YouTube and parenting inadequacy

Kids playing on an assault course on a rare day out

When I was a child we watched a few hours of kids TV after school, and a few hours on a Saturday morning. There was none of this all-day TV and certainly no internet. The rest of the time you had to keep yourself busy.

Sadly my kids are growing up at a time when not only is there 24-7 TV but streaming services too. As I don’t have a TV license (I refuse to pay for one for the couple of hours of BBC the kids would watch every week), the TV is either switched to Netflix or the dreaded YouTube.

It’s not so bad with my son, who is old enough now that he’s mostly watching videos about Minecraft and other computer games. But my daughter enjoys watching videos by rich US families where the families generally “do stuff” together. For the most part there’s no real narrative behind the videos; sometimes they might do challenges, do crafty things (often involving slime), possibly try out some new (sponsored) toys. But a lot of the time they are just playing or making up some story or other. These aren’t wannabe actors showing off their skills – just kids and their parents playing pretend.

As well as not being able to understand the entertainment value of these videos, despite obviously being popular among the younger generation, I just hate these videos with a vengeance. Even though some of the families are less annoying than others I still can’t stand them. They show the children watching some perfect life where the parents are always playing with the children, in massive, immaculate houses, where the kids have an endless supply of whatever they want. And even worse, these families are making money from showing this unrealistic picture of life.

When you are struggling to make ends meet, to keep the house tidy, to cope with the kids’ behaviour and to get them to eat healthily and exercise, these videos only serve to make you feel inadequate. Hell, half the reason my children are watching these videos is because I lack the time, patience, or inclination to spend time playing with them. And then I have to tell them no, you can’t have the amazing toy you just saw, and you can’t do the “let’s only eat food the colour pink” challenge, because I can’t afford it and I am not letting you eat absolute crap for 24 hours.

I’ll never be the perfect parent. My daughter is currently sunburnt. My son has barely got out of his chair for two days. But earlier my son told me he loved me and my daughter told me I’m the best mum in the world. So while YouTube may make me feel inadequate at times I have two wonderful kids to remind me that actually, it’s all okay.

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