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On Viewing Limits

When it comes to sensitive themes in books or videos, Little L is a very easily-concerned and anxious child. She sees fictional characters getting ill or injured or separated from their parents, and she massively overreacts to these imaginary situations to the point of ugly tears. Basically, her empathy sensor is set to maximum at virtually all times.

With a kiddo like this, we have to be uber-careful about what she watches on her iPad or on TV. Thankfully, our lack of cable spares us not only from commercials, but also from programs with mature content or triggering themes. Mostly, Little L watches PlayKids or Sid the Science Kid videos on her iPad. We also have a few Miffy & Friends seasons on iTunes, and a Netflix subscription that gives us our Peppa Pig fix. Finally, whatever videos she'd like to watch, that can only be found on YouTube, we usually download via AwesomeTV so that she can watch it on her iPad without automatically gaining access to other videos.

Because...did you know? There are some very sick, twisted people out there who upload questionable "kids cartoon" content onto YouTube, and because they label the videos as "for kids," they don't often get flagged and removed until some poor kid has stumbled upon a traumatizing episode. When searching for Peppa Pig videos in the past, I have personally come across several that were super disturbing; the characters were all discoloured, and the content was violent and involved blood and daggers and zombies and disease. Our Caillou YouTube searches (I know! Caillou 😒) also yielded an entire "Caillou grounded" series with completely inappropriate themes for little kids. Bottom line: YouTube is a cesspool of bad content that is targeted to hurting the impressionable young minds of little kids. 

So anyway, despite our lax boundaries with screen time, we are probably on the fairly conservative end of the viewing spectrum. We aren't quite Pure Flix conservative (it's a weird "Christian videos-only" subscription of unheard-of, cheesy, family-friendly movies), but we also aren't letting our kid peruse the (filtered, SafeSearch on) channels of YouTube unsupervised. I know there are many parents out there with children who *love* YouTube, and are fans of things like unboxing vids and toy reviews and watching other kids play, but with Little L, we just can't.

It's tricky too, you know? Much as I'd like to say that I watch every video with Little L, the reality is that I don't. I'm using that time to check my own email, or get dinner ready, or tidy up the tornado that has ripped through my living room. It doesn't take long for a savvy little kid who grew up with a touch screen to click on the suggested/related videos on the sidebar of a YouTube page, and what is seen simply cannot be unseen. I'm afraid of Little L having access to, and stumbling upon, videos that could leave her traumatized, which is why we are militant about her YouTube video viewing.

But my kid is a bit of an anomaly, so I wonder: how do you mommas and daddies out there monitor your kids' YouTube/TV/iPad viewing to ensure that they're not getting fed inappropriate content? Are there safeguard apps out there for YouTube? Is there some other service you subscribe to? I'm open to suggestions, particularly as Little L gets older and the issue of viewing limits becomes more of a gray area. 


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