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When it comes to setting screen time limits on YouTube, do mum Colette and son Ben see eye to eye?


Heads or Tails is a semi-regular column that shares the views of a parent and child responding to a topical issue or feature in the news.


From unboxing videos to slime tutorials, YouTube is the entertainment channel of choice for kids these days. In fact, YouTube has recently overtaken TV when it comes to viewing content and today’s young people are more familiar with YouTube than the BBC according to Ofcom. Now with the news that YouTube plans to invest $100 million into new children’s video content on the platform, what does this all mean for parents when it comes to setting limits? We asked Colette Burgess, the author of We’re Going On An Adventure and her son Ben (aged 10) their thoughts.




1. Do you set screen time limits on YouTube?

Yes we do! I think it’s really important. When Ben was younger he was allowed to watch YouTube Kids but we had concerns about the quality of the content – not because we saw anything inappropriate or dangerous, but because it appeared to be mostly other children opening toys or random cartoons. We felt he could be watching something with more purpose, so we removed the app until he was older. When he turned 10, we gave Ben access to YouTube again but with rules: he currently has a 30-minute daily time limit on the basis that once we knew we could trust him to self-limit, we would relax this. Once or twice he has exceeded his limit and we’ve taken YouTube away for a short period.


2. What are your concerns when it comes to Ben watching YouTube? Do you have controls in place?

Screen time is the main concern but also his safety. We are constantly told how easy it is to come across inappropriate content, although for me this hasn’t actually happened on YouTube as much as Instagram, and I must admit things seem to have improved there, too. This is something we’ve discussed a lot with Ben, and we’ve talked about how he should let us know if he finds things he doesn’t think he should be watching. We’ve also warned him that we’ll find out if he’s choosing to watch inappropriate things. We don’t use parental controls because we do want Ben to be able to learn to manage his access to YouTube himself – we want to show that we trust him to be sensible with what he’s watching and to stick within our guidelines and parameters. He knows that we can and do check up on what he’s watching, and how long for, and if he breaks our trust, he loses access to YouTube or his tablet temporarily.


3. The latest advice says parents need to worry less about time online and more on the quality of what they’re doing and watching – what do you think about that?

I think this is a really important point. We want to know that Ben isn’t mindlessly consuming hours of random memes and pranks but actually learning things (even if that is how to build something on Minecraft) or generally broadening his horizons by learning about new places or things, like his dad, who spends hours watching tech videos! By limiting the amount of time Ben spends on YouTube, I hope this will encourage him to make more careful choices about what he watches rather than just watching for the sake of it.


4. What do you think the benefits are of Ben’s YouTube use?

Ben gets a lot of enjoyment from watching content on YouTube – he uses it to find out how to do things on Minecraft, he likes to research things that he’s been learning about at school, and he certainly finds it entertaining. There’s a certain amount of fitting in with his peers, too. Before we let him have access to YouTube, he did say once or twice that he felt he couldn’t always join in with conversations because he wasn’t allowed on it. This was definitely a factor in letting Ben use YouTube – not so much that we felt under pressure to allow him to, but we realised that he was of an age where we could trust him to be more sensible.


5. Do you ever watch YouTube together?

Not really – only if he wants to show me something funny that he’s been watching. I can definitely see the benefits of us spending some time watching together, though. Allowing me to keep an eye on what he’s watching whilst also showing an interest in the things he’s enjoying - maybe it would help me to actually understand Minecraft!


BEN, 10:


1. What do you love about YouTube and what do you like watching? Do you ever share videos with your friends?

I love being able to watch things that aren’t on TV. I like to watch Mumbo Jumbo (a Minecraft Redstoner), Grian (a Minecraft builder) and Share My Story (that’s where you can watch people’s life stories). I like to watch memes as well. I don’t share videos with my friends, but we sometimes talk about them at school.


2. What do you think about YouTube Kids?

I don’t have YouTube Kids now. I had it when I was little, but all I watched was adverts and stuff like kids opening things. At the moment, I use the original YouTube.


3. Is there anything you watch that you’d feel awkward watching with your parents? Or have you come across videos you don’t like?

I haven’t come across any videos that I don’t like and so far, there’s nothing I would feel uncomfortable watching with Mum and Dad. If I thought there was any chance there was something inappropriate, I wouldn’t watch it.


4. Why do you think you and your mum disagree about YouTube and what do you think would help you disagree less?

I understand why she does it, but I disagree about why I should have a time limit. I think I should be free to watch it when I feel like it and I think we would disagree less if I had a longer time limit. That way, she would be happy I still had a time limit, but I’d be happy because it was a bit longer.