Family, Kids & Relationships

Kids’ Time on YouTube Has Doubled Since 2015—Here’s What Parents Can Do

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Parents don’t need a study to tell them how much their kids love devices. Everywhere you look, kids are exchanging real world conversations for phones and tablets. They’re spending more time than ever in the digital world, and the only thing that’s changing is where they click to the most — YouTube has taken over as the most visited site by kids of all ages.

According to The Common Sense Census, a study done on media use by tweens and teens in 2019, the amount of time kids spend on social media keeps rising — and the time they spend on YouTube has doubled. From 2015 to 2019 tweens have gone from spending 25 minutes a day on the popular video site to an average of 56 minutes a day. Teens averaged 35 minutes a day in 2015 and are now up to 59 minutes per day on average.

While this is good news for YouTube, it’s not such good news for parents out there trying to find ways to entertain their kids beyond the screen. As the number of content creators on YouTube rise, so do the reasons to keep watching. With 2 billion monthly active YouTube users and 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s hard to compete with the amount of entertainment at our kids’ fingertips. And let’s not forget about YouTube success stories like Ryan Kaji of RyanToysReview. At under ten years of age he was the top YouTube earner in 2018, making $22 million. 

So with kids caught up in the draw of new videos every day and the glimmer of a thought that they could be the next YouTube star, how can we decrease their time in front of the screen?

Here are a few tips that Common Sense Media recommends using to make our kids’ time online as healthy as possible:

Turn screen time into bonding time

Download games you can play against each other, listen to (and talk about) podcasts you both enjoy, or watch some YouTube together. Ask your child about their favorite channels and content creators; you can learn a lot about their interests, and get some insight into their online activity at the same time.

Enforce boundaries

The Census shows screen time only increases as kids get older, so make sure there’s still plenty of time built into their day for homework, play, and family time. 

  • Ask your kids to stop their screen use at natural times, like the end of an episode or after they’ve watched for set amount of time. 
  • Plan out and clearly communicate screen-free times and zones. Establish when and where they can’t use devices and stick to it. Surprising them with a last minute request to get off devices will only be met with lots of requests for “one more minute.” 
  • Finally, disconnect the wi-fi at night. As kids get older it’s harder and harder to get them to turn everything off and just go to sleep. “Unplugging” your our internet at night can side-step this battle.

Get creative

With online video viewing becoming so popular, fewer kids are using the web for creative pursuits. The Census found that fewer than 10 percent of kids enjoy “a lot” creative pursuits like making digital art or graphics, creating digital music, coding, or designing or modifying their own video games. In comparison, 67 percent of tweens and 58 percent of teens enjoy watching online videos “a lot.”

If your kids are into “How to” or DIY videos, give them a chance to try out what they’re watching. If they enjoy slime videos, get them the supplies to try out a few recipes. If they’re watching someone cook, put them in charge of tonight’s dessert. You can further encourage creativity through digital tools on apps like TikTok and Instagram; when used safely, they can offer fun ways to create photos and videos. Common Sense Media has a helpful list of other apps that help kids express themselves. 

Pay attention to what your kids are up to online

Only 50 percent of tweens and 26 percent of teens reported that their parents monitor their online activities, and just being aware of the use can help limit it. Remember, beyond YouTube and other apps that might just merely be a waste of time, their devices can give them access to dangerous apps, like the ones online predators use to victimize kids. It pays to know what they’re doing, so you can help guide them to make safe and healthy decisions.

A big part of the screen battle is making peace with the fact that the world our kids are growing up in is changing. YouTube and other forms of social media are the ways our kids enjoy spending their time. As parents it’s our job to remind them that some screen time is okay, but the real world has so much more to offer.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -