Recently I read a Medium article titled, Something is wrong on the internet in which the author delves into the weird and worrying world of directly targeted children’s content, usually using popular TV and movie characters from primarily Disney franchises.
As a father of a two and a half year old, this article resonated with me greatly.
My wife and I actually kept our child away from iPad’s and technology until he was 23 months old (so basically two). It wasn’t until we took a long trip to the UK to see relatives (22 hours, not including stop over waiting time) that we decided we needed to take something to keep him preoccupied.
Keeping an active toddler confined within a small aluminium tube for hours upon hours is no small feat. Evident by the fact when we told people we were travelling the responses we got were:
Oh, you’re brave.
Let us know how that goes for you
We harmlessly borrowed an iPad from a family member, and because we have a Youtube Red subscription we saved some videos for offline viewing. Harmless shows he liked to watch such as Pepper Pig and Paw Patrol (legit episodes).
It just took this little trip for him to be amazed and impressed by the iPad, so as we travelled throughout the UK for three and a half weeks, he would watch the iPad. We would load it up with new content for him.
When we got back from the trip, he continued to watch the iPad. At one point we forgot to turn the internet off and he was trawling his way through kids content. It started out innocent enough, until the targeted kids content showed up.
After a while you see the same pattern, the same songs (the creepy daddy finger and Yes Johnny songs) and even the same recurring Youtube channels putting out junk recycled content. I disagree with the author this is abuse, that seems a little far-fetched. The content I witnessed was just heavily infringing on copyrights of studios like Disney.
We fortunately never encountered the worrying Peppa Pig rip-off videos of drinking bleach and whatnot, that is worrying.
So, how did we address the problem?
We control what our son sees on his iPad, simple. We dilligently make sure the Internet is not turned on and we just set some Youtube videos to offline.
What was weird content featuring Spiderman (what’s the obsession these content channels have with Spiderman?) and The Joker is now sane and educational content, our son is learning new things.
Seriously, don’t let your kids just browse Youtube for themselves. Control the narrative, getting yourself a Youtube Red subscription to save videos for offline use is one of the best things you can possibly do to protect your children.
Safe for kids Youtube content
Here are a few channels on Youtube which we allow our son to watch. Quality content you can be rest assured your children will probably love and no Spiderman, Joker or kids opening up chocolate.
In a sea of copyright infringing content is some seriously well-produced content that sadly doesn’t always get the same kind of visibility and search result preference that these monetised childbait videos do.
Quite possibly one of the best Youtube channels for kids around. A guy by the name of Blippi puts out highly produced educational videos, he’s a quirky and funny character who travels around and has content ranging from garbage trucks to police cars and everything in between.
Our son’s iPad has a lot of these Blippi videos on it and people we’ve shown Blippi to, love him.
Yo Gabba Gabba
My wife and I are grown adults and even like this show. It’s highly educational, the characters are quirky and funny, best of all it’s a very music oriented TV show that gets your kids dancing and singing. One of the best characters on this show is DJ Lance Rock. Another thing that sets this show apart is they have routine cameos from members of punk, rock and indie bands appear on the show like Paramore.
The Wiggles are an Australian kids group that have been going since the early nineties (I grew up watching them). All of their content is music based, with classic songs your kids will love like Fruit Salad and Hot Potato guaranteed to get them up and dancing, singing along.
I grew up watching Sesame Street and its been going for 40 years now, because it’s great content. Your kids are guaranteed to love highly annoying Elmo and cookie loving Cookie Monster. You can’t go wrong with Sesame Street.
If you don’t have a Youtube Red subscription or your country has yet to support offline downloads, the public broadcaster in your respective country will have a lot of free kids content. The BBC in the UK has BBC Kids, Australia’s ABC has ABC Kids and presumably other countries are the same.
Netflix is also another avenue to consider, they have some of the best kids content around and best of all: it’s obviously curated a lot better than Youtube’s content is.
At the end of the day, as a parent you have to take responsibility, Youtube is not the parent, you are. And the content in question on Youtube only exists because you let your children watch it. It’s time to step up.