I Thrived Without YouTube (and I Think My Kids Will Too)


I sat in the Great Clips chair with a cape loosely covering my sweatshirt, my 16-month-old son on my lap, screaming. He wanted nothing to do with getting his haircut on this particular day, and the stylist began panicking. “Can you let him watch a show on your phone?” she asked me in a somewhat annoyed tone. I tried to explain that he has no interest in TV yet and I knew it wouldn’t work.

He continued to scream. I wanted this haircut to be over as much as the stylist wanted me to put on a show to calm him down, but I knew that we were both stuck there. Embarrassed, I fumbled with my phone and clicked on a baby show on the Amazon Prime Video app that I knew my toddler had no interest in watching. He took one look and threw my phone down on the chair. That was that.

We live in a time where we can literally hold a television in the palm of our hands. We’ve all seen or parented, the child watching a show in the shopping cart, at the restaurant table, or, if willing, the hair salon chair. It’s not unusual for toddlers to own tablets and elementary school students have smartphones. And while I don’t like to use my phone as a tool for making my child sit still, I have bribed my 3-year-old with the ‘Baby Shark’ videos so she’ll sit down in the stroller long enough for me to go for a walk. You gotta do what you gotta do, right?

The viral warning of the Momo Challenge — a scary creature who pops up on children’s YouTube videos and challenges them to harm themselves — makes me think twice. As a mom of two young kids who don’t have access to a tablet or phone yet, it terrifies me to think of the future. Can I ban my children from watching YouTube until they are adults? I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I was 13 — maybe this is the 2019 equivalent? Can I keep my kids from owning phones until they’re 16, just like I was? While I hope that this Momo Challenge is a thing of the past by the time my kids are old enough to access streaming services on their own, I am not naive enough to believe that there won’t be other things to worry about then.

In a time when everything is right at our fingertips, we have to worry about our children seeing and hearing things that we never would have at young ages. I don’t know what the best solution is, but I know that I will do my best to go with my gut and protect my kids the best that I can, even if it makes me an uncool mom.

In the meantime, if you see my toddler screaming in a hair salon chair because he doesn’t want to get his hair cut, don’t assume that I can pull out my phone and it will make everything better. Maybe part of the solution is going back to a simpler time. I thrived without YouTube, and I think my kids will too.