I was asked by my son, 13, why everyone else he knows thinks PewDiePie is cool, but I don’t.

It was probably the first time I’d really had that moment where my effort to be a well informed guide to the way my kids experience the internet was set against his wider pool of opinions from friends and other favourite YouTubers.

It came up while he watched a YouTube Rewind reaction video from DanTDM, one of his favourites and a very unproblematic kid-friendly character. When PewDiePie came up DanTDM just laughed and acknowledged him and said he likes him. My kid trusts DanTDM, so why did Dan not agree?

How to explain that another YouTuber is *not* going to stick their neck out and start a feud with fans from an even bigger channel? That these things go bad fast. Or that maybe DanTDM is just a fan and likes stuff that’s a little ‘edgier’ when he’s not producing fun content for kids?

How to explain that someone has regularly explored the realm of gross comedic efforts that feature racist, anti-semitic content and just tries to wave it away as an ‘immature’ past but does little to truly distance himself from it, or slips back toward some of it now and then?

It reminds me how many parents are often worrying about the wrong parts of what’s wrong on the internet. They fear big online disasters but miss the toxic voices that normalise Very Bad Ideas in a mixture of otherwise standard fare gameplay videos or other amusing content. Which then normalises those Very Bad Ideas in a generation of growing teens.

My son is at that threshold where he wants to align his own opinions and fandom with his peers, and I’m one of the ‘weird’ parents who is telling him that some YouTubers are OK and others are not.

We used to avoid channels with swearing when they were younger. Now that’s less of a concern – we teach responsible swearing in this house. But normalising racism, sexism, homophobia… even if that comes up as ‘a joke’ now and then and the rest isn’t so bad? That’s not OK.

We need to help kids know it’s not OK, not normal, not reasonable. Then if they do watch it a little now and then on the sly at least they watch it through a lens of exploring boundaries, not thinking that this is something that perfectly reasonable people agree with.

Here’s hoping the 2020s give us a chance to have better conversations with all our kids about these kinds of things. And that parents stop seeing these internet spaces as some ‘other’ place that isn’t attached to the real world and the values their kids are learning as part of growing up.

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