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What Do You Do When Your 2yo Knows How to Navigate YouTube?

By ilanawiles |

My two year old daughter, like many toddlers I’ve heard, is obsessed with the iPad. Specifically YouTube. So much so that regular television just won’t do.

What do you mean, I have to watch the entirety of Sesame Street and not flip to the next video as soon as Elmo leaves the screen???

She also believes that every picture or icon on my phone or computer leads to a world of videos. Which in turn leads to another world of videos. Which will eventually lead her to her new obsession— a Polish-dubbed Barbie video where everyone is getting dressed up for a red carpet event.

When we first let Mazzy try the iPad, we put a bunch of Sesame Street videos under “favorites” (her television viewing is limited to PBS only) so they were easily accessible to her. We never imagined that at two-years-old, she would use those videos to find other videos (new favorites that we had not pre-selected for her) and then memorize the paths to get there (Elmo to Dora to Strawberry Shortcake to Polish Barbie for example). Now I watch Mazzy click on several videos and quit them immediately because she is using each of them solely to get to the next set of available videos.

It is both interesting and worrisome to see how her tastes have evolved in just a few short months through no influence of ours whatsoever.

One of her new favorite videos is an animated version of Hansel and Gretel using Mickey and Minnie Mouse as the main characters. It is incredibly dark (a witch traps them, feeds them, tries to cook them, all scored to ominous music) but Mazzy loves it and seeks it out regardless. I told her it was “scary” but now every time she finds it, she looks at me excitedly, points to the screen and says, “Mommy! Scary!” with a big smile.

My sister (who has a doctorate in school psychology) told me that at this age, Mazzy is too young to process the scary tone of the video and it shouldn’t do her any harm, so I let it go.

But there are other videos creeping up that have me flying across the living room to stop play as soon as possible. Like Annoying Orange where every episode ends with a screaming fruit being sliced with a cleaver. Or a Barney video that Mazzy stumbled upon where Bart Simpson shoots the singing dinosaur down with a machine gun. That particular video gives me exactly 12 seconds to hurdle the coffee table and press pause before Barney is left lying in a pool of his own blood.

Clearly, this YouTube access must be monitored more closely.

I am already enforcing stricter iPad time limits and uploading more educational games to keep her occupied— but how to control YouTube usage remains a mystery to me.

Mazzy knows the YouTube icon, so any time she gets her hands on a smart device, that is exactly where her little fingers go. And sitting next to her as she plays with it (sorry if this makes me sound like a bad parent), kind of defeats the purpose.

YouTube does have parental controls that block sexually explicit content, but as far as Alec Baldwin screaming bloody murder at Dora the Explorer— that’s just a few simple clicks away from Ernie singing to his rubber ducky in the bath.

Does your toddler use your iPad or know how to navigate YouTube? How do you limit their usage?


For anyone that doubts Mazzy’s YouTube competence, below is a video I made using footage of her from 16-20 months. Sadly, her proficiency has only increased.


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About ilanawiles



Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a humor blog geared towards new parents. She is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Blogs and one of The Huffington Post's top 20 women to follow on Instagram. She lives in NYC with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and a newborn baby girl. Read bio and latest posts → Read ilanawiles's latest posts →

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18 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Your 2yo Knows How to Navigate YouTube?

  1. Natalie says:

    My son, age 5 LOVES Luigi and Mario, the Nintendo games, the Wii games, the movies, the cartoons, you name it, he loves it. He is uber proficient at navigating YouTube to find the videos. His favorites are now this guy playing the Wii games while filming it, with a running monologue. Dear Son now plays his Wii games with a running monologue just like “chuggaconroy” *Sigh it is the reality of a connected society.

  2. Alison@Mama Wants This says:

    My 2 year old is an iPad expert – he discovers functions before I do, and actually seems to know what they’re for.

    He doesn’t access YouTube pages simply because we have not exposed him to it. Not much anyway.

    For now.


  3. Julie says:

    Could you try instead? We started using that ater my 2YO started always going to the most viewed videos on YouTube by accident. Charlie Bit My Finger was fine but some most def are not!

  4. Brandy says:

    Mine doesn’t know YouTube but has Netflix down pat. We have tried to put those apps like a couple of pages in. He doesn’t seem to come across them as easily. Good luck.

  5. Jrseygirl in VA says:

    Did you know that there is now a PBS video app for iPhone, so I’m sure they would have one for iPads too. Maybe that with moving the Youtube app will help? There is also a Kideos app that (supposedly) only has kid safe videos on them. It does have an Elmo channel and I am not sure about controls on it to block the videos for the older kids. I have an older and a younger and they both wind up watching the Batman, and Spiderman series on that. However my younger has now discovered the PBS video app and is sticking to that one for now……..

  6. Ninja Mom says:

    You are singing our song! My kids are adept at seeking out inappropriate Harry Potter spoofs which involve Ginny in compromising positions with Harry.

    The foreign stuff is especially fun. There’s some Angry Birds video they’ve found in a language I’m not familiar with. It’s all singing, and the pictures are tame enough, but in the back of my mind I worry that the kids will do a semester abroad in Slovenia someday and belt out the chorus, only to find themselves thrown in jail—without an iPad to entertain them.

  7. Gina says:

    My dd is very adept too. This morn she was watching Barbie in french. Before that she stumbled on snow white clips in polish. I just listen for bad overdubbing which is usually a sign of some teen idiot who thought it would be funny to have donald duck swearing. I use her access to the videos as a carrot. You do x and y and you can have mommies phone. :)

  8. C @ Kid Things says:

    My 5yo is really into looking up zombies on YouTube. I’ve tried directing it towards kid-friendly zombies or funny zombies, but he much prefers the kind of undead that wants to eat your brains. I should probably start saving for his future therapy now.

  9. Christine says:

    No iPad in this house. And we don’t let her play with the phones. She one time got to watch a video on the Kindle Fire, but there was no available WiFi so she wasn’t going online with it. Just watched the video.

    Her older brother (17) discovered annoying orange and watched a bunch with her around. She now will walk around saying, “Hey apple!” She doesn’t get it, and it’s kinda funny/cute (because she doesn’t get it) …. But I’m not thrilled with her having been around those videos.

    I’ve done netflix and youtube for her on the TV and she hasn’t figured out how to advance to the next video.

    When she watches regular TV with commercials, she freaks out because she thinks the show is over everytime it goes to a “commercial” (you know .. the Nick Jr and Disney commercials). She doesn’t understand that it will keep playing.

  10. Lisa says:

    Those cute little fingers! We don’t have an iPad but our son sure loves our iPhones. It’s amazing how fast they learn to use technology!

  11. says:

    No, no, a thousand times no! She doesn’t belong on the iPad at this age. You are destroying her ability to concentrate for more than 5 seconds. Everything is instant gratification. Not to mention, what’s next? Love you, Love Mazzy, but just NO!

  12. ilanawiles says:

    Bridget- I know, I know, I know. I had read that exposing your child to television too early could increase their chances of becoming ADD so I strictly limited TV— only a half hour in the morning and she didn’t watch it all until she was around one.

    But I also read the iPad was better than television for kids because it was interactive. Like a cause and effect toy. I’m not sure at what point we broke down and let her watch Sesame Street on the iPad abut even now, we don’t let her do it that often. She is just a really quick learner.

    So here we are. Attention span officially gone.

  13. Kristin says:

    I still haven’t ventured into the world of smart devices, but my mom got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and in the few days that my 2YO spent with her grandparents over Christmas, she learned to use it. She’s also loves YouTube and does the same thing Mazzy does – uses certain videos to get to others. And yeah – some of those “child-friendly” videos are anything but!

    We sometimes let her watch YouTube on my laptop and the other night she landed on a video with Barney in which someone had dubbed in the f-word over the word ‘love.’ And you know how much Barney says ‘love.’ Even though I was sitting right there with her, I could not get that damn video off the screen fast enough.

    I don’t know what the answer is – limited usage obviously, but we can’t keep them sheltered forever. And how in God’s name are they so adept at electronics at age TWO? I still have no idea how to use a tablet even after my mom’s Kindle Fire tutorial!

  14. Gretchen says:

    My son has learned to do the exact same thing– he loves Tractor Tom in Polish and Peppa Pig in Russian! It is scary how fast he gets there even by deleting the history, changing my favorites to sesame street and PBS kids. Yes, I too wish that there was a YouTube rating system much like tv and movies that allowed a parent to help control what they can see. I personally think that if something has been flagged for language or violence, then even with the controls I have set, then they shouldnt be able to see them. But how to regulate?!? Clearly it is up to the parents to stay within arms length of your children while online.

  15. Kristin says:

    You could delete the YouTube App and access YouTube through Safari instead. Then install the PBS App mention in an earlier comment. Just a thought.

  16. Jennifer says:

    We had to take YouTube off of our phones because my 3 year old son gravitated towards videos that I didn’t care for. I don’t know how to monitor any other way, so now it’s gone.

  17. Stefanie says:

    My almost 3 year old does the same thing. It was never an issue until somehow she started accessing videos that were not appropriate (annoying orange…look it up). Anyway, we tried deleting the YouTube app, but she discovered that you could go through basically any app and get to YouTube…for example, angry birds has a button to watch video clips which takes you straight to YouTube despite deleting the app. We opted for a parental control app that cost us only $4, but we can now block any website or app from our iPad. Best $4 I ever spent. Ps- she doesn’t get on the iPad to watch movies, I’m sure people. There are a lot of educational games on these things that are great on the go. Shape sorting in the car would never work, but I swear she learned her shapes like octagon and diamond on an iPad. Also, we are buying her a leap pad for her birthday, in hopes she will forget about the iPad all together since she has her ‘own’

  18. Suzanne says:

    My kids dont play with those devices at all. We have every gadget but they are children and those tjings are not toys to us. I am old fashioned but my kids will learn how to entertain themselves other wise until the iphone/ ipad/ youtube is an educational outlet- not for fun- go outside and play if you wanna have fun!

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