Raising children is difficult, and that is why God gave us television. Need a break from arguing with your son about why raccoons and geese are not “basically the same animal?” Pop on some Garfield. It’s a victimless crime. And while there are some kids shows parents would rather not watch — I’m looking at you PJ Masks — nothing could have prepared us for the horrors bestowed upon our living room after buying a smart TV: the pre-installed YouTube app.
As a relatively average 39-year-old male, I know YouTube as a site for movie trailers, old music videos I like, and the thing that made a guy named PewDiePie rich, famous, and racist. My kids know YouTube as just another “TV” channel where they can watch kids doing activities instead of actually doing said activities themselves.
One channel consists of a dad, a daughter and son, a mansion in the hills of Malibu, and maybe a mom behind the camera, filming themselves doing all kinds of normal things. The dad, who looks and sounds like Simon Gruber from Die Hard 3, makes Nutella crepes, works in his home office, and gently disciplines his kids. The stars of this channel, the kids, fill up water balloons and throw them into their infinity pool. They replicate internet memes and cartoon characters with colored pancake mix on electric griddles. They argue over why the older sister is allowed to have a cell phone, but the younger brother isn't. And my kids sit there, watching, enrapt.
There are very few plot lines, if any. Just people doing ordinary stuff then asking viewers to “like, subscribe, and share.” Like, subscribe, and share what? The fact that you have the basic skills to point a camera and upload yourself bothering your sister while she watches TV? It’s not like you spent three months learning some bizarre basketball trick shot or let an alligator loose in your kitchen — activities of value to the American public.
There is another channel where the kids construct plot lines, which all revolve around their dad wearing spandex costumes and his uncanny ability to use Adobe After Effects to make himself disappear, reappear, disappear, reappear, and disappear again. They call him the Games Master, and there are a lot of Southwest U.S. desert landscapes and cardboard boxes that go into the production. And while I appreciate their effort, it is still pretty insufferable to watch.
The good thing about the YouTube app is that it has driven us to make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of screen time we let our children have. Last weekend, I taught my son how chess pieces move. And now he has a new game to play that will stimulate his mind, and I have a child prodigy to video tape and exploit on my new YouTube channel: Kasparov Kids.
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