What Parents Need to Know About YouTube Kids

Photo by Sara Kurfess via Unsplash

What Parents Need to Know About YouTube Kids

By Movieguide® Contributor 

YouTube is becoming the top spot for children’s educational entertainment, and one skilled mom has demonstrated the power entertainment can have on a child’s cognitive development.

At first, mom and preschool teacher Rachel Griffin-Accurso had no idea what she was doing. “I ordered a green screen from Amazon and Googled ‘how to use a green screen with iMovie,’” Griffin-Accurso said about her first YouTube video. 

Griffin-Accurso, the content creator behind the “Ms. Rachel” YouTube channel, wanted to help her son learn after finding that he was “such a visual learner” and content that stimulated many senses would “really help him.”

“She was a preschool teacher, not a content creator; she used a camera she found in her house, recording herself by setting the camera on a pile of books so it’d be at the right height,” Wired reported. 

Many popular children’s YouTube channels have millions of followers, and “The audience sizes for kids’ content on YouTube are staggering.” For example, “COCOMELON has more than 162 billion views and 161 million subscribers,” Wired reported.

But as YouTube dominates children’s entertainment, parents must carefully evaluate their child’s stage of cognitive development and determine if the channels they allow their kids to watch are appropriate for that stage.

COCOMELON, for example, has proven to be overstimulating for many young children, while Ms. Rachel’s videos are often more calming since they are slower and more deliberate. While much of the content is safe for children, Ms. Rachel does include characters with LGBTQ identities. Children may not notice, but parents will.

Movieguide® founder Dr. Ted Baehr emphasizes the importance of catering media to your child’s developmental growth, ensuring the content parents allow their children to view is appropriate for their current cognitive stage.

Movieguide® reported:

Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.

Furthermore,  “Time spent with YouTube is even higher than it is with streaming content. YouTube has really taken over the space,” Nancy Jennings, a professor at the University of Cincinnati and Director of the school’s Children’s Education and Entertainment Research Lab, said.

Gaming targeted at children is also growing, and games such as Roblox and Minecraft offer interactive and captivating entertainment for children. 

Libby Hunt, the research manager at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Digital Wellness Lab, believes gaming will have a huge role in children’s entertainment in the future. 

“The popularity of online environments like Minecraft or Roblox really encapsulates this shift,” Hunt said.

“As spending time on YouTube and Roblox supplants sitting in front of an old-fashioned TV set, the very idea of ‘kids tv’ becomes as antiquated as Saturday morning cartoons,” Wired added. 

As the children’s entertainment environment changes, parents should learn how to find the appropriate content for their kids.

Movieguide® frequently offers tips for how parents can develop media literacy in their children:

Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs…

Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.