The YouTube Effect


The YouTube Effect I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but YouTube is the DEVIL. Now that we got that out of the way, allow me to explain myself.

I didn’t have to worry about the YouTube effect when my oldest son was little. He spent his days watching endless episodes of Veggie Tales, Boz, and Little Einstein because those were the DVDs I would play for him during down time or meal time or whenever I needed him to sit still for 30 minutes in order to get something accomplished. As he grew older, those DVDs became tv shows instead and consisted of Power Rangers, Yo Gabba-Gabba, and Wild Kratts. I’ll admit that I didn’t always sit down with him and watch these shows in their entirety, but I never recall hearing something that made me stop what I was doing and question what he was watching. I also never noticed any lingering side effects from these shows other than some sweet Power Ranger moves and a blooming interest in animals and exploration.

Fast-forward to around 2018 when my middle son was a year old. Early mornings were hectic in our house, so while everyone was getting ready for school and work, he would happily sit in his highchair and eat his breakfast while watching TV. He wasn’t really old enough to get into Disney Jr. or other TV shows, but we discovered Cocomelon and other singing type shows on YouTube.

Harmless enough, right?

He’d sit and eat, sing, point, and dance happily while being entertained by the constant stimulation of all his senses. We moved onto cuter categories like Bounce Patrol and other groups teaching skills through songs. It was right up his alley, and we never noticed any lingering side effects other than him knowing all his letters/sounds incredibly early and memorizing songs unbelievably well.

I’ll be the first to confess that as he got older and started being able to control the remote and change the YouTube channel, I just kind of disengaged during his downtime. I had a new baby to take care of and I naively thought that since he was watching Kids YouTube, I had nothing to worry about. To be honest, on the surface that was exactly the case. He wasn’t watching anything inappropriate.

There were no inappropriate images, language, or anything of that nature, but I began to notice a change in my son’s behavior at around five years of age.

It started off with small things like a sassy tone of voice when speaking to us or an eye roll here and there when he didn’t get his way. I also noticed that the things he was watching on YouTube were different. All of a sudden, he was way more interested in watching the daily lives of other kids and families, even kids from other parts of the world. As the weeks went on, I started picking up on the fact that his sense of reality was becoming heavily distorted. I was having to explain simple things to him that I thought he should innately know. Things like, “When you ask Mommy for something, it doesn’t just appear on the front porch” or “I don’t have the equipment or tools to set up a ninja obstacle course in our backyard on a Tuesday morning.” He seemed to be more and more disappointed with our family life and really struggled hearing the word ‘no.’

At that point, I decided to start sitting with him and watching some of the shows he was watching.

When I tell you that I was equally appalled and enlightened, that’s the exact truth. I was appalled at the family life these shows were portraying as “normal,” and I was simultaneously enlightened as to why my son’s behavior had recently changed. It’s what I affectionately call the YouTube Effect and it’s time our kids realize this is not their reality…or really any form of reality at all.

Dear son, although we love you and your brothers very much, we cannot hang a map up on our living room wall that is covered with elaborate prizes so that when you throw a dart and land on one, you get that prize immediately. Prizes such as: unlimited shopping spree at the mall, a $200 gift card to Target, or a TRIP TO HAWAII FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY (all of which were hit with a dart and then immediately granted in the 45 minute episode). We apologize profusely, son.

Dear son, the day you were born, was such a special day and we want to celebrate you each year in the best way we possibly can. However, this will not (for the foreseeable future) include walking you to a limo parked outside our home that then drives you to a private jet that then flies you to Disney World where all your friends are waiting, and you get to ride every ride immediately and buy anything you want. Our condolences, son.

Dear son, it’s Wednesday! This does not mean that when you walk outside into your backyard and say out loud that you want your yard to be filled with inflatables and then you snap your fingers, that it will happen. That would kill all our grass and let’s be honest…we know you. Even a yard full of inflatables would have you bored and wanting something else in under 10 minutes. Also, it’s Wednesday and you are going to camp because your parents have these things called JOBS where we go to make MONEY to pay for your HOME, FOOD, CLOTHING, TOYS, ETC. Can you ever forgive us, son?

As humorous as some of this can sound, I want to bring us back to the seriousness of a six-year-old boy completely losing his sense of reality and thinking that what he is seeing these YouTube families do is what his family should be doing. We are certainly a disappointing family if that is the standard to which we are being held. 

Now, what do we do about it?

We have not completely banned YouTube in our home. My boys still love to dance and sing to Danny Go and Koo Koo Kangaroo, but we have banned any shows that are considered “real” (as in real families portraying real everyday lives). These families are anything but real and the only effects they are having on my children are those of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and a disenchantment with the life they’ve been given. I truly don’t think my child would have experienced these things so early in his life had it not been for the YouTube Effect.  So thank you, YouTube families, for recording your unrealistic days, holidays, and events, and portraying them as your normal everyday life. We say no to you and your poorly staged and acted videos.

In closing, CLEANSE YOUR HOUSE OF THE DEVIL! Or if you aren’t as dramatic as I am, just say NO to unrealistic families on YouTube and stop the YouTube Effect (using a smudge stick is recommended, but not required).

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Amanda Mallery
Hey, Hey! Amanda here. Wife to KJ and proud mom to my 3 boys: Noah (14), Nash (4), and Banks (6 months). I'm a forever Carolina girl that moved to Knoxville in 2003 and have called it home ever since. When I'm not wrangling children or writing for personal therapy, you'll find me stressing about what's for dinner or compulsively moving things around my house (some call that decorating). I could also be found listening to true crime podcasts or sneaking in new Halloween decor because it's my favorite holiday (give me all the spooky vibes). Motherhood is an adventure; let's go on it together! I hear it's easier that way.


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