Twelve-year-old Tyson Hockley hasn’t touched his Xbox in two months. The Victoria-area kid clocked his fair share of video-game time after the pandemic shut down school and cut him off from friends, but that got boring.
Home-schooling was even less motivating and the cancellation of the Little League season — he’s a pitcher in the Layritz Baseball Association — piled on the heartbreak.
“That was really sad,” Tyson said.
So he decided to beat back the boredom by starting his own YouTube channel.
Tyson took to the camera immediately: “I absolutely loved it. Something about talking to a camera really clicked for me — it’s a new-found passion.”
On-screen, he chats with the aplomb of a well-established young influencer — that is, sort of a cross between a sports commentator and a used-car salesman: “Today I’ve got an absolute banger for you … ” he promises, introducing one video in which he tries to spend 24 hours on the roof of his house. (He even records the furious text messages from his mother, who wonders where he is — and why he’s missing dinner — and his exasperated father’s priceless reaction to the adventure.)
Two-hundred-and-sixty subscribers later, with thanks to an unsuspecting owl, one of Tyson’s videos grabbed the attention of rightthisminute.com, the viral video show. Tyson sent in the video at the suggestion of his friend Brad.
In the video, Tyson sets up a speaker on a picnic table in Quarry Park and plays owl sounds through an app. Almost immediately the magic happens: a barred owl swoops down, talons extended, and knocks the speaker off the table.
“It was absolutely majestic,” Tyson said.
Barred owls are very territorial — the bird looks more than a little put out as he turns his head to give Tyson a distinctly scathing look.
“It was amazing — oh my gosh, I’d never actually seen an owl before. I wasn’t scared, I loved every moment of it,” Tyson said.
It’s that “oh my gosh” that perhaps best expresses what makes Tyson’s videos so charming — that wide-eyed sense of wonder, adventure and appreciation.
Tyson explains that he didn’t really know what kind of content to create when he started his YouTube channel — so he just does stuff that kids do. He cleans his room. He reviews his running shoes (“a little bit of dirt, but that’s a minor inconvenience!”).
And, yes, he gets into trouble. In one video, Tyson hides out overnight in the family camper without his parents’ knowledge, and — spoiler alert — even records the classic, angry-dad cameo when he’s discovered not sleeping at a friend’s house.
“I’ve got 260 subscribers, and I’m hoping for well over 100,000. You just gotta keep dreaming,” said Tyson.
Tyson tries to post new content every four days. Production could slow down once he returns to Grade 8 classes in September, but for now he’s found a creative way to pass the time during the pandemic break.
“I kind of made the best-of-the-worst situation,” said Tyson.
His new-found passion might be stressing his parents a bit, but mostly they are supportive, and for Tyson, getting grounded isn’t so bad: It’s all part of the online content.
“They don’t mind so much when they see a video getting a lot of likes,” said the young creator, who has one ticked-off barred owl to thank for that.