We want to preface this by stating that everything we're about to say is based on our opinions on this topic. We recognize that every family has different ideals, limits, etc. We're simply sharing our views and experiences!
Youtube. It's not something Patrick or I grew up with. In fact, until 5 years ago or so, it wasn't even something we were too distracted by or invested in. It wasn't something we watched for entertainment as teens or kids, a profession in Youtube wasn't something that was on any career aptitude test for our generation (is it now? it probably should be!) and it wasn't something we discussed our approach to before or even right after we had kids. It wasn't something we realized would become so much a part of daily life.
For our kids' generation, Youtube seems to be as common a form of entertainment (and occasionally education) as traditional television. There are tons of Youtubers out there--from kids to adults. We've seen a lot of Youtubers closer to our age than our kids' ages that have (primarily) younger audiences. While Patrick and I might share some adult, somewhat inappropriate (at times) humor between us or with our friends, it isn't something we specifically want our kids at 8 and 10 to partake in and some of these channels (as entertaining as they may be to us) are not something we're ready for them to view. To us, they're just not old enough, mature enough or developed enough to be ready to be made aware of certain things. We want to give their frontal lobes some extra time to develop first before we begin really testing their judgement skills (something kids with ADHD struggle with in general--that darn frontal lobe!). That being said, not all Youtube is bad in our opinions. In fact, some Youtubers are really, really positive role models.
That being said, we would like to share our opinions and our approach to Youtube and kids since it isn't something we've personally seen a lot of chatter about, but something most parent will have to consider at some point.
Kids & Youtube: The GoodNot all Youtube videos or Youtubers are bad in our opinions! In fact, we really respect some of them--they're a hard-working, creative and downright awesome bunch! We've seen some parents absolutely despise Youtube, Youtubers and the effect it's having in general. To us, it's something that's like any source of information or entertainment--you may not like it all, you may have to be cautious with your kids' exposure, but there's likely something for everyone.
We've come across some really positive, fantastic Youtubers that we don't mind allowing our boys to watch. Yes, we still keep an eye on content produced by these Youtubers just in case, but generally, we've found them to be entertaining and even inspirational. Yes, inspirational!
Ryan Higa - ADHD Youtube Superstar
The first Youtuber that comes to mind is Ryan Higa, a Hilo-native (now living on the mainland) that has two channels--NigaHiga and HigaTV. We adore Ryan Higa in this family--from oldest to youngest. While he and his buddies certainly get up to some pretty hilarious (and occasionally dangerous) mischief, the content and language is generally pretty tame AND Ryan is occasionally outspoken about his struggles and life with ADHD. It is so, so, SO important for young ADHDers to have really fun, successful ADHDers to look up to in our opinions. In Ryan's Draw My Life video he talked about his childhood, bullying, sadness and later, his success in finding something he loved and was good at--Youtube. He even dedicated an entire episode to discussing his ADHD and coping with it in his daily life. He does occasionally mention it in other videos as well, but in a more casual way--because ADHD is just a part of life, another challenge, not the sole defining factor (at least that's how we feel about it).
While you may want to be careful that your little ADHDers don't try to recreate episodes like his real-life Fruit Ninja vid or play a game of Extreme Crocodile Dentist, we think he's been a really fantastic Youtuber for our kids to watch and look up to. One of their all-time favorites!
VlogAfterCollege & Great Gatsby the Corgi
Ryen Lung is the creator of both VlogAfterCollege and Great Gatsby the Corgi Youtube channels. Ryen is a super, super positive (can I add one more super?) Youtuber from (I believe) O'ahu (shout out to my dad's island home) that started out by documenting his post-grad life after graduating from Cornell. He eventually adopted his absolutely adorable corgi, Gatsby, who has his own channel and makes an appearance in just about all of Ryen's current vids. Gatbsy is pretty much a celebrity around here with our guys--they love him!
Language and content in Ryen's videos tend to be super tame (assuming something like an occasional "hell" doesn't offend you--it doesn't offend us) and he is clearly a productive, intentionally positive guy. In fact, one video in particular stuck with our boys in which Ryen mentioned he'd been having kind of a stressful time lately, so he was going to make the choice to make things positive by having a positive day and doing fantastic things (I went back to find the darn thing and couldn't, but if I come across it again I'll make sure to share because it was inspiring to our boys). This was such a great message for our boys, who frequently struggle and get frustrated with different things, to hear, reflect back on and try to imitate. They've mentioned it quite a few times since and it definitely resonated with them--thanks for the positivity, Ryen!
Update: Thanks to a tweet from Ryen, we now the super positive video link. Thanks again, Ryen! Click here for the boys' favorite positive day video by Vlog After College.
Gatsby is so darn cute and even if you aren't a dog-lover (we are!), we think you'll find him pretty darn adorable to watch. Such a happy boy!
Thinknoodles (Family-Friendly Gaming)
If you have little Minecrafters you're probably already all too familiar with Thinknoodles, but if not, you're in for a treat! Thinknoodles is easily one of the most entertaining, engaging and clean Youtube gamers we've personally come across. The boys absolutely LOVE Thinknoodles and could watch his videos for hours if allowed. He covers a number of games from what we've seen on his playlists, but his Minecraft role-playing videos are by far the boys' favorites. Both boys love him, but Liam absolutely idolizes him!
We've never seen anything to date that wasn't family-friendly in the videos we've watched of his and quite frankly his Minecraft videos are cute, creative and entertaining enough for Patrick and I to get sucked in now and again. Definitely check him out if you have kids into Minecraft or gaming in general!
Fun little fact, Justin (aka Thinknoodles) actually grew up for part of his childhood in Indonesia (according to his Draw My Life video) just like Patrick did! Someday Patrick would love to find out what island because it's very rare that he comes across someone that knows where Indonesia actually is (it seems that that part of Asia has only recently begun to grow in popularity) let alone someone that moved from the U.S. to Indonesia and back again during childhood like he did. :)
Youtube isn't all fun and games, believe it or not. There's a lot of educational stuff, too. Yes, Patrick and I find it convenient for how-to's on random things, but we've found it's actually a great source for vid materials for the boys at times for school. In fact, I dug out old Schoolhouse Rock videos for our oldest when we were discussing conjunctions--remember those?
Disney even has what appears to be an entire channel focused exclusively on educational materials from various Disney-related sources called Disney Educational Productions.
Kids & Youtube: The Bad
So much darn good on Youtube, but of course, there's also the bad. Youtube is not a strictly kids-only platform, so with that comes a lot of materials that are not kid-friendly in our opinions. And not just mildly mature content, but downright rude, gross, pornographic, etc. Yes, technically Youtube does not allow porn or certain other types of mature content to be published according to their rules, but Youtube is a platform for creative individuals and that means some people creatively find ways to skirt around the rules until they get caught. I've seen content creators even use popular kids cartoon programs to post super rude content.
While your child may not be looking for mature content, Youtube has a lot of functions that "suggest" videos or instantly play videos or link videos, which can leave you watching old Gummi Bears shows one moment and getting a full-on sex ed class the next. I've read so many stories of parents turning away from their kids' screens for a moment to throw something in the oven, run to the bathroom or read an email only to turn back and find their child watching something NOT meant for their little eyes. It's happened to us, it can happen to you.
If this isn't a concern for you and you don't mind your child watching mature content at a young age, then that's for your family to determine, but if this is something you're concerned with then be careful and be watchful. Yes, there are some settings that allow you to turn off auto-play on the next video or filter some of the videos displayed on Youtube. We've played around with the Youtube filter called "Restricted Mode" and while it did get rid of some content, it wasn't smart enough to filter out nearly enough. And I'm not talking about the occasional swear, I'm talking about some seriously adult content.
After a lot of soul-searching, talking and general stressing, we came to the conclusion that we needed to approach "the bad" on Youtube from different angles, which we'll discuss below.
If you want to put restricted mode on your son/daughter's Youtube, here's how you do it...
How to Turn on Restricted ModeTo turn on Restricted Mode, scroll down to the very bottom of your Youtube home page. It may populate some additional videos when you go to scroll, but if you keep scrolling it will eventually let you hit the bottom of the page.
Click on the Restricted Mode link and turn it on. Here's an image of what you're looking for...
BE AWARE: We found this only turned restricted mode on for THAT device and THAT browser, not the account in general. It did not apply it to that account in such a way that the restriction remained regardless of what device you logged into. Perhaps it's not meant to function this way, but it's how it worked for us. If you use it, every time you log in to watch Youtube with your child you have to double-check to make sure it's activated on that browser and device even if you've already turned it on with another browser or on another device.
Kids & Youtube: The Surprising
I think one of the most surprising things we came to realize with our kids and Youtube was that this was going to be a major part of their childhoods, teens and adult lives. When we were kids, I had no friends with family computers unless their parents worked with computers like my dad. Personal computers just weren't common. Patrick and I got our first email addresses in high school (here's looking at you, hotmail and yahoo!), got our first AIM profiles in high school, watched eagerly as the iPod became a thing, made sure we got Gmail accounts when it was still in its beta phase on an invite-only basis and I didn't get facebook until I was almost 21 because my college wasn't on the original list of colleges that were included. Yes, Patrick and I are that generation of in-betweeners wedged between the generation that didn't grow up with technology and Millennials that grew up with a smartphone in one hand and tablet in the other. Our kids are growing up with things we weren't exposed to until we were almost adults or had already reached adulthood. New technology is being released every day that our children are growing up with--simultaneously we're being exposed to it as adults. Sometimes it feels like we're just trying to keep up and fly by the seat of our pants in deciding how we address all of it because there's no way to plan for some of it in advance--it isn't stuff that was around before now.
Youtube wasn't a thing when we were younger. Being a Youtuber wasn't a career path or pastime. Yet here we are and here it is. We have decided that rather than rejecting it, we're embracing it for what it is--the good, the bad and the occasional fugly (sorry, that's how we feel about the jerks that intentionally try to lure kids into watching porn or super scary material on Youtube by using family-themed titles!).
We know not everything on there is appropriate for our kids--again, everyone has to determine their own family limits. We know not every Youtuber is going to be someone we want our kids to look up to. We're adjusting to the fact that most kids (including our own) occasionally post on Youtube and want to watch Youtube vids as much, if not more, than traditional TV.
While we're just as surprised by some of the negative, we're equally surprised by the positive. Finding positive Youtubers that create awesome content that our kids look up is pretty awesome! Our kids are growing up with so much technology and so much connectivity. We know so much more about what's going on in the world because of it and as a result, so do our kids. I'm glad they have a place they can go (with our guidance) where they can enjoy some light, positive fun.
Final Tips for Handling Kids & Youtube
Assuming you've stuck with us through this extremely long-winded post (sorry about that, we had a lot to say!), here are our top tips for handling kids and Youtube:
1. Pre-screen - Before we let our kids watch a new Youtuber we pre-screen their vids. We don't like our kids watching content that's super negative, gory, full of swearing or that promotes dangerous ideas. Obviously, we don't allow our kids to watch adult content either. Again, these are just our family rules. If our kids hear the occasional "hell" or "damn" we aren't going to lose our minds, but we're not intentionally looking for that content either. Our boys know, at 8 and 10, the language that we expect them to use and to avoid. While we tend to pre-screen videos for a while with new-to-us Youtubers, once we get to know the type of content a Youtuber creates fairly well we tend to screen titles and what's in the description box to get a feel for each video before our kids watch them--not necessarily pre-screen entire videos every time.
2. Watch with Them - Especially when we first start watching new Youtubers, after pre-screening, we watch videos with our kids. Not only is it nice to see how they respond to what they're watching, but it's actually a bit of a bonding experience. We laugh together and talk about videos they love and they like that we get it.
3. No Youtube Behind Closed Doors - We have a rule in our house that only Nintendo DS's are allowed in bedrooms (the games they play really limit how much players can talk to one another), but all other devices must be used downstairs. This is a rule I wanted to institute early on so that in a few years when my then-tweens/teens are chatting with friends or doing whatever online, they won't give me too much grief about the fact I don't want them hiding in their rooms with access to the entire world all the time. Yes, eventually when they're older they'll have more access and I will have to allow that to be done from the comfort of their rooms, but until they're older and I know that they can exercise good judgement we're just not going there. Goodness forbid some predator try to get info under the guise of being a kid and we end up in a seriously unpleasant situation. It's sadly a reality some parents face.
4. Prepare for the Day "It" Happens - I once read that a huge percentage of kids stumble across porn by the time they are 8-10 (I'll have to find that article again). This shocked me because as kids, porn wasn't something that was readily available or free like it is today. It also wasn't frequently masked as being something else so that people accidentally viewed it the way it is on social media platforms, websites, etc. today. We thought that by being diligent, we'd be able to keep our kids from seeing something when they were young that we didn't want them to see. We were naive in that sense and our oldest once saw something (brief as it may have been) that we didn't want him to. We can tell you from experience that when that day comes, it's so much better if you're prepared to deal with it--trust us! We weren't and we probably did everything wrong initially. Eventually we pulled it together, did some research, talked to the right resources and addressed it appropriately, but I wish we'd been more aware of just how likely the chances were that our kids would probably see something at some point. In our opinions, it's no longer a matter of if (unless your children have absolutely no internet access or you stand over them every second), but a matter of when.
Maybe this is the first time this has been brought up to you. I certainly hadn't read a single family blogger address this candidly prior to our oldest coming across something. I wish I had! If you're wondering if maybe we simply weren't careful enough, I can tell you we were super careful. However, we do believe our kids need access to technology. One of our boys currently wants to go into a technical field (he's a kid, this could change, but we'll see) and we want our kids to be competitive down the line. We want them to be able to keep up with classmates and eventually coworkers. There's something to be said for the intuitive nature of kids that grow up with technology versus those that don't. Even between Patrick and I there's a stark contrast in our technical abilities at times. I grew up with the technology available at the time when I was a kid because my dad was a software engineer. Patrick grew up in Indonesia for most of his childhood and really didn't have any of that until he came back at 16. Even now, he struggles to know where to begin with some devices and programs, where I can generally intuitively feel where things should be.
If we haven't given you enough to think about, which I hope we have because we'd hate to see you surprised one day like we was, here are some cold, hard statistics:
- According to Family Safe Media, the largest group of viewers of internet porn are kids ages 12-17.
- Law enforcement officials estimate that up to 50,000 predators are online in a given moment--according to Dateline
- Studies show that nearly 40% of preteens and teens accidentally or intentionally visit explicit sites
- In a study in the February Pediatrics (Vol. 119, No. 2, pages 247-257), attorney Janis Wolak, psychologist Kimberly Mitchell, PhD, and Finkelhor, of the UNH center, found that 42% of a nationally representative sample of 1,500 Internet users ages 10 to 17 had been exposed to online porn in the last year, with two-thirds reporting unwanted exposure
That's it for now! Our (many, long-winded) thoughts on Kids & Youtube from our experience and perspectives.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on Youtube and your kids, suggestions for kid-friendly 'tubers and how your family approaches internet safety!
Note: This post was in no way sponsored. All opinions above are our own.