Is interest-led homeschooling even possible when your child’s only interests are YouTube and Video Games?
My son asks me to sit with him and watch a YouTube video at least three times a day these days.
Sometimes they are funny, Top 10 videos. Sometimes they are science videos that show amazing chemical reactions. Sometimes they are athletes achieving amazing results.
I always come in and sit down, even if it means leaving the dishes for a bit (like I really wanted to be doing the dishes anyway…) because I know he loves showing me his amazing discovery.
More and more lately, I come in and sit down because the videos themselves have become an important part of his learning.
YouTube and video games can bring a ton of stress into a mom’s life. Screen time in general is a huge parenting topic that I will not address in this post. Instead, I want to encourage you that your child’s interests may be healthier and much more intelligent than we tend to assume when YouTube and video games are in play (see what I did there).
I am learning that that there is nothing to fear or fight when your child’s only interests are YouTube and Video Games.
YouTube And Learning
Whether or not we include YouTube on our lesson plans, I think we first need to acknowledge how fascinating it is (or eventually will be) for our children. Take a look at the trends –
A new study surveying a thousand kids ages six to seventeen found that becoming a YouTuber is now the most coveted career choice. 75% OF CHILDREN AGES 6 TO 17 WANT TO BECOME YOUTUBERS.
Four out of 10 Millennials say that their favorite YouTubers understand them better than family and friends.
Nearly 50% of Millennials have been inspired by YouTubers to make a personal change in their lives.
YouTube is a big deal for our kids, and please, let me encourage you, it doesn’t have to be the enemy. In fact my experience, as I have gotten to know more and more about my sons’ viewing choices, has been that YouTube can be a wonderful, world-broadening tool for the entire family.
How We Use YouTube In Our Lives and Learning
1. We Talk About What We Are Watching (and choosing not to watch).
The sad reality is that all kinds of horrible content exists on YouTube.
As much as I want to shield my children from it, as they get older, I realize that I need to teach them how to navigate this site (and the internet in general). This means we watch YouTube on our TV, in the open. It means I listen for random videos that pop-up with questionable content and quickly come in and pause it. We discuss why it isn’t appropriate and find another, more suitable option.
If you have younger children, YouTube has a new YouTube Kids platform that eliminates the need for this almost entirely, until your child is older and better equipped to make content choices.
2. Science and History Come Alive For Our Learning
I can’t tell you how much YouTube has enriched my boys’ study and love of science and history. They have access to actual demonstrations, well designed historic representations and even music associated with their favorite subjects, all from the comfort of our own home.
The truth is that my boys are smarter, more thoughtful and informed because of our family’s use of YouTube videos.
3. We Gain Access To Smart, Successful People
This perhaps one of the greatest benefits I see from this approach to learning in our home.
I love that my boys see real men and women, pursuing their passions and sharing them with the world. We have learned about animals all over the world, the history of Germany, and we have seen what happens when elephant toothpaste is made in bulk to fill up a swimming pool. Even more valuable, we have access to adults living with the same diagnoses and learning differences as my children. My boys are able to see real life examples of adults living well with the same set of challenges they struggle with every day.
4. We Are Closer Because Of It
Because we watch so many of these videos together, our relationship is full of inside jokes and references that I would not have the privilege of being a part of had I not made the decision to join them in their love of YouTube videos.
YouTube provides a shared experience that we all enjoy.
Here is a quick, but powerful example.
My youngest loves the silly sketch comedy of the Studio C YouTube channel. We laugh at all of their Harry Potter spoofs, and my husband and I frequently roll our eyes at each other when my son wants to turn on the same video we’ve watched four days in a row.
Well, two weeks ago, my son had to go in for a series of biopsies. When we checked in, we were informed that the water main had an issue and his procedure would likely be delayed by several hours. He did the best he could to manage his anxiety, but suffice to say, it was not going well. Then, he said, “This is like something from Studio C. You show up at the hospital and they have no water.” We spent the next hour thinking of jokes and skits associated with our morning.
It was an amazing coping mechanism that I did not teach – I simply came along with him for the YouTube ride.
When Your Child Only Likes Video Games
It is a widely held view that video games often include violent scenarios and game play. Moreover, it is generally accepted that video games increase violent behavior in the children who play them.
Contrary to this belief however, is the idea that video games instead provide meaningful interactions, learning experiences, and opportunities for social development. In fact, studies show that these benefits often outweigh the questionable concerns associated with violent behavior (Shao and Wang, 2019).
In actuality, video games create a sort of virtual “playground” for social development (Harrington & O’Connell, 2016), an opportunity to practice reciprocity and cooperation (Verheijen, Stoltz, van den Berg, & Cilleson, 2019), and even increased family communication for those who play together.
Because this is such a complex topic and one that comes up frequently in conversations with other moms, I explain how video games are an important component of our approach to education in a second post over at Simple Homeschool. I share in depth, the reality of what video games provide educationally in our homeschool as well as tips and tricks for using video games as a foundation for other, more comprehensive learning. You can read all about it HERE.
Homeschooling When Your Child’s Only Interests Are YouTube and Video Games
I have heard this over and over again, from frustrated moms desperate to figure out a way to help their children learn and develop. What I want you to know is that YouTube videos and video games are vast and astonishingly varied.
Take the time to get to know what they are playing, what content they are watching and why.
It has truly made all the difference in our home and our learning. I think it can in yours as well.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.