When my first son was a toddler, I tried to minimize his screen time. But it turns out, a little screen time can allow you to actually make dinner or load the dishwasher without a small child hanging from your legs. So, my son started watching a few YouTube videos. I liked the videos because they were short and there were educational options, like clips of sloths caring for their young or shows that basically taught him the alphabet. But soon he went down the YouTube rabbit hole—binging on surprise egg videos and questionable cartoons while occasional ads for Viagra also slipped in.
As many parents know, YouTube offers a nonstop stream of content that can be hard to cut off because as soon as one video ends, another starts playing and five others are suggested on the screen. It’s like a never-ending casino game for the preschool set.
So, what can you do if your toddler has become obsessed with YouTube videos and typical methods to curb their addiction aren't working? Why not try some of these less-conventional options?
1. Disconnect your wireless. The first step might be simple, but you've got to start somewhere. Turn off the wireless on the device your child is using. Of course, she might start looking for your computer or asking for the smartphone in your hand. So, if this step isn't drastic enough, move on to one of the other options.
2. Give away everything in your house with a screen. Haven’t you been hoping to return to a simpler time before all these digital distractions? No screens mean no videos and lots more quality time. Maybe you can have your toddler take up some other old-timey pastime—like memorizing poems or whittling.
3. Stage an actual intervention. Pour goldfish in a bowl and water mixed with juice in some paper cups, and then sit your child down at a pint-sized table and set of chairs. Say something like, “Max, we need to talk. You have a problem. It’s the videos. You can’t stop watching the videos! You have a problem!”
4. Just give them some crayons and paper. Some parents claim to have magical unicorn kids that never need digital distractions. They have always been happy to quietly play with just a simple set of crayons and paper. You probably already have plenty of crayons and paper from trying to get your toddler to do this in the past, so it doesn’t hurt to try again. But let’s be practical. You’re probably going to need something else.
5. Re-create scenes from the videos. Perhaps after every episode of "Peppa Pig" your toddler watches, you can pause the video stream and then act out some of what the pigs were doing in that episode with homemade costumes and props. Did Peppa just bake a cake? You can too! Baking with toddlers always goes really smoothly! Did Peppa just go camping? No problem—set up a tent and fire pit in your backyard. Of course, this might be an unrealistically time-consuming option for most normal parents.
6. Lie. Lying is a good fallback for many parenting problems. When your toddler asks if she can watch a surprise egg video, just say, “Sorry, they stopped making those” or “You can, but watching those videos actually puts you on Santa’s naughty list.”
7. Make your own YouTube videos. If you can’t beat them, why not join them? With some of these videos getting millions of views, there has to be some money to be made. Perhaps your toddler can set up his own surprise toy opening videos or you can record an original family musical theater number. Just proceed with caution, some of the family YouTube videos have gotten out of hand.