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The #1 Parenting Tip for Talking with Kids About YouTube

I admit it.  I have a love-hate relationship with YouTube.  It’s great that anyone can create, post, and share videos online.  There are some really creative people who use YouTube to highlight their talent and share it with the world.  That’s awesome.

On the other hand, as a parent, I don’t understand how my daughter can stare at YouTube for hours on end, becoming a veritable YouTube zombie.  That’s not to mention all of the inappropriate, unfiltered content that I know she is exposed to on a regular basis.

What’s a parent to do?

Parents everywhere are wondering what to do about YouTube.  It’s here to stay,  it’s easy to access, and it’s on almost every device available to kids and adults.  As far as I’m concerned, we have to accept it as a fact of life and teach our kids how to use it appropriately.

Of course, there are many aspects to consider when dealing with YouTube, like boundaries and discernment for the whole family.  My husband and I are, like many parents these days, trying our best to muddle through it all.

If you are looking for some basic safety guidelines, check out 5 Ways to Make YouTube Safer for Your Kids by Common Sense Media.  Like the title says, it will make YouTube safer, but it won’t necessarily make it safe.  The tips in the article are a place to start.  I have found that there is so much more to it.  But like many parents, I made a few mistakes before I started to get the hang of it.

What Not to Do…

My first tactic, after embracing the fact that I couldn’t keep my daughter away from YouTube, was to become my own version of the YouTube police… It was a horrible idea.  It only fueled my paranoia, and the whole thing was exhausting.  Plus, it seemed sneaky and wrong.

The Epiphany

There was a point when it became too much.  One day I was trying to spy on my daughter over her shoulder.  I didn’t want her to notice me, but I couldn’t make out what she was watching without getting closer… What if she realized what I was doing?  But I had to see what was on the screen…

It was ridiculous, and I knew it.  So I did something crazy.  I sat down next to her and asked her what she was watching…  To my surprise, she didn’t want to just tell me.  She wanted me to stay and watch with her!

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So my #1 tip for breaking down the YouTube barrier: Ask your child to share his or her favorite shows with you.  Watch Together!

I have to admit, there are videos and channels that I really like (to my amazement) and some I am not as excited about.  Either way, I am learning a lot about my daughter – and YouTube time is great family time.

I realize not all kids – especially older kids and teenagers – are going to be so forthcoming about what they’re watching on YouTube.  And I know my daughter probably doesn’t share every video she sees.  But what I do know, is that the dialogue and family time that happens as a result of me taking an interest in her, on her terms, with an open mind, is invaluable.  I am learning much from our time together, and I hope my daughter is learning from me, too.

What I’m Learning From My Daughter

I am learning way more from my daughter about kids and You Tube than I would have from scouring the Internet or trolling around on the site itself.  When it comes to knowing what’s happening on YouTube she’s the expert.  Here are the top three things I learned:

  1. There are many great family-friendly shows available out there.
  2. Kids aren’t just interested in the videos, they’re also interested in the social aspect of the channels – the likes, comments, etc.  It’s almost as important as the videos themselves. (This 80s girl has a hard time wrapping her head around that one.)
  3. Kids are very aware of the inappropriate content, and in many cases feel uncomfortable or threatened by it.  They need our help navigating it but are often embarrassed to talk about it with adults.

What My Daughter is Learning From Me (I Hope)

Like I mentioned above, I quickly learned that my daughter is very aware of what is happening on the YouTube scene, and it’s not always on the up and up.  Watching YouTube together is a great way to open up discussions on how to handle tricky situations.  While she may be the expert on YouTube trends, I am the expert on the important stuff like discernment and boundaries.  Here are the top three things I have been able to discuss with my daughter:

  1. How to decide if a Channel or video is okay to watch.
  2. What to do if she finds herself watching an inappropriate video.
  3. What to do if friends are watching or sharing inappropriate videos or channels.

I encourage you to join in with your kids when they are glued to the Tube.  Ask a few questions, watch some channels or episodes together and make YouTube a family event.  It’s a great way to open up those lines of communication when it comes to social media, boundaries, and discernment.

What do you think?  Is this something that would work in your family?  What are some other ways that might work to communicate with your kids about YouTube and other social media?

Please comment below.

Tricia Mueller

My Story…

My name is Tricia and this is my daughter Ella.

I am a school librarian and teacher, but most importantly, I am a mom.

As a librarian, I spent many years building relationships with students.  If I was lucky, they shared some of their hopes and dreams with me.

Very quickly I learned that regardless of socio-economic status, race, or ability level, kids had a natural desire to use their talents, creativity, and ideas to help others and solve the problems that face our communities today.

There was a big difference, though, in which kids were successful in following their interests and dreams and which ones were not.  Kids who had positive relationships with parents and mentors were much more likely to succeed.

After mentoring students and working with families for several years, I was convinced that building relationships and instilling values in my own family needed to take a more important place in my life.

That’s when I made the decision to leave my full-time job to focus more of my energy on my relationships to the people closest to me.

Since then, I have gathered some great ideas and resources for parenting.  As a librarian, I can’t help but be excited to share all of this great stuff with you…

The purpose of this site is to provide families with ideas, plans, and inspiration for promoting life-long learning, selfless service, and open, intentional communication between parents and kids.