Q: My 13-year-old daughter spends soooo much time watching YouTube these days—she prefers it even over TV! How can I tell what content is good and what content is bad for her to watch?
Many tweens and teens are “addicted” to YouTube. It is entertaining and a huge “time suck,” as they say.
What’s the appeal?
It is a window into the world—their world to be exact. It speaks to them in their language. It takes them to people and places beyond their bedrooms.
They get to see kids doing things they would not, could not or cannot do. They get to live their dreams, live in a different world. Some videos make kids feel better about themselves (as in, “At least I’m not like that guy”).
YouTube is a babysitter (not the child’s fault), a playmate and a destination TV channel.
But YouTube is not all bad. It can be educational. Through tutorials, kids can learn how to do things we used to learn to do by reading books. Today the internet has become the popular learning medium.
With older kids (starting with upper elementary school age), the stars and creators of these videos draw a huge following. They even set styles and taste, becoming what are known as “influencers.”
They are well known and often earn a boatload of money. After watching the same hosts, kids often envision themselves with their own shows that could be wildly popular, too.
I hope that you already have specific rules in place for the amount of time, the where and the when of screen time for your daughter. As with any limits and boundaries in a family, you must be the parent and the enforcer.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a template for you to follow in knowing what is OK and what isn’t for your kids to watch on YouTube? Well, there isn’t.
Each child is different in her development, temperament, maturity, experience, gullibility, vulnerability and absorption rate. And if you think your teen will settle for YouTube Kids, think again.
“That’s for babies!” The racier and the more forbidden is often the more desirable.
I am not an internet expert, but my first go-to for parents of all age kids is always Common Sense Media. On its website there is extensive information on measuring all media, including YouTube content.
That is for educating you. It is also great backing in explaining to your teen why you are forbidding it.
While there are many good articles and sites you will find by Googling, Common Sense seldom disappoints.
It is a good idea to check in with the parents of your teen’s friends. Ask them what they allow, why and how they implement their limits. (Of course, there will be the parents of the shady kids who are not your favorites. Perhaps the fact that their parents do allow something should tell you something!)
Have conversations with your teen. Ask her what she wants to watch and why. Sometimes our kids actually do demonstrate solid judgment and reasoning. So ask!
I believe that you need to involve your daughter in the decisions you make for her, including explaining the reasons for your limits. Watching certain content together live is respectful of your teen and gives you credibility.
Along with her understanding of your reasons, it raises the chance of her buy in, even though she may not agree. (You know it is her job not to agree with you, right?)
And remember, the less time she spends watching YouTube, the better. Everything in moderation, please.