Last Updated on 27th September 2023

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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: 

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The Short of It

YouTube Shorts is 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 exercise tipsdance challenges, and funny pet videos YouTube has no current plans to make Shorts a standalone app.  

Shorts has now been released to public beta mode

This means that users are able to create shorts and use some of its features, but the full functionality of ‘Shorts’ is not fully available to the public. It is likely to receive new features and/or updates before being officially rolled out to all users. It is currently being released in stages. 

 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.

Shorts Beta on YouTube Phone

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:

  • Filters 

  • Text
  • Snippets of music tracks 
  • Audio from any YouTube video  

Users can access Shorts through a tab at the bottom home screen menu on YouTube. They are viewed through downward scrolling, exactly like TikTok and Reels. There is no pause feature and videos automatically play while a user scrolls. 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 appearThis 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 comment on Shorts, even if they are not a creator within the beta testing. Anyone who is signed in can like or dislike a Short, a reflection of liking or disliking YouTube videos. Users can interact with other users as well as the Shorts creator through comments and messaging. 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. A user does not need to have any subscribers to create a short. 

Safety and Privacy Settings

Users can choose from three options when uploading a short to YouTube: Public, Unlisted, and Private. Each refers to the viewership allowances on a particular short. Public means anyone can see your video. Unlisted means the video can be seen and shared by anyone with a link. Private means only those invited by the user can view the video. These privacy settings are the same as those included in the YouTube app itself. Users viewing shorts can report content, using the reporting function available on each short.  

It should be noted that this feature is designed to make videos go viral. As shorts are meant to be seen by anyone and everyone, it is implied that successful shorts should be made publicIf creators do not want their videos or audios to be used in a short, they must opt out manually for every single post when choosing the video’s visibility.    

Online Safety Risks

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 YouTubethe audio 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 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 had 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 inappropriate content 

Example of YouTube Shorts on feed

©YouTube Creators

Help – What can I do?

  • 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 often carefully curated and exaggerated snapshot – not normality. Oftentimes people who appear to “have it all” are only posting what makes them look happy rather than the truth of how they are feeling. It’s important to remind young people that being vulnerable does not equate to giving away personal information 

  • Start using the tech. Are you on Facebook? Do you use YouTube? Have you heard of TikTok? It’s always good to do what you can to understand new trends and platforms, and even better to use them yourself. This will give you a practical understanding of the platform, as well as the pressures and risks your child might face while using them 

  • Due to the addictive nature of this feature, your child or young person may unknowingly increase their screen timeWe recommend visiting our Screen Time Resources to help keep everyone happy and healthy when it comes to using devices 

As this is a new feature, we will continue to monitor and test any updates to YouTube Shorts 

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As this is a new feature, we will continue to monitor and test any updates to YouTube Shorts 

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