I Took YouTube Away From My Kids For A Week, And I Noticed A Few Things

by Jessica Burgess
Originally Published: 
A kid with his earphones on watching YouTube videos on an iPad
Tom Odulate/Getty

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about “spend more time with your children,” and how you should get on the “limit electronic time” train.

And I’m also not saying avoid electronics. It’s inevitable. It’s where the world is going. I’m an advocate for online presence and we use it daily in our home.

I’m not saying avoid YouTube. Heck, I have a YouTube channel and MY KID even has a YouTube channel. So don’t hear what I’m not saying…

We can’t avoid YouTube. We can’t avoid electronics. But when our children are just that—children—and they are unable to make rational decisions on their own while their tiny little brains are still forming and learning… it’s time we get in touch with what we want influencing our children.

The Free Babysitter

Truly, I put YouTube in front of my kids (ages 6 and 3) at times as a babysitter. It’s amazing. I’m able to clean the house, attend a quick meeting, make dinner, get some work done with little interruption. Yet, when I take it away, the iPad goes dead, or we forget it for a long car ride, the “gimmies” make an appearance. The whining amplifies. The the “gimmies” make an appearance. The whining amplifies. The ungratefulness soars.

So I began to notice where the gimmies started rising to the surface on a high level. I began to watch, observe, take notes, and become aware of when the bratty attitude started showing more.

Friends, it was when my 6-year-old had control of what he could pick and watch on YouTube (and yes, even YouTube Kids).

I took YouTube away from them for a week, and the difference in behavior was incredible. Respect started showing back up, the gimmies weren’t as plentiful, and the whining subsided. Not kidding. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe not.

Kids On YouTube

Some kids on YouTube are the stars of the show. They talk back to parents, get what they want by whining and complaining, and the parents let it happen. Why? Because (are you ready for this?) it sells. (YES. If you did not know that YouTube makes money for some of these people on YouTube… you know now.)

They know exactly what they’re doing by giving kids what they want to watch. Kids at a young age are learning independence, seeing what they can get away with. So watching a young boy or girl on TV gain that independence by telling their mommy, “Meh, I don’t want that, I want this and I’m getting it,” is our child’s preferred behavior and they thrive on seeing someone like them get what they want.

– Endless amounts of toys

– “I want to go to McDonald’s.” OK!

– “I don’t want to Mommy!” — Okay, sweetie. It’s your show. Whatever you want.

Impressionable Actions: You Can’t Avoid the Influence in Life

Our young children are so impressionable, and they learn by seeing. They learn by action. When they spend so much time watching a young kid on TV mouth back to his/her parents, whine, complain, get all of these fabulous toys… what do you think our children are soaking in and learning?

I could have 50 talks with my boys every single day about important roles in life, and about topics that I think will influence them in a good way. But when they see someone their age getting whatever they want by acting an absurd way on their favorite YouTube channel, over and over and over again (because let’s face it: our kids watch the same videos over and over again, yes!?), you might as well throw everything I said to them away.

“Alright Then, So What Should They Watch?”

“Okay then, Jessica, what should they watch? Or should they not watch it at all?”

Well, that’s up to you. The parent. The adult. The decision maker of the household.

If you love the ease and convenience of YouTube, then maybe consider what show/channel you want influencing your child. Is it the Berenstein Bears? A kid who is amazing at science and does science experiments? Bible stories? Is it videos to prep him/her for the next school year?

It’s up to you. This isn’t a “I’m a better mom than you are post” that tells you what you should do.

If you like the ease and convenience of YouTube and how it holds the attention span of your kiddo… fabulous. But maybe consider what they’re watching, and consider how whatever they’re watching is influencing and teaching our kids how to live and learn.

For me, I’ll continue to let them watch YouTube. I’ll just be more selective of what they watch. After our YouTube break last week, this week I reintroduced it and let them watch videos on kindergarten lessons. After a quick “Mom, this will be boring,” they were soon sharing their excitement for how they learned to add and subtract! Bonus!

Let the “Perfect” Parents Shine…

Now, some will argue this and say:

“Well, it’s all in the parenting. We can’t avoid this stuff, and it’s up to us as parents to teach what’s right and wrong.”

Yep, I agree with you 100%. But why can’t we at least tackle some of what we know may be causing some of the non-preferred behavior upfront, instead of going back to try and erase it later? I’m a huge fan of using the term “baby steps.” We don’t have to conquer the world all at once, or find one major life changing tactic that will turn our children into perfect adults. But we can do baby steps, and small bits along the way to improve aspects in our lives. So why not start with something small, and with what we know causes behavior that we’d rather not see?

There may also be parents that comment below saying:

“I knew this. I NEVER let my child choose what they want to watch on YouTube.”

…and yatta yatta yatta. Well, that’s because some parents like to hear themselves say they’re doing a good job, and that they knew something before me. Well, if that’s true, yes, you realized something before me. And YES, you are doing a good job. How do I know? Because you saw a post about children and you came over to read it. You care for your children and want what’s best for them. That’s a good job as a parent, right?

I’m only sharing what I have experienced in my own home, and if we really want our children to grow in to something amazing (although we can’t control them, and we are certainly not perfect parents), I think it’s time we get in tune with our children and focus on who/what is teaching/influencing them how life works.

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