If you’re a parent, you likely are all too familiar with that very moment of silence — the moment of despair when you hand your smartphone or iPad over to your child. Enamored into a bug-like trance, your little ones go into wide-eyed silent mode, and you have a few minutes to check out at the grocery store, catch up on a few emails, or take a road trip without the demanding and repetitive “Are we there yet?!” coming from the backseat. Of course, as parents ourselves, we’re not judging. A little age-appropriate screen time can be highly effective in those moments. But we’re here to clear the air when it comes to children and screen time, so here we go: Not all children’s programming is created equal. 

Just as it is nearly every step of the way with parenting, there are a multitude of choices. Among these choices, is what a parent will allow their child to watch.  Back in the days where there were only a few networks that contained kid-friendly programming, it was easy to let your child channel surf and know that the programming was safe, fun, and most of the time, educational. Nowadays, there’s so much more to choose from, and one of the most popular parental choices is the colorful, user-friendly, already-have-it-on-my-phone YouTube Kids. We encourage parents to proceed with caution, because as pediatricians (and parents), we’d put this in last place of  children’s programming.

How Does YouTube Kids Select/Rate Videos? 

Let’s start with safety first. Do you know how YouTube Kids videos are selected to appear on its site? Perhaps it’s a team that’s screening each video and rating them one by one? Nope. Both companies and individual users can submit just about any video — and although they can be blocked if they are outright inappropriate, many make it past the site’s algorithm and don’t get removed until someone sees and reports the problem. That means a computer algorithm is the sole responsible party for what your child is watching on YouTube Kids. There is no custom curator choosing or approving these videos being targeted to children. And when the algorithm misses a video that is inappropriate, you’re relying on other parents (or yourself) to flag the video as inappropriate. Are you really watching the entire two hours of toy-egg opening?

What Kinds Of Videos Are Your Children Watching? 

Those weird unboxing videos of other children (or sometimes grown adults) opening or playing with toys are all user-uploaded. Meaning, they could contain inappropriate language, sexually explicit actions, or violence. Not to mention, most contain heavy advertising messages that are not regulated by any ratings standards.

What Are Some Other Options of Safe Programming For My Child? 

We’re glad you asked! Generally, you’ll want to stick with apps that have a background in children’s education with professionally curated programming. The Disney/Disney Jr. App and PBS Kids both contain free age appropriate games, shows, and interactive content that will both entertain and educate your child without you having to worry about the unknown sources of what your child is watching.

Parenting is all about decisions…this one is a no-brainer.

The Doc Is In at Boca VIPediatrics! For more pediatric health tips, visit www.BocaVIPediatrics.com 

Boca VIPediatrics is a membership model of pediatric care based in Boca Raton, Florida. With a focus on old-fashioned service and the most modern medicine, our VIPs have 24/7 access to text, email, and call their pediatrician directly. Our practice, located in Central Boca Raton, features no waits for office visits, same day appointments, unhurried visits with the doctor, and house calls. For more information, visit www.BocaVIPediatrics.com.