Do your kids watch YouTube?
I never thought mine would. I also thought they’d never eat sugar and wouldn’t watch TV till they were twenty.
Ah, the naïveté of childlessness.
Anyhow, my kids are addicted. Like, every time I leave the computer unlocked, my son jumps into the desk chair and starts watching videos. Like, I had to uninstall YouTube from my phone to keep my daughter from demanding it every time she peed on the potty.
Somehow, through the recommended videos on the sidebar (which, at first, I encouraged my son to click on–the ability to use a mouse requires a good amount of hand-eye coordination!), they eventually switched to poorly produced, inane cartoons about cars. Then they discovered the many videos in which some grown adult plays with toys for their entertainment. Then the many surprise egg/toy unboxing videos.
It became a nightmare.
People warned me about YouTube–videos where kids’ characters do inappropriate things, and so on–but they didn’t warn me about the rampant consumerism. Do Disney, Nickelodeon, and McDonald’s own YouTube? Because their merchandise appears in SO MANY VIDEOS. Elsa eats a Big Mac. The Paw Patrol loves Happy Meals. There’s one where a Moana doll is working the McDonalds’ register. It’s a new level of insane.
My kids quote these videos to me. They beg for surprise eggs and toy sets–“blind bags” are apparently a big deal. Of course, the one time I bought them surprise eggs they didn’t like the toys inside and my son thought the chocolate was yucky.
But he still asks for more.
Though I thought for sure I’d be a no-screen-time mom before I actually had children (and I did severely limit screen time in my son’s first two years or so) I never really understood this particular aspect of screen exposure. I read articles about TV creating passive children and I tried to choose programs, once I decided a little screen time was OK, that provided good lessons. I jabbered along with the TV, asking questions about what was onscreen, naming things, making TV a less passive pursuit.
With my son, I felt successful. He never really got into the whole merchandising thing. Never, that is, until his sister came along.
My daughter popped out of the womb, saw an episode of Paw Patrol, and demanded to wear only Paw Patrol t-shirts and dresses forevermore. Or until she found Moana. And Peppa Pig.
Of course, I’m the one who buys her plastic pups and Moana play sets and Peppa Pig underpants. In some ways, I’m excited for her to have positive role models to grow up with: the Paw Patrol are extremely kind and patient; Moana is brave, compassionate, and tenacious; Peppa Pig and the many animals of her world are sweet, silly, and supportive.
She also loves Dory (loving and persistent) and Daniel Tiger (eager to learn). She loves Merida (obviously, brave).
But while kids’ TV and movies overflow with merchandising opportunities, to the point where some of them are little more than toy commercials, a good chunk of the YouTube videos aimed at small children do so much more to create direct avarice, to send kids running to their parents, begging for a particular product.
Well, we’re done with it. They can no longer access YouTube on my phone or my computer and I’m even going to stop posting my videos on YouTube so that they won’t catch me on the site and call out my hypocrisy.