Schooling children to be mindful content creators

Generation Alpha are active contributors from a young age. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
Generation Alpha are active contributors from a young age. Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO


Being a digital content creator is a career many kids aspire to, with professionals now training them in the required skills while staying safe online

On her YouTube channel, Raaina, 12, briefly introduces viewers to author Enid Blyton and launches into a review of The Twins at St Clare’s. “The book in the series was first published in 1941. The one that I am reading is the 75th edition, and was published in 2016," she says confidently. Started in July 2021, during the pandemic when children were increasingly online, Raaina’s channel, Toys & More by Raaina, focuses on unboxing toys and reviewing books. Besides Blyton’s books, she has reviewed the first of the Harry Potter series, while also creating content for Christmas and World Peace Day.

For Raaina, the channel, which has 150 subscribers, is not a means to go viral or gain popularity as an influencer, but is an experiment with digital content creation. “My friends have their own channels, which are not related to education or academics. Theirs is related to music and dance. I would like to focus on something constructive like books," says the Delhi-based student of class VII. Her videos feature elegant backgrounds with vibrant side panels relevant to the review. There are smooth transitions and soothing background music. She creates sophisticated videos with basic equipment—a phone, a ring light and a phone stand. What does she keep in mind while creating content? “That it should be age-appropriate and add value to the viewer’s life," comes the reply.

Raaina picked up this positive approach towards digital content creation, together with some cool editing skills, at Creatiwitty. Helmed by former radio jockey Rima Medhi, the Mumbai-based initiative is one of the few in the country to offer mentorship on digital content creation for children aged 6-16. There are both online and real-world sessions for children on various forms of content creation, ranging from radio jockeying and stand-up comedy to podcasting and TedTalks (Creatiwitty officially has access to the TED-Ed curriculum). Of these, the junior YouTubers programme has turned out to be popular since Medhi started it in 2019—over 100 children have participated in the workshop since.

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Raaina had been participating in online workshops at Creatiwitty for the past four years, and started taking personal classes on ways to start a YouTube channel in 2021. “I have learnt a lot about voice modulation and ways in which people can relate to your content. My public speaking skills have become better. I also did a comedy workshop with Rima ma’am, and it helped me add age-appropriate jokes to my YouTube content," says Raaina, who started her channel after the workshop.

Medhi feels that the nature of digital content a child creates depends on the parents—some are very keen while others are mindful of the amount of exposure they want their child to have. “We have to gauge the nature of the child—some like to unbox toys, some like to review books and exhibitions. Some even like to show how to (arrange and) align books and toys in their room," says Medhi. The YouTubers workshop started as an experiment in 2018-19, but as she saw the increasing number of enquiries, she launched it as a full-fledged programme in 2019 and entered into collaborations with institutions such as the National Centre for the Performing Arts. Group workshops cost 4,500-5,000 (physical) and personalised mentorship (online) starts at 15,000.

Rainaa’s mother—who did not want to be named and requested the use of the child’s first name as she’s known on YouTube—first heard of Creatiwitty four years ago from her friends. To her, the important thing was to enhance Rainaa’s public speaking skills, and not turn her into some kind of an influencer. The regular feedback from Medhi appeals to her. “She makes a video and sends it to Rima, who explains modulation, the arrangement of objects, ways to make an activity more engaging," she says.

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‘Natural’ content creators

What makes Gen Alpha—those born in the early 2010s, with the last of their generation yet to be born in 2024—such natural digital content creators? Ashley Fell, director of advisory at McCrindle, an Australia-based research agency, said in a recent LinkedIn post: “What differentiates Gen Alpha’s online presence from Gen Z, who were the first to be considered digital natives, is that they’re not even trying to be influencers—they just are."

In an email interview to Lounge, Fell elaborates that Generation Alpha have not known a world without digital devices and social media. “They are active contributors from a young age. Unlike previous generations, where content creation often required deliberate effort and strategy, Gen Alpha’s innate familiarity with digital platforms enables them to organically produce content that resonates with their peers." This is a phenomenon seen across the world with digital content creation considered a popular career goal by children.

Creatiwitty mentors children in various forms of content creation, ranging from radio jockeying and podcasting to TedTalks. Photo: courtesy Creatiwitty
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Creatiwitty mentors children in various forms of content creation, ranging from radio jockeying and podcasting to TedTalks. Photo: courtesy Creatiwitty

In urban India, children are still taking baby steps to find their comfort level with digital media—the focus is on experimentation and not on making it one’s sole preoccupation. Gurugram-based Deepti Singh, who runs English vocabulary and communication classes as well as mentors children to craft age-appropriate book reviews for digital media, has noticed a difference. “I teach Indian American kids in the US as well as Indian children," says Singh, who runs the social media page “English Hub". “There, children as young as six want to become influencers. For them, it is all about going viral, while in Indian cities, the emphasis is still on adding some meaning to the content. That is why, at this early stage, it is important to mentor them on important things like vocabulary and digital safety." Lounge reached out to YouTube for comments, but received no response.

Safe spaces for learning

That children and their parents are actively seeking guidance is a positive sign. According to Fell, this proactive approach not only enhances their technical proficiency but also fosters collaborative learning and community building within the digital sphere.

At Creatiwitty, a group YouTubers’ workshop starts with brainstorming ideas and finding areas of interest. Medhi then works with each child, mapping out their ideas for the channel, understanding how many videos they are looking at and balancing that with the kind of time they can spend without disturbing their studies.

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“The workshops are not about them facing the camera and climbing the popularity charts. Rather, we focus on confidence and research-backed content," says Medhi. Then comes the technical training: using software like Canva to create a logo for the channel, taglines, editing on apps such as InShot. “We also talk to parents about digital safety. I suggest that they keep the channel private to be shared among family and friends. However, if they want to make it public, then it is advisable to upload it on YouTube Kids instead of the main platform," she adds. Medhi also offers one-on-one sessions, for 12 weeks or more, with the child putting in one hour a week.

Mumbai-based Varahaa also offers mentorship to kids aged 5-18, and has collaborated with institutions such as the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre for their annual children's festival, NMACC Bachpan. During the pandemic, founder Alpana Kamdar Mehta got a lot of requests for classes on creating YouTube content, and she started online masterclasses on content creation and editing for children aged 9 and above. “Some parents reached out saying that their kids had YouTube channels, but the material they were posting was not relevant. Others felt their children were talented but didn’t know much about body positioning and voice modulation. A few kids said they had seen a friend’s channel but didn’t know if they had similar confidence to start their own," says Alpana.

Around the same time, she also started podcasting workshops, which have now become immensely popular. “The medium offers a sense of anonymity while allowing you to be a research-based digital creator. We have seen children upload podcasts on Lego, on self-defence. Some use it as part of their portfolio-building activity to show interviewers later," explains Alpana, who offers both group and personalised sessions. Prices vary from 1,500-6,000 per session per child depending on the requirement.

Some new trends have emerged since the pandemic. People are doing workshops that are more personalised and specific. Some ask for help with content creation while others want guidance on camera angles. A few request for masterclasses to be held at home. For instance, Alpana is doing a set of 10 sessions on “polishing" screen presence for two sisters in Mumbai at their home.

Sonali Dalal Mulchandani, a teacher in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, first heard of Varahaa workshops from a friend in Mumbai. Her son, Abhir, now 13, has been participating in such sessions since he was 10. “Children’s lives changed dramatically during the pandemic. Kids such as Abhir were maturing, and trying to find a sense of self and identity. That’s where workshops such as these helped," she says. Abhir enrolled in one workshop on mentoring and another on podcasting. “There were sessions on how to hook the audience followed by digital support on editing, background music and finally on how to upload the podcast. I have seen a change in the way he speaks publicly and shares ideas more confidently. He has recorded a podcast for his school’s podcast channel," she adds.

Parents as mentors

Parents, too, have their own social media pages and channels and mentor children. Radhika Kapoor runs Bookmarked2023, a page for book reviews on Instagram that she started a year-and-a-half ago when her daughter’s school placed a lot of emphasis on reading and reviewing books. On Bookmarked2023, you will find reviews by 11-year-old Shanaya and her friends, who share a love for reading. “I noticed that older kids were not into reading. I wanted to do reviews to inspire them, and others, to pick up books," says Shanaya.

Shanaya budgets her time wisely and makes sure to make videos on books reviews only during the holidays. Photo: Courtesy Radhika Kapoor/Bookmarked2023
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Shanaya budgets her time wisely and makes sure to make videos on books reviews only during the holidays. Photo: Courtesy Radhika Kapoor/Bookmarked2023

While the page is managed by Kapoor, Shanaya has taken over the making of the videos. Kapoor mentors her on the script and the language, and she has seen the way in which Shanaya has evolved in her skills. “She works hard on her editing and artwork. Sometimes she goes for multiple takes until she is satisfied with the outcome," adds Kapoor. In the future, Shanaya might take guidance on editing and shooting at workshops to hone her skills further.

To ensure that Shanaya doesn’t spend more time online than is required, Kapoor has kept the reins of the page in her hands. She handles the logistics and keeps Shanaya away from needless distractions such as comments and page views. The page, then, becomes a safe space for Shanaya and her friends to express their thoughts on what they love the most—books.

For children aged 16 and above, there are academies by brand consultancies such as Spearkraft. It runs Spearkraft Academy, which calls itself one of the country’s first “influencers school", to offer online learning opportunities. “We launched the Spearkraft Academy last year with the vision of helping aspiring influencers by pooling in knowledge from experts in the industry," says Vansh Kumar Rajput, executive director and CEO, north and west India. “One psychology student, who had just finished class XII wanted to create content on her learnings in the field. We taught her how to write a short script and ways to portray that effectively on camera," he explains.

Rajput, along with his business partner Soumyabrata Sengupta, conceived the idea during the pandemic, when the team of consultants noticed a shift in the way people were creating digital content—people were learning by imitating popular content creators. “We teach how to create and market original compelling content, craft a personal brand and embark on the long process of monetising it. There are shorter courses for younger people on basics such as steering clear of pages that offer to buy you fake followers," says Rajput.

Budget your time online

The Indian Academy of Pediatrics has put forth guidelines on engagement with digital media, and recommends limiting the screen time to two hours for young children, aged 5 and above. A lot of young digital content creators are consciously trying to budget their time wisely, guided by their parents. “When Shanaya started putting up reviews, she was younger. Now, her school work takes a lot of her time. So, we make use of holidays and weekends to update the page," says Kapoor. Raaina follows suit. She too works on content only during the holidays.

Effort is being put in by families to keep trolls at bay too. Raaina has disabled comments, and her mother monitors the channel closely. And in Shanaya’s case, since the page is managed by her mother, and she doesn’t have any other social media presence, the 11-year-old never has access to any kind of public feedback.

I ask Shanaya, what is it about the whole content creation process that appeals to her—is it the editing, the scripting or shooting? “Reading," is the reply. It seems that the young content creators have their hearts in the right place.

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