When I was a kid, I used to wake up to Saturday morning cartoons. Long before there were DVRs that allowed you to fast-forward through the advertisements, I would see commercials for a new toy or game and yell out “I want that!” hoping that my mother would hear and buy it for me for Christmas or my birthday, the main two occasions in life where one was bestowed with such items.
Back when she was a toddler, Saturday morning cartoons were the routine for my eldest daughter too. We’d wake up to Dora or The Wonder Pets and occasionally, Blue’s Clues. But then we got an Ipad, and ever since, it has become the main source of entertainment—and the main source of conflict—in our home.
Shopping in Wal-Mart the other day, my daughter begs me, “Can I go look at the toys, please?” I agreed as I was only a few aisles away. When I finished grabbing what I needed, I found her. She eagerly showed me the Animal Jams in her hands.
“What are they?”
“Animal Jams!” And she proceeded to tell me about them in such detail that I knew it wasn’t something she stumbled across haphazardly.
Where did she learn about them?
My four year-old paraded around the house the other day giving hashtags to everything, including her own name. “Hashtag Abree”…”Hashtag Fruit Gushers”…
“Abree, do you even know what a hashtag is?”
“Yeah, it’s like on Family Fun Pack when they say ‘hashtag down below.’”
Hmmmm…Family Fun Pack, a vlog my children watch on YouTube. “Down below” must be a reference to “comment down below” which is at the end of every YouTube video, and for good measure, she added in the hashtag, which she clearly picked up also watching YouTube.
Whether air bags or spirit animals, 90% of the time, my children have first learned about it on YouTube.
The first words they utter in the morning are, “Can we go on the Ipad?” Those words are echoed the minute they get home at the end of the day as well.
They bicker over who holds the Ipad, who picks which videos to watch; if timed right, it will lead to a full-on melt-down. And yet…sometimes, when they are both snuggled in my bed watching the Ipad together, their little heads sharing a pillow, their faces illuminated, giggling simultaneously, I witness a sweet moment between siblings.
The number one rule in my house is that there is no fighting or crying over the Ipad. The number one loss of privilege in my house is the loss of the Ipad. The number one motivator in my house is equally the Ipad. You want to go on the Ipad? You better do your reading. You did your reading? Good. You better practice your karate.
We have banned certain YouTube channels based on how annoying the people’s voices are, and quite frankly, there are a lot. (Cookie Swirl C…hee hee hee.)
Still, the Ipad, especially YouTube, is my children’s own little form of crack.
Once upon a time, kids used to play with toys, whereas now they watch adults do it on YouTube. That’s right, adults.
Recently, my children have become obsessed with family vloggers, and I am dumbfounded. Why do you want to watch this family go to the grocery store? To the movies? To the DMV? Are my children going to grow up to be creepy little voyeurs? My husband teases them when they are running to the bathroom. “Wait! Let me get my phone and record it so we can put it on YouTube.”
They beg us to set up challenges for them like the ones they watch on YouTube: The Sour Candy Challenge, The Eat-it or Wear-it Challenge, The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge. OK, so maybe not that last one.
How about the Go-Without-the-Ipad-for-a-Month Challenge? Or the Clean-Your-Room Challenge? Ooh, I know…The Read-a-Book-without-being-Coerced-or-Bribed Challenge.
Sometimes they record their own videos, which I’m ok with because they are actually doing something.
Sometimes my daughter will try to craft something that she saw on YouTube, like when she “customized” her My Little Pony and I ended up with fluorescent pink paint all over the inside of my freezer. (Think: Pinterest fails for children.) But again, at least she was doing something.
And sometimes the Ipad does help to teach us things. Like the other day when I was drinking a Gatorade and my daughter asked what exactly electrolytes are. “Grab the Ipad, let’s Google it.” Or when my husband and our youngest were watching a National Geographic video of a cheetah running in slow motion.
And I guess they learn things from YouTube too, although I don’t know that I love what they learn, such as the entire month where they wouldn’t stop singing “It’s Raining Tacos.”
Maybe our parents were equally frustrated with Saturday morning cartoons and the advertisements that accompanied them. Maybe the soundtrack for Super Mario Brothers made them want to pour Krazy Glue in their ears like the father’s voice on Smelly Belly TV does to my husband. Maybe this is just the parenting problem of this generation and we have to suck it up and deal with it. But if given the opportunity, my kids would watch the Ipad till their eyeballs bleed, and I just can’t let that happen.
As the parent, I decide when they get to watch, how long they get to watch, and if I overhear one thing that I deem to be inappropriate, they immediately have to shut it off. But that’s hoping I hear it. How many times are they watching in another room where I don’t hear it?
Having this technology at their fingertips is scary. When my daughter used the microphone feature to Google “cute kitties” I quickly snatched the Ipad for fear what results that might yield. After all, my friend’s son searched “boys coloring pages” and somehow ended up looking at pictures of Baywatch Babes. Even letting my daughter have her own board on my Pinterest account worries me. What other images pop up when she’s searching for fuse bead patterns?
Just as it was easy for our parents to let the TV do the babysitting, the Ipad becomes a convenience at times too. If my kids are immersed in YouTube, I can get dinner on the table lickety-split. Make them shut it off, and suddenly I have four extra hands who want to “help cook” or I have a small human clinging to my leg while a slightly larger human needs my help getting fourteen things down from her closet.
However, if the Ipad really is their crack, then I have to just say no.
Recently my cousin’s wife posted this picture on Facebook with the caption, “Ahhhh! Vacation. Same sh*t – different place.”
All of the comments were cries of frustration from parents like me.
At the very least, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.
Maybe we need a support group that meets regularly in church basements. We could share stories of our children’s relapses and commiserate over steaming cups of coffee.
I’ll be the first to admit it: My name is Sara and my children are YouTube junkies.