Toddler talk Society

Addicted to You(Tube)

Last night, my daughter watched her favourite cartoon in an unintelligible language. She decided the characters were speaking in imaginary words and enjoyed the ‘funny’ sounds immensely. I was too tired to care. She’s watched that cartoon so many times that she knows the lines by heart anyway. What did it matter if she watched the Czech version of it one night?

You read that right. Czech. Welcome to the zany world of YouTube for toddlers. Where favourite nursery rhymes can also be watched in Korean, and kids get hooked to random Russian cartoons (true story), chipmunk versions of Gangnam Style and Lungi Dance are always available for boogying (squeakily) to, and atrocious animation rules the roost.

To say that toddlers are nuts about YouTube is the understatement of the century. Yes, we all know that YouTube is bursting with a crazy collection of videos from around the world, and we all waste way too much time browsing through them. But no one examines them with as much thoroughness as a determined toddler. Give a toddler a screen with a YouTube video loaded on it, and she will, within the next 5 minutes, browse approximately 152 videos, and by the time you check on her again, be busily watching a Japanese cartoon of what appear to be talking ping-pong balls.

Loading a pre-loaded playlist of favourite rhymes is no guarantee against this wanton surfing. By the time song number two loads, she’d have prodded the list of suggestions on the side of screen four times and hop-skip-jumped to a German version of Dora.

The reason for this affinity for YouTube is simple. There are three things that toddlers love above all else — jab-jabbing at touch-screens, playing with anything loud (the noisier the better), and staring at bright, colourful images (no actual meaningful content required) — and YouTube delivers big-time on all three. Plus, it literally has a limitless variety and doesn’t require an attention span of above, say, 10 seconds at a stretch. What’s not to like?

Naturally, there’s no way a kid can be left unattended with YouTube. Which means you’ve got to keep an eye on them even as they browse, and attempt to finish whatever work you’re attempting to finish while listening to ‘Johnny Johnny, Yes papa?’ squeaking loudly from the tablet a foot away from you.

Because that’s what they’ll want to watch. The most egregiously awful rhymes with the most awful animation and the worst musical arrangements and vocals. If you don’t believe me, just go do a search. There are a colossal number of nursery rhyme videos provided by several dedicated channels on YouTube. They all play more or less the same songs, and you might wonder why there have to be so many versions. Well, now you know. They’re just meeting the demands of young children everywhere. They know that any toddler worth his salt would rather watch four awful (and multi-lingual) versions of the same rhyme than just the one nice, tuneful, tasteful one mummy loaded for him.

The well-made, learning-oriented videos are more or less drowned out in the cacophony. Most channels bother not at all with either tastefulness or tunefulness because, again, they know their audience well. They cram in all the noise, colour and variety they can (context, coordination and production values be damned) and voila! three lakh hits from addicted toddlers (my daughter alone is responsible for a lakh or so hits on various versions of ‘Wheels on the Bus’, in which googly-eyed purple buses wander through violently-coloured alien-looking landscapes).

Your only hope for sanity is frequent bans on YouTube and/or ruthless controls on length of watching time. Still, there are going to be those days when nothing else works, when all the DVDs your toddler owns are deemed ‘boh-ring’ and your toddler whines for videos on the iPad and you finally give in out of frustration. That’s when you end up watching cartoons together in Czech…


1. Noise cancellation headphones come in handy. For the rhymes and the whining.

2. When it all gets too much, the tablet just has to go away. Indefinitely.

3. Never leave them unattended with YouTube. Trust me. They browse at lightning speed.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 6:08:15 PM |

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