It all started so innocently.
Four years ago, changing my wiggly then 18-month-old’s diapers was an aerobic event that often left me breathless. One day, in an effort to get her cleaned up with less struggle, I handed her my phone with a two-minute YouTube video on it. She lay completely still, entranced by the screen. A few weeks later, I set up our tablet and let her watch a farm video on YouTube while I made dinner. Afterward, she told me chickens give us eggs. She was learning! I was accomplishing things! We were winning!
We got more sleep on weekend mornings by snuggling our early riser in our bed, pulling up an alphabet video, and then letting her choose, click, and watch what she liked afterward. Just before our second baby was born, she found The Egg Videos. If you don’t know about these, count your blessings. These videos led our sweet child down a rabbit hole of ridiculous media content, mostly of people she didn’t know playing with toys we don’t own. But she was quiet, content, and I had a new baby to worry about. YouTube was a great, free babysitter.
I stopped paying attention to what she was watching.
At three and a half years old, she stopped napping. In order to preserve my “me” time, I happily let YouTube and the videos I considered trashy but harmless keep her entertained. One day as I moved between chores, the dialogue between people on the screen caught my attention. They were discussing poop. Not in the normal, silly, three-year-old way kids use potty talk, but rather watching other people do it, picking it up, and wiping it on furniture. “TIME TO DO SOMETHING ELSE!” I screeched, ripping the tablet out of her hands. As I calmed her epic meltdown, I vowed to be more vigilant about her YouTube content. I downloaded the kids-only YouTube, and we proceeded as we always had. Weeks went by until I wandered over to watch with her. Once again, I couldn’t believe my eyes: in a knock-off Peppa Pig cartoon, George was on fire, having been lit aflame by Peppa herself. How many other potentially dangerous, disgusting, and inappropriate videos had she seen and I ignored?
Later that afternoon, I deleted YouTube Kids from our tablet and my phone. I had trusted the internet to entertain my child and didn’t properly supervise what it was offering. Without a second thought, I took control over my child’s media consumption.
I downloaded some great apps that I played with first to make sure that they met my newly raised standards. The only video streaming app that she has access to is the PBS Kids Video app. There was a lot of pushback and dismay, but I stood firm in my resolve to give my children higher quality screen time. The world is wide and there are many potential poor influences and dangers out there. The day will come when my kids will be old enough to start having deep discussions about internet safety, but for now, I choose to control what I can. Getting rid YouTube is a choice I am happy I made.