If you haven’t seen the frankly terrifying pictures and stories of “Momo” flying around social media you must have been living under a rock. I’m not going to add fuel to the fire by showing the image here though, and I beg you not to search it (especially not on a device that your child uses ). If your curiosity really gets the better of you then please search with private browsing. Momo actually made a brief appearance last year some time as well, but it was much smaller scale than the current outcry.
This sudden influx of terrifying content has caused a lot of parents to delete the YouTube application from devices that their children use, and you can understand why, but for our family, YouTube has been problematic in other ways for much longer, and a few weeks back I finally just got rid of it. The result? A happier, more focused child.
Holding the attention of a three year old can be hard enough, when that three year old can channel hop between unstimulating videos there is bound to be a problem. I noticed that he couldn’t focus long enough to complete simple tasks like finding his shoes or getting a drink if he had been merrily skipping through YouTube videos. All of our TV is streamed through the Xbox so he could easily switch you YouTube once he figured out how to use the controller, letting it go on for so long is possibly my biggest regret as a parent.
My son is three and I will be the first to hold my hands up and say he gets too much screen time. It’s a habit I fell into that I am not proud of but it is what it is. what I have noticed is this: YouTube turns my kid into an a spoilt, bratty nightmare. My usually sweet little boy was getting spiteful and short tempered after we let him use YouTube. Tantrums were magnified way beyond his usual upset and resulted in an outright refusal to engage in anything else.
Aside from Momo, there are plenty of unsavoury things on YouTube – some of which are accessible even in the supposedly safe YouTube Kids app. It’s not even all dangerous, sometimes it’s just kids being a little bit naughty, but it all influences young minds. Other times, your children’s favourite characters might be having sex, swearing or even threatening your children in the middle of a seemingly innocent video. My son was watching Polar Express themed videos and the related videos lead him to a version of The Polar Express recreated in Minecraft which then lead him to watch an adult Minecraft streamer who was swearing like a sailor. That was the day we deleted the app, enough was enough.
I see a lot of people saying it’s fine as long as you supervise your kids online but let’s face it, if you had time to closely supervise every second of your child’s viewing you have time to turn the screen off and do something more constructive. Perhaps I am wrong, but I know that the reason I rely on TV at all is so that I can actually get something done in the house, I’ll often be in the next room. If I do sit down to watch something with my son it will be a movie, something that takes a bit more concentration and has a storyline that actually interests both of us.
So, YouTube are clamping down on Momo content and urging people to report videos they aren’t happy with, but that doesn’t stop YouTube being problematic in other ways. If recent events have lead you to delete it I encourage you to keep it uninstalled, no matter how safe they tell you it is in the coming weeks.