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 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 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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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.

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Tip #28 Add Google to Kids’ Chores

Mar 06

I am a firm believer of chores for kiddos. I hated doing them as a child, and the good Lord knows, I did plenty of ‘em. Among my four siblings and I, we easily clocked in about five hours of chores on a weekly basis. In fact, it is precisely because I hated them so much that I realize their importance.

I knew over the years that the best way to complete chores was to just get’er done as soon as possible. That way I could carry on, burden-free, with what I really wanted to do (like read Sweet Valley High #17: Love Letters). Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with the principals behind chores – you enjoy living in this house, you need to contribute to its upkeep. And, yes, I do pay an allowance in the same way I was paid a stipend for my torturous hours of household duty.

Now that the digital revolution has moved beyond the thrills of being new and exciting, families such as mine have come to recognize some computer tasks as laborious, thankless, and a royal pain in the butt. The novelty of switching on the iPad or laptop to search Google has worn off like the silver coating on a cheap mood ring. In other words, digital sleuthing has become almost as much a chore as running errands (albeit, a very lazy way of running errands).

Questions like: what time does the store open? Where is the hockey game? How much does that video game cost at Wal-mart? require a trip to the closest screen where somebody must type in the requisite topic (sans typos). Furthermore, it is almost always delegated to Mom or Dad, not one of the kids, whose specialty is in video games and YouTube videos, right?

Think again. Kids, as much as adults, need to familiarize themselves with the navigation of the internet. In the very near future, digital tools will be the only vehicles to uncover basic information. When was the last time you looked up a business in the yellow pages? (My kids don’t even know what the yellow pages are.) Based on a recent survey by Media Awareness Network Digital literacy is surprisingly low among kids. They lack basic searching skills and have little or no ability to think critically about the website content they come across.

Why is this? I would venture to say that part of the blame lies in us, the parents. Many of us stifle their online freedoms for fear that little Sally will encounter inappropriate content (of which there is an abundance). However, that excuse can be quite easily refuted when one considers the variety of internet filters available today (including many free options).

I’d always assumed my kids, who are no stranger to the screen, were perfectly capable in any online pursuit. So, I was flabbergasted when I read the survey. Unwilling to believe it, myself, I put my 11-year-old son to the test. One particularly frustrating morning, as I meandered through unknown streets, I asked him to look up an address on my iPhone’s GPS. He was clueless. Later that morning, when I drove him to the wrong location for his hockey practice, and shoved my iPhone at him to find out the correct arena (as I peeled out of the parking lot), he was, again, no help to me. And, this is a kid who owns an iPod Touch.

The survey results proved correct, even in my own household where ownership of Apple products was ridiculously high. Sure, they could find their favourite video games and click from one moronic YouTube celebrity video to the next, but they were incapable of basic online sleuthing skills. The kind of ability that every citizen in the Western hemisphere who wishes to participate in society needs in order to thrive.

I have decided that I will no longer be the “go-to” person to look up times, dates, or locations on my laptop every time a question of that nature arises in our home. Instead, I will encourage (read: command) my oldest son to pry his eyes from whatever zombie he’s shooting on a screen and perform the task, himself. Yes, I am bound to experience more groans, eye-rollings, and “Why can’t you do it, Mom?” replies. But, he will eventually acquire the skills necessary to sift through the loads of online crap to find the golden nugget of information we need. And, I will kindly tell him, as I do when he is forced to practice guitar, load the dishwasher, or get dressed for yet another practice, “You’ll thank me for this one day.”

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Mar 02

I have a varied past in how I’ve dealt with video games in my household of three boys. By varied, I mean I used to have a slew of threats that I would yell at various times during the day at any one of my boys when they could not pry their glazed eyes from a screen. I was regularly exhausted and emotionally spent from the constant effort I exerted in trying to tame the digital beast that could hypnotize my kids to ignore all sounds emitted from their mother’s mouth.

Over the past year, I have experienced a major change in how I deal with my kids and the digital barrier between us. I came to recognize two important truths. The first of those was that technology never moves backward. That is, screen technology – and all the unsavoury habits that come with it – is here to stay. It didn’t matter how much I wished it away, digital tech was not going to suddenly disappear from our lives. Once I accepted this, I changed my strategy from trying to deny its growing influence in our family to trying to work its existence into our lives in a way that could actually benefit us (or at the very least, not tear us apart).

The next truth, and the more important of the two, was learning the true definition of listening. Ironically, it was a marriage counsellor who taught me how to listen. I soon discovered that it requires far more effort than I’d ever thought. After practicing this intense attentiveness with my husband (which requires a post all its own), I transferred my nascent skill to the relationships with my children.

What, you may be wondering, does this have to do with technology? The answer is simple: a disproportionate amount of our family rivalries were focused on how we related to the screen. The kids were playing too many video games, I was fighting with them to turn it off, I was on my laptop when they tried to chat with me, I was worried they’d be exposed to “bad things” online. All these scraps converged into an upheaval of continuous frustrations. We each craved our screen time on our own terms, and yet we’d never sat down to think about why or how it was affecting us, much less talk about it.

Communication – that is, face to face communication – was non-existent. Ironically, the need to listen to one another is more essential than ever in the digital age. For example, it helped me share my concerns about the dangers of the internet, which in turn helped my kids be more careful online, which of course led to fewer frustrations. As a screen-obsessed society, parents need to be that much more cognizant of their efforts to verbally talk and quietly listen (not interrupt) while looking at one another (not the TV, laptop, or iPod screen). Listening, I’ve learned, does not count when one person is distracted by a YouTube video of piano-playing cats.

I finally implemented a no-video game rule from Monday to Thursday after discussing my reasons with the boys. They begrudgingly accepted it. The cutbacks on video gaming then freed up time for my boys to talk to me about their day. I also make a conscious effort to stop rattling at my keyboard when one of my sons walks into my office to talk to me. I turn from my screen and listen to his latest announcement. I’ve realized that the topic doesn’t matter. What matters is that he knows I am interested. I am listening.

The screaming and threats that once echoed against the walls of our home have diminished (not disappeared, I’m no saint) and I am working harder than ever at carving out time to discuss any number of issues that we struggle with regularly – from squabbling at bedtime to spending too much time texting friends. The point is: kids will talk if they know their parents will listen.

The prevalence of social media provides parents and kids a new way of communicating. However, we need to beware of our reliance on these platforms. The now famous video of a dad shooting bullet holes into his daughter’s laptop provides a cautionary tale for families who allow the one-sided communication of social media to voice their frustrations. Granted, if the daughter had openly voiced her grievances (whether they were valid or not) she’d likely have found herself in trouble anyways (and I don’t think there’s much reason to believe that their father-daughter relationship is grounded in honest and open communication), but perhaps they’d have had a better chance of resolving their problems within a day than in a drawn-out fiasco that involved millions of viewers worldwide. That’s the power of listening.

The reality is that parenting is hard, freaking work. Adding a digital component that tends to loosen, rather than tighten, the ties that bind only adds to the difficult task that we parents face every day. That’s why I am a firm believer in the practice of listening. I say start young, while they still love to share their ideas and experiences (however silly and seemingly unimportant). I’m hoping that as my oldest son heads into his teens (gulp), he will not stray too far me. And, maybe, just maybe, when I feel like smashing his iPod to pieces, I can gently share my feelings with him before listening to him explain why he so desperately needs to check his texts every ten minutes.


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