4 Things I Learned from 1 Afternoon of YouTube


One afternoon a few weekends ago, we had nothing on the calendar. No activities. No birthday parties. No basketball games. So I asked my crew what they wanted to do. All my kids asked to spend the afternoon on YouTube. We often let them watch shows on our accounts, but I noticed a growing preference at my house for YouTube videos instead of watching movies on the streaming services that we’ve had for years. I agreed we could chill and YouTube-it on the living room TV for the afternoon…if they could take turns and chose two shows each. It was an entertaining few hours, and the kids enjoyed it. Here’s what I learned:

  1. My kids consider YouTube the new Saturday morning cartoons. I LOVED my weekend lineup of Scooby-Doo, Muppet Babies, Garfield and Friends, and Darkwing Duck as did most of my friends growing up. We knew the characters, plots, and theme songs. And I always looked forward to watching a new episode each week so I could talk about it on Monday with my classmates. My kids knew which YouTuber they like makes a new video each Thursday – and they were chomping at the bit to watch it. They knew the backstories and “plots” of the channel so they could quickly fill me in. Of course, they knew the little jingles between scenes and time lapse shots. And after the show, they talked about what will probably be happening in the next episode.
  2. My kids all gravitate to the same style of shows. One of the many benefits of having four kids in four years is that they usually enjoy the same things. We are very much in the camp of Star Wars, Lego, outdoor adventures, sports, animals, and science. So not surprisingly, they had their favorite channels that focused on most of those things. But surprisingly, they all LOVED a cake baking channel where the creations are very impressive, and the bakery happens to be located near the town in California where three of my kids were born. Too ironic. So it was an easy task taking turns and picking two shows each because they all enjoyed the same YouTube channels, more or less.
  3. My kids despise the ads. I realize my crew has zero patience for advertisements – most children don’t since they have grown up in a world of Netflix and Disney+ were commercials (or “mershals” as my youngest called them when he was tiny) don’t exist. Unless we’re watching the Super Bowl or big event on live TV, we hardly ever see ads. So if there was an option to skip ahead, my kids always did. But the handful of times that wasn’t available, they rolled their eyes or made faces as the time ticked down. You would have thought it was an eternity to wait for their show to come back on.
  4. My kids had a hard time calling it quits at the end of the afternoon. Unlike the Saturday morning cartoons I adored, these YouTube videos never end. They just go on and on and on…forever. When Garfield was done, I knew local news was up next so I had no problem turning off the TV. But in the YouTube (or streaming service) world, it can be darn near impossible to unplug because there is always something more to watch – always something exciting and new at our fingertips and on a screen. So, I, like many other parents out there, had to say time is up and turn it off.

It was a long but good afternoon. I feel very lucky that my kids are still at the age where they are happy to share with me what they’re watching – to be honest, I’m never too far away when they’re having screen time. Still, I was glad to sit and give them my undivided attention for their guided tour of YouTube-land. There are plenty of scary or dark subjects on the internet that I pray never affects my kids. But there is also a wealth of information and educational opportunities out there that I hope will always interest them and help them to be life-long learners.