We had an epic parenting fail last night. Over the past few years, we have been allowing our son to watch seemingly harmless videos on YouTube. A few years ago, he didn’t seem to watch anything more than people opening eggs, or a woman demonstrating how to play with toys. Initially, we were ok with YouTube, because everything seemed harmless enough. However, over time we found the content he was watching was getting more and more questionable. YouTube doesn’t seem to have the safest protocols for children, and we found trouble even with the YouTube Kids app. However, it’s gotten to a point lately, where he’s finding more and more videos that are bordering on either animated porn, videos designed to terrify him – like the video he found of a heater chasing down children telling him he was going to kill them in their sleep, or our Autistic son is learning to mimic and script lines from Ryan’s Toy Review.
We always thought Ryan’s Toy Review was totally harmless. Unfortunately, this channel has seemingly gone downhill as they grow their subscriptions and their need to make bigger and better videos. We’ve always questioned the way Ryan speaks to his parents, his entitled behavior when it comes to needs and wants, and the fact that his parents seem to laugh off his terrible behavior. When you have a child acting this way, can you even blame the child? Probably not. We put that squarely on his parents. They are doing nothing to stop the way he speaks to them, and they encourage the outrageous things that come out of his mouth.
Last night while my husband was playing with our son, my son picked up a bubble wand and asked his dad to sword fight. This was curious to my husband because sword fighting is not a game we have taught him. He then looked at my husband and said, “I’m going to make you go to Heaven.” My husband’s jaw dropped, and I got a message to my phone as I was not with them at the time. Our son told my husband he heard Ryan tell his mom that he was going to make her go to Heaven. We instantly grabbed his tablet, and I started searching for ways to block the channel. Then I started looking on YouTube at other shows he was watching, and it occurred to me it wasn’t just Ryan’s show that was the problem but the fact that nothing on YouTube is actually true programming for children.
The premise of YouTube is anyone can make a video and upload it to their channel. There are some “guidelines” of what is allowed, but anyone can upload anything that fits within those parameters despite what is on the actual video. I started looking around, and I found videos that are porn anime that are aimed at children, there are videos specifically designed to scare children, and then there are the endless “family toy reviews” videos. Anyone that has a camera can upload a video of them playing with a toy, and then they can call it a “toy review”. Toy reviews in themselves seem harmless enough until your child is watching them incessantly and demanding new toys constantly.
My husband and I took inventory of what we wanted to teach our son. I know most parents have morals and values that want to instill in their children, and we are no different in this area. We realized very quickly that shows aimed specifically to advertise toys with little to no educational content are not what we want our son watching. My son has been watching Ryan’s Toy Review for years, and I felt terrible taking it away. However, after he told my husband “He was going to make him go to Heaven” it became more urgent to censor what he watched. My son is Autistic, and he has no idea what he is saying. He scripts (a trait in Autism where children repeat word for word conversations they hear) and mimics conversations, and he doesn’t understand the content of what is even being said. As we learn more about Autism, it’s apparent we have to be even more diligent about what he watches because he will act out anything he sees. I took a very serious step last night, and I deleted YouTube from his tablet.
At first, I felt terrible because my son doesn’t have friends. He doesn’t know how to have friends, and he really has found that many of the kids on these shows to be his “friends.” Then I realized that it’s more important for me to be a parent that instills values and morals in my son that is consistent with what I believe. I don’t believe that material items are the means to happiness. Allowing him to watch “Toy Review” shows has turned him into a monster that thinks he needs every toy that is reviewed. If I am going to take control of what he learns, it starts with me controlling what he watches.
As I have shared this with more and more people, I have learned MANY parents are starting to block and remove YouTube from their kid’s lives. I wanted to also give some suggestions on apps that will still give your child the ability to scroll and watch without having to worry about the content. Here is a small list of Apps that I have found that are good for children
- PBS kids
- Nick Jr
- Disney Jr
- ABC Mouse
- Amazon Prime Video
- Netflix Kids
- Disney Channel
- Toon Goggles
- Hulu Kids
Not all of these are free, and some will require that you have cable subscriptions. Netflix and Hulu offer monthly subscription rates that are fairly inexpensive. The benefit of these apps is there is nothing on these apps that are videos made by random people. It’s content that is “parent approved.” You can have a sense of safety knowing your child won’t find a video of Peppa Pig trying to stab her mother – or a video of the Paw Patrol characters turning into zombies after they have died. There is a lot of very questionable content on YouTube and YouTube kids. Please take appropriate steps to make sure you know what your kids are watching.