Video Round-Up: What My Kids Watch When My Kids Watch YouTube

May 05

Three boys hovering over a glowing screen is a common scene in my household. Every once in a while I ask, “what are you watching?” Invariably it’s some inane YouTube video they are more than eager to explain to me in painstaking detail. Or worse, they ask me to watch it with them. As a digitally-concerned parent, I usually oblige. So for today, on my first Porridge Report video round-up, I am showcasing my sons’ top YouTube video selections.

what kids watch online

For the record, I was a little shocked by some of the videos they recommended (and apparently watch regularly). However, I try to maintain an open mind so that my kids continue to share their viewing habits. Tonight they excitedly told me of two favourite videos, which I watched for the first time while writing this post. I was surprised by the questionable content. But on the other hand, I also recognized that the videos are very funny and somewhat reminiscent of the Mad Magazine issues I perused as a tween myself – vulgar, satirical, and edgy – and, well, sort of brilliant.

Below is one example of the hundreds of videos created by Smosh.com. This one is called If Video Games Were Real (my 11-year-old was adamant that I watch this one). It’s pretty darn funny, but there are references to fake breasts, cursing, and violence. I get that it’s all satire but I’m a bit concerned that my young boys are watching this. Note to self: schedule a “chat” tomorrow.

 

This next one is by The Computer Nerd. It’s pretty lengthy. Clearly these young YouTube sensations know how to hold a boy’s attention for longer than any mother or teacher (I can barely hold any child’s attention for more than 4 seconds). It’s a funny commentary on Justin Bieber’s song Baby, although it still manages to have one violent scene.

What are your kids watching online? Be sure to ask them once in a while. You may be surprised by what they tell you.

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Thank You Internet For Introducing My Son to Dumb Blonde Jokes

May 03

Boys love to tell jokes. They’re naturally good at it, too. As a teenager, I laughed my way (batted my eye lashes) through many guys’ jokes from the truly funny to the slightly offensive, and the “I don’t get it but I’ll pretend I do and laugh anyways” jokes. Now, with three boys of my own jockeying to be crowned funniest kid on the block, the male instinct to toss out one-liners for a few chuckles is more obvious to me than ever. And thanks to the internet, there are a zillion resources for fine-tuning their fledgeling comedy acts. Unfortunately, not all resources are of stellar comedic value.

Leave it to my oldest son (who is 11) to find a website devoted to dumb blonde jokes, now a mainstay in his joke arsenal.  (Ah, remember when kids used to be at least fourteen before they started telling offensive blonde one-liners? Kids start so much younger these days…)

I learned about his new skill a couple days ago while I was cooking dinner. He scooted into the kitchen with a smile on his face, and clearly energized about something.

Son: “Mom, I gotta joke to tell you.”

Me: *Sigh* “Okay.” (cutting carrots)

Son: Okay! (Lifts iPod to his face and starts reading) There was a blonde who found herself sitting next to a Lawyer on an airplane.

Me: Wait a second. Is this a dumb blonde joke? Really? You’re telling me a dumb blonde joke? (Rolls eyes and keeps cutting carrots)

Son: (Chuckles) Well, ya. Okay… (goes back to reading his iPod) The lawyer kept bugging the blonde wanting her to play a game of intelligence. Finally, the lawyer offered her 10 to 1 odds, and said every time the blonde could not answer one of his questions, she owed him $5, but every time he could not answer hers, he’d give her $50.00. The lawyer figured he could not lose, and the blonde reluctantly accepted.

Me: Why do you think it’s okay to tell jokes about blondes? Why not tell jokes about brunettes?

Son: Well, I dunno. It’s not as funny.

Me: Why isn’t it funny?

Son: Because it just isn’t. Let me finish the joke.  The lawyer first asked, “What is the distance between the Earth and the nearest star?” Without saying a word the blonde handed him $5.

Me: You know that I’m blonde, right?

Son: No, you’re not blonde. Your hair is, like, darker. Not, like, really, really blonde.

Yeah, I'm blonde, even if it's chemically enhanced.

Me: I’m blonde. And, where are you getting this joke?

Son: Oh, there’s this awesome website CoolBlondeJokes.com. It’s got a bunch of really funny jokes.

Me: Of course there is. (Oh goody)

Son: Just let me finish the joke.  Then the blonde asked, “What goes up a hill with 3 legs and comes back down the hill with 4 legs?” The lawyer was puzzled and looking up everything he could on his laptop and making air-to-ground phone calls trying to find the answer. Finally, angry and frustrated, he gave up and paid the blonde $50.00.The blonde put the $50 into her purse without comment, but the lawyer insisted, “What is the answer to your question?”Without saying a word, the blonde handed him $5.

Me: (A small laugh) Okay, that’s not too bad. But I still don’t think you should tell blonde jokes. Don’t you think some of the girls in your class with blonde hair might be offended.

Son: (Shrugs) No. They’re funny!

I returned to my dinner-making as he rattled off another couple of jokes. Some battles, I decided, just aren’t worth fighting. I realized that of all the horrible influences offered on the internet, dumb blonde jokes are pretty low on the totem pole of concerns. And, anyways, it would probably replace their ‘Yo Mama’ one-liners that they’d taken a liking to (courtesy of, you guessed it… the internet) which were actually pretty damn funny. Even for an old school Mama, like me.

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Book People Unite Video Will Inspire Parents to Read to Kiddos

Apr 19

This wonderful one minute video is a public service announcement by the children’s literacy non-profit organization, Reading is Fundamental (RIF). If this doesn’t inspire a parent to read to their kids, I’m not sure what will. Share it with your video gaming kids and see if it sparks their own desire to read more books (I’m betting it will!)

Nearly two-thirds of low income families in the United States own no books. Remember to donate your used kids’ books to schools, libraries, and organizations that support children of low-income households. Canadians can learn more about supporting literacy by visiting ABC Life Literacy.

Watch and enjoy!

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Why Trusting Parents May Not Buy Their Kid a Mobile Phone

Apr 13

A cell phone can hamper a child's leap toward adulthood

My soon-to-be 12-year-old son periodically pleads for a cell phone when he grows weary of watching his classmates constantly text on their cell phones as he twiddles his underused thumbs.

“Everyone has a cell phone EXCEPT me!” he exclaims with desperation.

“No,” I respond, my cold mono-syllabic reply cutting deep into his soul (I know this because of the ensuing tears and accusations of how cruel a mother I am).

While I prefer to leave the conversation right then and there, my son will ensue with the false hope that I will recognize the breadth of his suffering. But, here’s the thing. Buying my son a cell phone isn’t like buying an iPod, that, by the way, was also essential to his very survival as a tween (and once purchased, quelled the pleading for, um, a few weeks).  The cell phone is an ongoing gift that keeps on taking (from my wallet). But even more than the financial drain, the cell phone has the potential to undermine his journey toward independence.

If I were to purchase my son a cell phone, it would enable me to send him texts.

All. Day. Long.

u forgot ur math book :(

Don’t take bus I pickup :)

Bringing pizza 4 lunch :D

Having a good day? :)

Going to buy u underwear 2day :D

What pants u want me to wash? :)

Going on run. txt u when im back :(

I’ve spent the past 11 years fostering my son’s independence. Slowly disconnecting the figurative umbilical cord (of which he’s been more than happy to oblige). Yet a cell phone seems as though it would, to some extent, re-build that connection with a digital umbilical cord that is no less potent than the figurative one.

When I think back to my own childhood, my memories are a treasure chest of parent-free experiences where I strengthened my bonds with those outside my family, made decisions that – good or bad – I learned to live with, and in essence, prepared myself for the bigger decisions I’d one day be making. By the time I was 12 years old, I’d think nothing of heading straight to my friend, Erica’s, house after school without calling home to check in. I knew dinner time was at 5pm. So, that’s when I’d scoot back home. On weekends, I’d hop on my bike and take off to the park with Erica and Joanne, then hit another friend’s place for lunch, ride to the convenience store for some packs of Rainblo, find another friend’s house to make crank calls. Go home for dinner. All with nary a thought about my mom or dad. They didn’t worry about where I was. I didn’t worry about telling them. Pure golden independence.

I understand that many parents (including myself) worry about the safety of their kids, and hence, see the almighty cell phone as an assurance of safety. They may say, “I always know where he is. We text all day long so that if he’s at the park, I know. If he goes to friend’s house, I know. I never have to worry.”

Funnily enough, my mom never had to worry either. Because she trusted me. “It’s not a matter of trust,” many parents will argue. I get it. Yes, there’s a possibility that a child may be kidnapped – every parent’s biggest fear. But the chances of that actually happening are slim. We all know that. So, maybe it is trust?

As I observe my sons grow increasingly independent, I feel great pride in their ability to make smart decisions. They know how to keep out of trouble. They are respectful of adults and one another. And, I especially love that they are learning through their own mistakes. For a child entering in his tweens, I think there is no greater reward than having freedom from, well, Mom. For the millions of kids who are equipped with smart phones, that’s impossible as good ol’ ma beeps them every fifteen minutes:

Where r u? Having fun?:D

Making ur fave dinner :) Come home soon.

And, what should happen to a child who ignores Mom’s beep? Probably a lecture when he returns home to NEVER ignore mom’s messages.

When my son begs for a cell phone, I don’t think he understands the full ramifications of what he is asking. He is a naturally free spirited boy who’s been working diligently toward full independence since he was about two years old. As much as I love his company and could very easily fall into the trap of wanting to ensure he is 100% safe 100% of the time, I recognize that a cell phone will encourage me to grow increasingly attached to his every decision, every worry, every moment. Conversely, my son will likely grow increasingly reliant on my approval and permission when he really should be moving in the opposite direction.

Twelve years is, truly, a transformational age for kids. When their youthful creativity and sense of independence swirl together to create magical experiences that straddle the world of childhood and adulthood. Experiences that will help them become the amazing adults they are meant to become.

Mom’s constant presence, whether digital or real, will hamper that from happening.

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Tip #29 – Teach Your Kids that their Private Parts are Private Despite What They See Online

Apr 03

Offset sexual imagery kids see by teaching privacyOn my eighth birthday, I’d received a light pink bikini as a present from an aunt. While the adults ooh’d and ahhh’d at how cute it was, I feigned gratitude as I my stomach twisted into knots. Me? Wear that little thing? I was finally persuaded to try it on, but then refused to leave the bathroom to let anyone see me. “Yep, it fits,” was all I could muster before twisting the new bikini into a ball and hiding it in the corner of a bathroom cupboard, never to be seen again.

I was, you see, exceedingly modest. Even at the unripened age of eight. And, I felt too exposed – too naked – in anything smaller than a tank bathing suit. Growing up in an ultra-conservative and Catholic household, my mother had taught me and my two sisters to take great care in protecting our youthful bodies from overt display. This, she hoped, would help protect us from being leered at by potential predators and from ever wanting to play “doctor” with the boy down the street. (Which we would never have dreamed of doing.)

Fast forward to today, and this rigid thinking might easily be dismissed as old fashioned and out of touch with the laissez-faire attitude of sexuality. After all, thanks to television, movies, and the internet, a child can access anything from girls in skimpy bikinis to full out pornography with a few typos in a google search (or not). The less supervision in a household, the greater the likelihood a child will be exposed to inappropriate content. Hence, the disturbing stories that pop up every once in a while about young students performing sexual acts in school that, frankly, they should neither know about, nor want to engage in.

Some school systems across North America have resolved to push kids into more robust sex education as the solution for preventing today’s over-exposed kids from taking part in illicit behaviours. Their reasoning is based on the assumption that every kid knows about the birds and the bees (and then some…), so better to learn from a trusted source than a hip hop artist. And, if they don’t, well, just trust us (the school) to introduce every 12-year-old to the concept of fellatio. Uh, really? While I agree with the underlying logic of this thinking, I also believe that kids would benefit from one simple message that seems to have disappeared completely from this discussion. A message that can help prevent them from even wanting to role model what they see online.

Teach them to “Protect your privates.”  I know – has a real ring to it, doesn’t it?

Parents and teachers could use sexual education as a platform to not only teach young kids about sexuality, but to instruct them that, despite the proliferation of naked body parts on screens, their own private parts are, well, private. That is, not for sharing, unless Mom and Dad say it’s okay (like the doctor’s office, bath time). Kids would, in fact, be learning modesty. (Remember that word?)

I’m not calling for a country-wide ban on thongs, nor pleading for a distribution of turtlenecks to be worn by every female. I’m just pointing out the power of the simple message to kids –  keep your private parts private – to help offset the endless stream of sexual messages flooding our kids’ vision.

We can’t stop them from seeing the Victoria’ Secret TV ads that pop up unexpectedly, or LMFAO’s Sexy and I Know It music video proliferating YouTube, nor naked pictures of almost every celebrity of the last decade. (I’m hoping we can prevent them from seeing online pornography, but even that is not a guarantee.) But despite all their exposure, kids are capable of understanding that, although these adults participate in such behaviour, you need to be respectful of your own body’s need for privacy.

As they grow to adulthood, and have developed a context for sexuality, they can make set their own limits for what is acceptable. After all, it happened to me… I now wear a bikini.

Image provided by http://www.graphics-and-desktop-icons.com/cartoon-bikini.html

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Welcome to the Screen Years, er, Tween Years

Mar 27

My eldest son is almost twelve years old and the rules of the household are becoming increasingly “optional” in his mind. Mind you, he has always been alarmingly adept at finding clever detours to get around the rules that I so painstakingly try to uphold.

For years, the boys have been forbidden to turn on the television before going to school. It encourages a harmonious morning routine and inhibits the likelihood of the kids missing their school bus, and hence, being late for school. Before implementing the rule, I’d wasted far too much time begging (read: yelling at) my kids to turn off the TV as they blissfully ignored me. On the best of days, they would begrudgingly unplug themselves from the TV screen, rush to grab jackets, boots, bag, and leave me with three half-empty cereal bowls to clear from the coffee table. On the worst of days, we would become embroiled in a family feud that would make the housewives of New Jersey cringe, during which time the bus would roll on by, and I’d be forced to drive them, late, to school.

However, my No TV rule keeps our mornings as honky-dory as a Mr. Rogers episode. That is changing, bit by bit, thanks to the introduction of the iPod into our household. Now that my son owns one of these digital devices, my coveted screen-free mornings are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

iPod with cereal

My son's morning fix

Although it is not as disruptive as a big screen TV show, his new morning ritual is causing some tension. Not the least of which is among his younger brothers who regularly remind me that their older brother is breaking not one, but two rules. No TV in the mornings, and no video games from Monday to Thursday. And, why can’t they, too?

Needless to say, I am spending more energy begging him to turn off his screen. Typically, he turns it off before I must resort to yelling, however he likes to remind me that it is HIS iPod and therefore, has every right to use it (he knows he’s skating on thin ice with this reasoning, but like I said, he likes rule detours).

As much as I detest the sight of the above image, we have come to an amicable arrangement. He is allowed to turn on his iPod to check his email, texts, and DragonVale.He has convinced me that the game DragonVale needs regular attention to maintain (funnily enough, so does our dog, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about staying on top of that).

My middle son, God bless him, is still in the voracious reading stage, so I’m more likely to find him reading a book than staring at a screen most mornings. I will try to enjoy every wonderful moment of it before he becomes a tween himself. And, yes, that includes ignoring his continued pleas to have his own iPod.

Read books, don't play video games

A part of the morning ritual that I encourage

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