I’m just gonna say it:
I hate YouTube Kids.
The scale of my disdain for videos featuring 20-something dudes screaming while playing Minecraft makes me want to dive out of a moving semi-truck straight out of a scene from Terminator Two.
I’m not tucking and rolling, just let me die.
If you’re without children, you’re likely wondering what I’m talking about; who doesn’t love YouTube?! It’s got awesome content that can teach you how to rewire a 2001 Ford Taurus, new insights into the life of Jimi Hendrix, or how to make a killer lobster mac and cheese.
Regular, everyday missionary YouTube is fine. Who doesn’t like watching Sopranos clips on the toilet? (Can we be real and say that Christopher was a fuckin’ dick?)
From what Google tells me, over 30,000 hours of footage are uploaded to the platform every hour. It’s probably more, considering everyone feels a need to document every trivial moment of their lives for the world to see, not settling for just - remembering things.
What I don’t truck with is YouTube fucking Kids.
I’ve got two young boys, and you’d think they were mainlining straight Kurt Cobain-grade heroin when they’re watching YouTube because trying to get them to watch anything else is next to impossible.
And within the rise of the platform, people figured out they could make money through YouTube’s partner platform.
Some people, like Sam the Cooking Guy, or Russell Brand, have millions of followers who watch their videos daily, getting paid thanks to the commercials that play before they do their thing.
I’m all for this because I love watching deep-cut Anthony Bourdain interviews or long-lost footage of Big Momma Thornton showing Elvis what a pansy he was when she growls out the original “Hound Dog” that’ll bring anyone to their knees.
(In the battle for the King of Rock and Roll, I’m giving that crown to James Brown or Chuck Berry. Elvis has some cuts, but he ain’t the king.)
ANYHOW, somewhere along this hellish timeline, folks were smart enough to make videos for kids.
There’s this guy Blippi who wears a dumb hat and orange glasses and squeaks at the camera while acting like a six-year-old, but my beef isn’t with him.
Blippi invests money into his brand, making his videos better quality or cutting some new megadeal to get his toys sold in Target. The guy did psychological research on color schemes and naming conventions to get his character right. He studied what a small child could say and retain via syllables. He researched many aspects of building a new children’s character and crushed it.
Even though I can’t stand listening to him fake chuckle while explaining how the tractor goes vroom, you can’t hate on the guy for piecing a multi-million-dollar ecosystem, all while rocking whack orange suspenders.
What every other parent and I can’t stand is the rest of the YouTube jungle that our kids go deeper into daily; the videos of people filling pools with Jello, cars running over random objects to see them break or squish, a random set of hands playing with toys - or worse, unboxing them.
And millions of kids watch this, no grand finale, just two hands unboxing a Peppa Pig figure set, or weirder, they open a giant easter egg with a toy buried in slime.
They also love watching people scream at the television as they play Roblox or whatever popular game they’re currently obsessed with. For hours, they’ll stare at people world - building when they could be doing it themselves.
YouTube is a tool, an extension of a search for knowledge or to pass the time waiting for the dentist, but it is not my primary source of entertainment by any stretch.
When I was a kid, it was different.
We got up early as possible on Saturday mornings and binge-watched cartoons. We downed bowls of Lucky Charms or whatever sugary cereal was on sale that week and took in hours of shows like Ren and Stimpy, He-Man, or Rainbow Bright.
I’m not oblivious to the notion that I was brainwashed into a weekly routine that allowed brands to shove marketing propaganda down my throat. I’m just saying that while I might have watched episodes of George Lucas’ Droids, I wasn’t watching an adult pretend their Halloween decorations talked to one another and were in a fight.
We were at least dealing with a scripted product.
Once cable came along, that market shifted, and Saturday mornings were less imperative. But there are streaming services now, which offer a cadre of options.
My kids don’t give a shit about television. Between their mom and I – we have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Discovery+ and Disney+, and probably something else I forget that charges my bank account monthly.
Occasionally, a show like Adventure Time or Steven Universe will capture their attention until they’ve completed the series. Once it’s over, they rarely go diving for something similar.
Instead, they go back to watching adults shop for Halloween decorations at Spirit with saccharine glee that’s just plain out fuckin’ strange. I get excited about kissing my girlfriend, not the new Michael Myers doormats that feature a scene from movie number 13 or whatever.
When you go down the rabbit hole, it’s not surprising that the Google recommendation algorithm is curated to what we like. It’s no accident that the suggested videos in the Up Next section are what my kids want to see.
We’ve manufactured a crackhead-like addiction to the randomness that YouTube and something like TikTok gives us based on its unpredictability and non-linear format, which provides an “in the moment” feel thanks to the brain’s desire for novelty which lies somewhere next to fake dog shit and Rick and Morty energy drinks.
Kids are so structured, thanks to a generation of helicopter parents, they love not knowing what could happen next. Because the content is often generated out of some dude’s basement, there are no mandated storylines, which gives them a sense of freedom within context.
Thankfully, my kids are out of the Baby Shark and Daddy Finger stages. Jesus, that was the absolute worst.
Today, they watched two dudes with three million subscribers sit in boxes where people poured liquids on them via random buttons pushed. These same people will fill an arena for a live show, and I’m still broke complaining about it.
What the fuck do I know?