuated with fowl language. If I let him watch it, I am approving/endorsing the inappropriate language, and I definitely do not approve of or endorse profanity. I am not judging anyone else, but I find that kind of language offensive, and as a Christian, I find it dishonoring toward God. Additionally, the time kids spend in front of their tech screens is time that they could spend hanging out with friends or creating their own fun instead of having it spoon-fed to them along with the profanity. Parents, just because other kids are doing it doesn't mean that your child should be doing it, too.
Teen, 16 years old written by prime9

As a 16-year-old who was a 15-year-old just a few months ago, your child is not going to be hurt by any language a youtube video will present to him. You, as well as many parents, may think your children are all innocent and that they shouldn't be exposed to it, but wake up, they probably use the words you don't want them to hear regularly the second you're out of earshot. Letting them watch something that is positive in essence that they enjoy is a very good thing to let them do and watching your favorite star's videos is not going to hurt them.
Teen, 14 years old written by gamer__grace

I went to one of the shows in the beginning of January with my dad and I wasn't sure how he would like it. I'd only really told them the basics about Mark, but I was happy that he laughed at their jokes a lot. But yes, not all youtubers are garbage people who you shouldn't let your kids watch.
Adult written by rianneok

Love this! I went to a Hank Green show a few years ago and it was so much fun as well. That was like a concert for nerd(fighter)s and Harry Potter fans. Totally recommend!