It happened innocently. The little ones when they were much younger, would love watching poems and ABC videos on their tablets. Thinking they were learning themselves, it would be easy to let them be on the gadget for the time I went for a bath. Before I knew it, my 4 year old was watching unboxing videos and kids playing with toys. Basically, reality television for kids. And he was hooked. Anytime we said to stop watching, he would wail and get super upset. We had just traveled to India and jet lag meant there was little else we could do as a family. Clearly, his use of technology was affecting his behavior.
With his new attitude toward technology, we decided to cut down after that. Any videos online were watched only once a week, or as a treat for doing something exceptional like trying a new food, or helping out around the house with something tough. One day, I saw him watching a video on YouTube Kids about Spiderman and Elsa being pregnant. We turned it off and I went online to search and found that are content creators using kids characters to talk about adult topics.
That was the last time my kids ever saw YouTube on their own.
From then on, any video they would watch would be streamed on TV and only channels I had gone through, researched about and approved.
Still, those ads that target kids with toys and new gadgets specially during Thanksgiving or Christmas can certainly become a bane during shopping as their knowledge astounds us. It’s breeding materialism, at the core, at such an early age. Instead of advertising to parents, now stores have direct access to our kids. Which leads to conversations about being conscious about trends, having enough and buying only what we really need.
But it isn’t only toys any more.
One day, we were driving around and my son, now 7, spotted a poster about a local political candidate. He repeated verbatim the negative campaigning we had been seeing in those few seconds on YouTube before you can skip ad. We had been watching upcoming animated movie trailers. We had laughed over how often those ads were being shown, but it never once occurred to me how much of an impact they were having on my children and their vision of the world. Here was my son repeating something about someone he had seen and heard, without any proof himself in a space I thought was safe for children. How unfair was it to the whole of the next generation that was being influenced in this blatant way!
The good part of this was
we had a big discussion of the different kinds of campaigning political candidates do and how to find out more about them ourselves. We also, talked about how wrong it is to speak badly about someone in a public setting and how our words, specially online, matter a lot. They have the capability to hurt and distort the vision of how a person can truly be. How we cannot trust everything blindly.
We talked about cyber bullying, strangers online and the many ways in which even friends can end up hurting us. It is our duty to those we come in contact with, to know who they are truly before passing judgement on them.
And that is why I say now to every parent, please be very aware of what online content your kids are consuming in their early years. Make sure to have conversations about the same. Online videos can be a great source of information and learning for kids everywhere. But be aware that those even though few seconds before SKIP AD have a huge influence on your child.