First thing's first, I'm not here to tell you how to parent. I'm not that girl. I might have been before I had kids, but I'm pretty sure (for obvious reasons) that doesn't count. (read more)
This post is only meant to inform, just in case you are like I was, and you really didn't realize there was another option.
So, let me start at the beginning. I have two boys, they are 11 and 8, and they have had tablets since they were 3 and 1 1/2, respectively. My youngest knew how to swipe and tap long before he could form complete sentences, and YouTube quickly became a staple for keeping both of them entertained.
If you're judging me, it's okay. One thing 11+ years of parenting has taught me is that there's a lot of judgement to go around.
Anywhoo, YouTube was a favorite. My little one would watch unboxing videos to his heart's content. My oldest would watch every DanTDM video known to man. It was all well and good.
Then they got older.
As they got older, they got more freedom with their tablets. At first they were able to watch when I wasn't in the room, then they were able to watch while they were in their own rooms. It got to the point where I didn't worry about it. I mean it had been years and they hadn't stumbled on to anything bad, so why would it happen now?
Said the parent who'd never had a pre-teen.
My 11 year old was the first to watch something that horrified me. He is a big fan of history and geography. He can cite the major players in every war for hundreds of years back, and his favorite game is "Risk". He looks up a lot of things on YouTube that have to do with things like this.
So the day I walked in on him listening to a music video set to the track of "Poppin Tags" by Mackelmore (scuse me if I spelled any of that wrong), I didn't think much of it, it's a great song.
Only, it wasn't that song. It was some idiot (and I'm using that term in place of a much worse term I'd rather use) singing about flying a plane into the twin towers.
My kids weren't alive on 9/11, and it wasn't something we'd talked to them about, because frankly, why would we when they're so young?
I did talk to him then, explaining why it was bad and letting him know he shouldn't listen to that video. But I was too late, it wasn't the first time he'd seen it, and he sang that song for weeks until it finally left his head. I still can't listen to the regular song without thinking of the other lyrics.
Still, I didn't remove YouTube or block the site. I knew how much he loved watching some super cool videos people made, and I'd seen the awesome box forts Papa Jake built. I hated to take it away from him.
That would change.
My 8 year old was the one who tipped the scales for me. See, he moved from unboxing, to play trucks moving sand around, to DanTDM, to Papa Jake, and the on to Dude Perfect. I was fine with all of those.
Then one day I walked by his room and heard the Peppa Pig theme song.
You can guess where this is going.
See, my kids don't watch Peppa, they never have. I tried to get them to watch it a bit when they were little because I thought it was cute, but they weren't impressed. So when I heard the song coming from his room, I walked in thinking I'd poke at him a bit about him watching a little kid cartoon.
Only, this wasn't Peppa Pig.
It looked like Peppa, sure, as you can see from the picture. But, in this video Peppa was going to the doctor, and she was terrified, and the doctor was hurting her.
I'm disgusted just writing this.
Rest assured, that was the point I took YouTube off my kid's iPads, but that's not the end of the story.
When my husband got home from work, I told him about what had happened. He was mad, understandably, but not for the reasons I thought. It turns out he'd seen our 8 year old watching a cartoon that was supposed to be Caillou.
Watch Caillou get bullied in school. Watch Caillou be a bully. Watch Caillou put his sister Rosie in the microwave.
This cartoon doesn't even LOOK like Caillou, but that didn't matter to my kids because they didn't remember watching it. They remembered the name of the cartoon, and I'm sure when the suggestion box on the right hand side of YouTube popped up and said "Caillou", they were like "Oh, hey, I think I know that one."
Down the rabbit hole.
It's an easy fall. Just think about the suggestions YouTube shows to you every time you get online to learn how to do this or that. Imagine if you're a kid watching cartoons and YouTube suggests a cartoon.
You click it. You don't think it's bad or anything, you just click it.
I removed YouTube, meaning I went on to their devices and blocked the site from their browser. I also logged into my router and blocked the site that way, and I blocked it using OurPact, which is a pretty fantastic thing to have as a parent.
My kids were not happy.
No, that's an understatement.
They were really upset with me, but I was over it. There are some sick people in the world, and lucky us, they're putting videos on YouTube.
Thankfully, there's an alternative.
My niece is the one who clued me in, actually. I called her to tell her about this stuff and she was like "You need to try YouTube Kids."
Here's the thing. You can put YouTube Kids on your kid's devices as an app. It's available on iOS and on Android, and it's free. You just enter your own Google log in credentials and then you add users for your children. You enter their age, and you get to choose the content they see.
But, it gets even better.
You can choose a setting that will allow either content deemed appropriate for younger children, or content deemed appropriate for older children. However, your kids can still search for things, and while YouTube is trying to make sure they only see appropriate videos, things can slip through the cracks.
There's a way to fix this.
When you set up your child accounts, you can choose to not allow searching. Meaning you tell the app that your child can watch videos appropriate for older kids, but they are not allowed to search. They can only watch what YouTube shows them, but it will learn, meaning that if they watch a lot of DanTDM, YouTube will show them more videos like it.
Here's the upside of no searching. According to the app, the videos that are shown to kids who are not allowed to search have been viewed and approved by a HUMAN. Not an algorithm, not some fancy software, but an actual human who knows what's okay and what's not.
But, humans make errors, so what happens if your kids stumble on to a bad video?
You have control.
YouTube Kids gives you Watch History so you can check what your child is watching whenever you like.
If you see a video you don't approve of, there's a quick button to report it, and you can quickly block the video, or the entire channel, from their device.
They round it all off by letting you set timers for how long your child can watch videos. If you want them to be on YouTube for no more than an hour a day, just put that in. The timer will alert them when their time is close to being up, and it'll lock out when the timer is done.
In a perfect world, yes, you will always be there when they're watching videos, playing on the internet, etc. But, that's not how it works.
We're the pioneers of this stuff, remember that. We are the first generation to have kids who will never know life without internet, it's a whole new world, and you're Christopher Columbus.
I hope this helps. Whether you choose to keep regular YouTube on your kids devices or not, I hope this helped you understand that there is another way, and it doesn't have to be all or nothing.
And, for those of you who make videos for kids (I mean those of you who really are trying to make good kid content), watch your mouth. If you want your stuff to be seen by the younger set, don't swear, keep it clean. You can still do that and be cool, just ask DanTDM.
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