When I Grow Up, I Want to be... a YouTuber

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, November 8, 2018

When I Grow Up, I Want to be... a YouTuber

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? If you were like most children, answers would have probably included such things as being a police officer, doctor or a teacher. 

Times have changed.

What if I told you that the top aspirations of present-day children between the ages of 6 and 17 didn’t even exist when you were a child? 

A survey of more than a thousand children by the travel company First Choice found that nearly 75% now want a career in online videos. Specifically, more than a third wanted to be a YouTuber, and nearly a fifth wanted to work as a vlogger. 

It’s not about the money. The top attractions were “creativity, fame and the opportunity for self-expression.” According to Internet Matters, more than four out of 10 children are uploading videos to the web by the time they reach 15 years old.

Understandably, they want their education experience to match their career plans. The study found that they “would rather learn media studies and how to use video editing software than traditional subjects.” Instagram is ready to serve by now offering an “academy” designed to “teach teenagers how to become social media stars.” As reported by the Telegraph: “… the photo sharing app is running three days of free workshops to train would-be influencers in how to become an online success. The curriculum covers everything from camera angles to how to make your content ‘relatable.’”

It’s hard to blame the children for making this their professional desire, eclipsing becoming a pop star or famous athlete. The internet is the world in which they live and the world that lives in them. And unlike the arduous amount of work and competition for careers in such areas as medicine or law, with these aspirations there are “no barriers to entry; no exams or auditions. All it appears to take is a smartphone and bucket-loads of youthful self-confidence.” And while self-confidence may vary from child to child, we all know they at least have a smartphone.

Parents are the ones who seem unclear on how to advise their child vocationally in such matters. Not only is it a world they do not understand, it is a job they do not understand.

But offer sound counsel, they should. The sobering reality of such career dreams is revealed in the research of Mathias Bartl, a professor at Germany’s Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, who has found that “96.5% of all those trying to become YouTube vloggers won’t make enough money out of advertising to live above the poverty line.”

So while it may seem that the choice is between going to school and studying hard or putting up videos on YouTube, the latter isn’t really the viable option many young people think it is. 

Yes, as one 14-year-old put it, “Vlogging seems like the best job ever.”

Unfortunately, it’s just not one that has a very likely chance of working out.

James Emery White


Jacob Dirnhuber, “Children Turn Backs on Traditional Careers in Favour of Internet Fame, Study Finds,” The Sun, May 22, 2017, read online.

Tanith Carey, “Can Social Media School Make Your 16-Year-Old a Star?” The Telegraph, October 25, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be... a YouTuber