Although YouTube has over a billion users, it is still one of the most widely blocked websites in the world. In most schools and places of business, YouTube is censored out and labeled as an unnecessary use of time and internet bandwidth. For reference, YouTube mobile users clock average viewing sessions at over 40 minutes! Not only this, but YouTube alone accounts for 17% of the world’s total internet bandwidth. Seventeen percent! It comes as no surprise, then, that many parents are wary of their kids’ use of the popular site.
But, much like adults, kids love YouTube. They can laugh, learn new skills, watch concerts, tour museums and galleries, hear new perspectives on the world, and much, much more. Khan Academy, TED Talks, PBS Nova, The Smithsonian, and other YouTube channels are a fantastic resource for education and curiosity. It is for this reason that few parents deny their kids from accessing YouTube.
However, the tendency for your kid to watch video after video for hours on end is inescapable. This is especially the case when your child stumbles onto a chain of videos tailor-made to their interests.
Maybe your kid starts with some fail videos; an amateur skateboarder meets a handrail that knocks him unconscious, a toddler inexplicably falls onto the cat, a newscaster is attacked by a seagull at the beach.
Then, they see a video from one of their favorite vloggers unboxing a new video game console. Now they are perusing the deep catalogue of webcam monologues on the vlogger’s channel, covering a wide range of topics and genres.
Next, they get on a video-tutorial kick covering everything from applying the right shades of eye-shadow to building a small explosive.
Eventually, they are led into a veritable torrent of video game and movie trailers. The new Marvel Comics action flick, another Michael Bay explosion-laden popcorn movie, an improvised comedy blockbuster starring everyone’s favorite potheads navigating some ridiculous plot-device, and so on.
Things really snowball when a conspiracy theory video leads into creepy story-time, where your kid will spend the next two hours, engulfed in a series of vaguely plausible ghost-tales and alien encounters.
While this 3-hour streak of inanity is nothing more than a massive waste of time for your child, it also maximizes the advertising potential for the website. Thus, YouTube is pitted against you, the parent, for your children’s attention and best interests. YouTube is designed to create these marathons of uninhibited viewing. In fact, the site raked in an estimated nine billion dollars in 2015. Analysts estimate that YouTube is worth a total of one hundred billon dollars – that’s twice as much as video-streaming giant Netflix!
So, what do you do about your kid’s unbridled access to countless hours of mind-numbing videos? Of course, you need to talk to your children about what types of content they will come across online. Even on strictly-controlled sites like YouTube, kids can stumble onto all sorts of violent, sexually explicit, offensive, and vulgar content.
You also need to set specific limits on the time your kids spend online and on screens in general. As said earlier, YouTube is a great website – with the caveat that we do not overuse the site. Your children need a unique blend of social time, exercise, reading, eating, using screens, etc. It is up to you as a parent to set those parameters for your kids, and each family is different. But, all kids need clear boundaries when it comes to browsing sites like YouTube on their computer, tablet, iPod, or other wi-fi devices.
Pete M Richardson is a contributing author to online and print publications. He also runs a humor and culture blog called NoiseWise. A Puget Sound native, Pete is currently west-coasting in Portland, OR with his wife and daughter. Find him on Twitter & Instagram as @peterichardson9. Email him at email@example.com