Kids are always hungry for the newest thing. Have you ever noticed, with each new game, toy, song, movie, etc they get engrossed and obsessed? Sometimes they’ve come across this newest obsession on their own, other times it’s the thing everyone in their class or circle of friends is talking about. They listen, watch, sing, read, or play that thing over and over.
Do you ever wonder, “What do other parents think of this latest obsession?”
Sometimes it’s nice to have another grownup’s endorsement. Kids think if “everyone else has it”, that’s enough. I found out that being able to say, “Abby’s mom doesn’t let her chat with strangers on video games either” wields great power. So I started a list of things my kids are really into right now. Just maybe my take on them could help one of you.
While making my list of things my kids are into, I made a discovery. A lot of the items on my list led back to one thing . . . YouTube! So this post ended up only having one item on its list.
What’s up with YouTube!?!
Whenever parents get together and discuss their kids, YouTube is bound to be mentioned. It might go something like this;
First parent: I couldn’t get my kids off YouTube the other day.
Second parent: Your kids too?! What on earth do they find so interesting?
First parent: I know, right? Mine would watch all day if I let them. How long do you let your kids watch?
YouTube is essentially a video sharing website. But it does more than that. It acts like a social media platform where users create videos and upload them to their channel while viewers comment. And it can also be used as a search engine.
The official mission of YouTube is to “give everyone a voice and show them the world.”
I would actually call YouTube a phenomenon. It has incredible power in our global society. Regular people have suddenly become pop culture figures. Because their videos have so many viewers, what they say and do influences entire swaths of the world’s population.
As a parent, you need to know that they will influence what your children like, from music to clothes to toys. Think TV ads of the 21st century.
A great example of this is the Jojo Siwa bow. This kid has created quite a career and business by promoting a sparkly, overly hyper persona with a strong anti-bullying message. Her YouTube channel has over 7 million subscribers. She always wears a bow, and says it’s a symbol of not letting haters get you down. If someone is wearing the bow, that supposedly means she is always going to be a nice friend. Her bows have shown up in elementary schools across the nation thanks to her contract with Claire’s and now other retailers.
When Jojo Siwa was asked in an interview with AdAge whether she watches a lot of YouTube, she said,
One-hundred percent. All the time. It’s the new thing. It is fun. It’s fast. It’s energetic. So yeah.
So, there you go. It’s a thing. It’s big. It’s here to stay. Kids love it, mine included. Not only that but a lot of the other things my kids are into lately are directly influenced by what they watch on YouTube.
What do kids watch on YouTube?
My kids love the channels that use toys like L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Barbie dolls, and Legos.
Kids learn new ways of playing through observing other kids (or adults) being creative with their toys. This is called observational learning. According to verywellmind.com, this is one of the fundamental ways kids learn. Some of the most successful YouTube channels for children use this exact concept.
Sometimes the YouTuber has designed a set and acts out an imagined storyline, other times they make a play or show based on a popular movie using the dolls as characters. They may show a Lego set being built, a Barbie wedding, or how to apply makeup so you look like a famous character.
An especially popular type of YouTube video is the “unboxing” video, which shows someone opening a new toy.
Wisely cashing in on this trend, Isaac Larian, founder and CEO of MGA Entertainment, created a line of toys called L.O.L. Surprise dolls that include unwrapping as part of the play according to this CBS news article. This company bypassed using television ads altogether and has done extremely well marketing the dolls strictly through YouTube. My kids are really big fans of these dolls!
I must admit, at first I felt like the victim of a marketing scheme, especially because of the collectible aspect. When I looked at the bigger picture, though, I decided it could be much worse. “Toy manufacturers tap into child psychology and past marketing successes to hopefully develop the latest “must have” toy of the season”, according to the experts cited in this NPR health news article. Inevitably there will be a toy everyone has to have. These are fun, cute, and affordable. And my girls actually play with them instead of just collecting them.
Another type of YouTube video popular among kids is footage of the person playing video games and commentating themselves. Kids use these as a resource to get tips on how to play a game, maybe how to pass a difficult level or how to earn incentives. It can also help them find out about popular games they may like.
While researching the way kids and companies use YouTube I discovered something surprising.
The newest thing is actually just a recycled old thing
Sometimes we as parents get swept up the mentality that the “new” way kids play is somehow inferior to the way we played when we were young. Have you ever said, “When I was a kid, I spent all my time outside.” Or, “we always read books all day.” But, don’t you remember hating hearing similar words from your parents while you were growing up? One of the best ways to bond with your kids is to understand and (attempt) to be interested in the stuff they like!
So maybe they play differently than we did. At the same time, many things are fundamentally the same, they just go about it using modern technology.
The types of media kids learn from have evolved and changed, but the fundamentals of what they like to play and what they learn from it have stayed the same.
How to use YouTube to help your family
Like any social media platform, YouTube can be used as a tool or allowed to run amok. Young people especially need guidance to navigate that world in a positive and healthy way. Be aware of the time spent, whether it interferes with sleep or other necessary things, who your children are connecting with.
Know what they watch and talk to them about it. Be clear about what’s most important to your family. If you don’t they will learn to think like the people they watch.
YouTube has totally changed the world market and made it available to regular people. It has changed the way kids relax in homes worldwide. They look to YouTubers for inspiration, guidance, and entertainment. That is a lot of power!
All in all, I give YouTube a mom’s thumbs up, as long as we don’t let it take over.
I find the key is to harness the power of YouTube to my advantage. In our house, no one gets to watch YouTube until their toys are picked up.
Mwah, haha, the power is in my hands now!
If you liked my Mom ratings part one, keep a look out for part two. I’ll give my take on a bunch more activities my kids are into. What is your take on YouTube? What limits do you set in your house? I’d love to hear from you.