YouTube is My Frenemy


A person with whom you may have a lot of fun … who also has a vile and random dark side. (Urban dictionary)

YouTube is my frenemy.

YouTube can be such a supportive friend, one who assists me in my parenting duties.

YouTube provides my kid an activity to do when he’s bored. He’ll watch hours of roller coasters, of people performing crazy stunts or playing music, or repetitive clips from his favorite shows.

water-139249_1280YouTube gives our son a vehicle for showing us his likes and dislikes. Even if it means that during his search for the most awesome roller coaster videos, my teenager finds and lingers on some very cool water slide videos that also just happen to spotlight girls in bikinis.

YouTube teaches my son how to type and spell, operate a browser window and navigate search engines.

We’re really close, YouTube and I.

But YouTube is sinister. It openly mocks my parenting decision to steer my son toward more “age appropriate” movies and television shows. YouTube destroys that misguided plan by giving him access to an array of videos and clips that we tried to get rid of years ago.

BearPsst. Hey, kid. C’mere. I got Elmo, you like Elmo? How about the Bear? You remember him, yeah? Don’t worry about your mom. I’ll hook you up.

YouTube pretends to be my friend, comforting my kid by keeping his old pals close. Sesame Street and the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House will never, ever be far away. That’s so sweet, YouTube, thank you. You shouldn’t have.

Hippo and DogThat two-faced YouTube is also a bottomless pit of songs we can’t silence. From the painfully sweet Gummy Bear song and the admittedly catchy “hippo and dog” rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” to even (for reasons not entirely clear), Glee’s version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

My frenemy YouTube twirls its mustache and gives us a rotating cache of earworms.

TNBG_ABCsLately, that traitor YouTube has gone behind my back to resurrect “Here Come the ABCs” by They Might Be Giants. I do love these guys, and when my son was younger, I much preferred TMBG’s goofy songs about letters and numbers to any of the other options out there for the preschool set. But still, watching my kid’s joy upon finding these songs on YouTube (years after the DVD disappeared) can’t quite block out the pain of wondering “Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?” a bazillion times a day.

YouTube also worms its way into our lives by cleverly packaging its aural terrors in gifts of reading comprehension. Thanks to YouTubers that upload “lyric videos” of their favorite songs, my son can read the words to the songs as they play, and this helps him get past some of his auditory processing difficulties. I love/hate them for that.

But because of YouTube—much as I hate to admit it—we get moments like this:

From the time my son was little, he’s been fond of that game where you and a partner lie on your backs and push your feet together to play “bicycle.” At some point early on, I added a song to this activity, and every time we play, we sing the song.

Bi-cycle! Bi-cycle! I want to ride my bi-cyc-le, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bi-cy-cle, I want to ride it where I like!

My kid must’ve assumed that his mom made up this silly tune, because yesterday as we bicycled, he was confused when I grabbed the iPad and told him we should pull up the real song.

And, of course, YouTube came through:

My boy read along—grinning in recognition and surprise—as Freddie Mercury belted out “our” bicycle song.

And for that, YouTube, you are forgiven. We’re friends, again….. For now.

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