What My Teen Learns from YouTube

Written on May 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm , by

Me: “Are you wasting time on YouTube?”

My teenage son: “No.”

I go look at the computer screen. Sure enough. He’s watching YouTube, not writing the paper that’s due in 18 hours. I give him a disapproving look.

“It’s not a waste of time,” he informs me. “I learn a lot on YouTube.”

This is actually a conversation we had quite a while ago. I long ago admitted that I was wrong. Not entirely. He should have been writing his paper, of course. But I was wrong to assume that he was wasting time because he was on YouTube. He does waste a lot of time, by my working adult standards anyway, watching silly jokes and anything that will make him laugh there. But he also learns a lot.

After engaging in more than one discussion with him where he clearly knew a lot more than I did – and I read the news every day — about current events, I asked him to show me his sources. Some of it was a bit raw – cussing and whatnot – to share here. But some of it was outstanding, youthful, edgy, current, and highly informative.

YouTube partners with some outstanding educational sources for educational content, including StanfordHarvardPBSTED, and the Khan Academy. So these days I’m more likely to suggest a YouTube video to my kids than to ban the site. I figure if I send them to content that’s funny, entertaining, and educational at least that’s time they are not spending giggling as they watch a cat fly out the window. (Though there is nothing wrong with feline-antic induced hilarity in reasonable quantities.)

Check out the video I included here. Or for an ever-changing daily menu of funny, fascinating, often beautiful and always educational videos just check in at YouTube EDU.

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.” You can find her at, as well as here on



Young Girls Are Posting “Am I Ugly?” Videos on YouTube

Written on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm , by

Pre-teen and teenage years have always been fraught with insecurity. But rather than seeking a confidence boost from close friends, many kids are turning to strangers on the internet. A recent article on the Huffington Post reports on a disturbing new trend: Young girls are posting videos of themselves on YouTube with a simple question–”Am I ugly or pretty?”

Responses in the comments section range from encouraging to obscene. Not surprisingly, many are concerned that the posters, who are often younger than the site’s required age (13), might not be able to handle the unabashed–and often vicious–anonymous feedback. To prevent long-lasting issues with self-image, some are calling for parents to monitor their children’s usage of the site. Pushback is also coming from teens and preteens, themselves. Some are creating and uploading videos in response to the trend, questioning its purpose.

While our lives are becoming increasingly public–Facebook profiles, YouTube pages, and personal blogs, for starters–it might seem natural to seek public affirmation to assuage our private fears. Yet, the what’s posted on the internet is permanent. So, too, can be the effects of hurtful comments, especially during the tumultuous tween and teen years.

Parents, are you concerned about this trend? Do you monitor your child’s internet use? What suggestions do you have for bolstering children’s self esteem and creating a positive body image?

–Carly Okyle, guest blogger