TOLEDO, Ohio — A new report is calling online videos "the air they breathe." 'They,' being your children.
Lindsay Brant is a mother of two. She has a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old who know thing or two about online videos. Brant sticks with educational videos, but she knows if her kids had the choice, they'd pick otherwise.
"Jerry the Racecar.' 'Troy the Truck' and these animated things. And Spider-Man. And of course the Ryan opening up his present thing. You know the Ryan kid?" Brant says about the types of videos her kids like.
Research shows as they get older, their love of online videos only grows.
"Kids are less and less involved in what you and I would consider the 'real world' and more and more involved in the online world. So that's how they're gathering everything," says Derek Lee, the clinical director for Perrysburg Counseling Services.
Lee is not surprised by a new survey from Common Sense Media that found the time kids spend watching online videos has doubled in the past four years and it's specific to video watching. The survey found overall screen time pretty much stayed the same, but 56 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds and 69 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds watch online videos every day. In 2015, those figures were 24 and 34 percent respectively.
"We're seeing some of the brain responses to 'likes' as we've traditionally seen to drugs and chocolate," says Lee.
He says that's where the obsession with online videos is dangerous.
"Kids almost have this addictive quality. They'll post a video online and then they're looking to see how many 'likes' they get. And one of the things they'll do if they don't get what they consider a reasonable response is they'll take it down within a certain time frame," he explains.
Lee says there's also dangerous behavior being glorified in many videos including kids jumping off buildings, bad language, unhealthy relationships and, of course, things like the Tide Pod challenge.
YouTube is meant for users 13 and older, but kids under that age are many times accessing the main platform and are not using YouTube Kids.
Brant says her children do use the kid version, and she's very involved and created settings that only allow her kids to watch certain channels, but even that doesn't mean they're fully protected.
"Even some of the advertisements. I'm surprised by the advertisements that can come on even when you're not even paying attention," says Brant.
How to help
So what can parents do? Lee says kids are intuitive with technology so they quickly learn how to get around settings. He says parents simply have to monitor what they're kids are doing.
"As a parent, we not only have the right but we have the obligation to keep our kids safe," says Lee. "One of the biggest things that we have to do with parents and for parents is help them regain the confidence to parent."
Lee says many times parents feel shamed into allowing their kids be involved in the latest trends. He suggests they get a close group of parents and discuss with them what's really going on before simply giving the go-ahead.
"We're losing a little bit of that sense of community. If you and I and six other people are all talking actively and we say, 'Hey are you letting your kids do this?' Well, then we'll know, but most of the time we're not doing that," says Lee.
Experts also recommend protecting homework time, family time, dinner time and bed time. Have device-free zones and a game plan.
Brant says she knows the videos aren't going away and neither is her attention to what her kids are watching.
"It's your number one priority. Like all day long, they're with you. It's your job to absolutely be in control of what they're watching," she says.