If I had to find one word to summarize my parenting ideal – it would be balance. I’m all about everything in moderation. Working hard and earning rewards. Eating your broccoli and getting cookies for desert.
Which is why we allow screen time and both kids have iPads. (Not having iPads would be awesome, but for this tech loving family, that’s just not reality.) They have several learning apps and they usually (not always) start on those before they move onto the shows and games.
We also had YouTube for a while. And then YouTube Kids as soon as it came out. My kids could get lost in those endless videos for hours if I would let them. Some videos were fun, some cute. Some super weird, but most seemed harmless, if not annoying, from what I could overhear.
Then Miles (7) found some questionable things. “Five Nights at Freddy’s is funny” he reassured me. But every time he’d watch those videos he’d end up in our bed because of bad dreams. One day he asked me about Slender Man. He couldn’t remember when or how he’d heard about it, but I’m sure it was from YouTube Kids.
But that wasn’t even the final straw. It happened slowly. Every time I let them watch YouTube Kids, they would get sucked in and I couldn’t pull them away without a meltdown. I tried setting a timer. I tried 20 minutes. I tried 4 video limits. I tried 2 hour limits, thinking surely they would get sick of it once their eyes started bleeding. But nope. Every time it was time to turn off the iPad it was a screaming, lose your mind kind of event.
The addiction was real. And the next video auto-play was never ending!
We tried taking YouTube breaks. They were only allowed YouTube on the weekends. But that didn’t stop the meltdowns. We tried iPads every other day. But nothing stopped the tantrums and fits over it.
So we finally deleted the app completely.
I’m not gonna lie – that tantrum wasn’t pretty.
My husband and I deleted the app and then sat the kids down (7 & 4 just for reference) and explained that we didn’t think the obsession was healthy and the tantrums were too much. They lost their minds. There were lots of tears. And yelling. “You’re ruining my life!” “You hate me!” “I LOOOOOOOOVEEEE YOUTUBE PLEASE!”
We explained that some things can be addictive and YouTube wasn’t working for us any more and we would be much better off without it.
And every day for about 2 weeks they asked for YouTube. Some days they were more upset then others. But slowly they began to understand that it wasn’t worth asking any more. They still got iPad time, they found new games to play, new learning apps, new shows to watch on Netflix.
But gone was the endless auto-play of one mindless video after another. Gone was the tantrum when iPad time was over. They still fight it and whine, but the difference is huge. Sometimes they still talk in YouTube speech (“remember to like and subscribe” while they are playing, even thought they never knew how to subscribe or like the videos). They still pretend to make videos themselves while they play. And every once in a while they still ask for YouTube.
So we did try to let them watch some videos on our home computer once. Thinking that if it wasn’t on the iPad it might be different. But that list of related videos on the right is just way too tempting. And when it was time to move on, the meltdown reminded me that we had made the right decision in banning it.
It’s been about 8 months without YouTube now and it was totally worth it. Looking back, I don’t think the videos on it were providing any benefits or learning opportunities. Most kids shows on Netflix and Hulu offer some kids of learning possibilities. Even games can teach them things. But the mindless stuff of kids making potty jokes and opening toys wasn’t benefiting them in any way.
It’s so hard to navigate this world of iPads and cell phones and technology with kids. What’s appropriate? What’s good for them? What’s bad? And I know we are all just doing the best we can for our kids. So if YouTube Kids works for you and your family – no judgement from me what-so-ever! But if you’re thinking about getting rid of it and wondering if you can survive – I’m here to offer support and a nice big glass of wine to help drown out that tantrum!