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Give Your Kids a Chance to Create!

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I spend a great deal of time writing about the problems of media. Study after study linking the affects of violence, quantity of television, and violent sexual content of popular music with real life behaviors have been reported through my keyboard.

“UthTV has the potential to open doors to budding young artists.”

But your kids love media! They listen to it, watch it, read it, and virtually eat it for breakfast (yes... the cereal box qualifies as media) and even in families where they have desperately tried to "pull the plug," it's impossible to keep your kids media free.

By no means am I saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," but I often feel a need to give parents some ideas of how to help your kids begin thinking more critically about media. One of the best ways is to encourage them to take the camera, tape recorder, or even pen and paper into their own hands and try making their own contributions to the media landscape.

While we have heard much about the legal wrangling of YouTube and other video uploading sites, it was my hope these Internet destinations would level the playing field for people who wanted to actually create something and get an audience to watch it. Instead, the vast majority of what I find on most video upload sites are clips of copyrighted television shows and movies along with people falling off skateboards and trying to blow something up.

But there is another alternative, and while it's not perfect, it may provide an Internet destination where your young budding moviemakers, photographers and even writers can upload their creative works and perhaps attract the attention of a serious professional.

UthTV (pronounced "Youth TV") is a sort of "mini" YouTube. It's designed for young people who are creating still and moving images or even audio productions, and wish they had a way for them to be seen by the rest of the world. Located at uthtv.com, the site is amazingly devoid of the usual clips of TV shows that are filling YouTube's hard drives. And, even more refreshingly, you can find some cool stuff that has been created by other young people.

But before you send the kids scampering for the camera and computer, take a moment to have a look yourself. I interviewed UthTV staffer Samantha, and she mentioned there is "no profanity and no hate." While the site did seem free of hating, I did find a few clips with profanities after searching for only a short amount of time. However, posters can voluntarily mark their uploads as "Explicit," providing a small degree of filtering. The site did appear devoid of nudity -- excepting a few bikinis and underwear shots.

There is also no way for UthTV to verify the uploads are indeed from "youth." They are targeting teens and early twenties, but the Internet is a land of anonymity, so make sure your kids or students follow all the usual Internet safety procedures. Furthermore, ensure their media productions don't identify themselves, their school, or reveal any other personal information.

On the positive side, UthTV encourages creativity through Uth Points. If your media project receives high ratings from visitors, you can earn more of these points which can be cashed in for bonus services, like more upload space.

Samantha is hopeful they will be able to connect young creators with industry professionals who can bring them more exposure, and fulfill the site's three goals to bring youth producers an audience, feedback and opportunities. She also indicated that many schools are now using UthTV as a way to showcase student talent.

Aside from not allowing hate or anything deemed to be pornographic, uploaders may post a variety of materials on the site, aside from video. Audio clips (time to make a radio drama!), photographs, artwork and even text files with poems and stories are all permissible. But it all must be an original work of the individual making the upload. UthTv's terms of service places the creator into a licensing agreement so the materials may be published on their site, but all ownership of the creative works stay with the creator.

At this point, UthTV sounds like a great idea. I expect if this company gets the ball rolling and becomes a Junior YouTube, advertising and other intrusive materials will take up more of the screen space. (At one point UthTV was involved in delivering content to Channel One, the controversial service that delivers news and advertising to participating schools.) However, if they can maintain relatively high standards and keep the site policed effectively, UthTV has the potential to open doors to budding young artists who are tired of watching other people make a fortune from inferior works on television and at the movie theater.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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