How we Safely use YouTube for Homeschool Preschool

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I wanted to share this picture of my boys going on a virtual field trip through a river with Boysenberry Kids. I was going to mention how I loved having my preschool students pretend to fly across the world on virtual plane rides. I've taken them on virtual hikes to observe how high a mountain actually is (in the best way a public school teacher could show them). It makes learning early childhood learning a little less about laminated visuals and plastic toys.

Then I thought about how the news surrounding YouTube and children has been quite negative lately. I've seen article after article shared, and noticed comment after comment. Parents are deleting the app and never letting kids use it again. While it is awful to hear about, I struggle to find it dangerous enough to quit using it as a resource.

But, perhaps my concern isn't with YouTube. Instead, it's with the idea of parents handing their kids free access to YouTube. I just don't understand how that would ever be a good idea for kids. Before creepy characters instructing kids to commit suicide there were, and still are, inappropriate ads playing in between videos regardless of the content you watch. There are hateful comments from hateful people with nothing better to do but tear others down. There are kids making millions of dollars opening toys while others waste hours of their brain cells away.

Let me stop before I start sounding judgy. I get it. Parenting is hard, and there is absolutely no way to entertain your kids all day. I like to clean and cook dinner without tending to whiny kids. Sometimes, I use Youtube to get this done. GASP! But, I control every video from my phone and cast it to the TV.

As much as I refuse to use devices to entertain my kids in public, I sure have used it as a last resort. When all the coloring books, "I Spy" games, snacks and "go sit with grandpa" tactics wear thin, it happens. Using a tablet or phone is not a habit for my kids or anything they expect. It kind of shocks them when I hand them a phone in public.

There is no danger in handing them an age-appropriate book. No inappropriate ads are found in blank paper and crayons. They may fall and scrape their knees outside, but they won't be cutting their wrists in the correct formation because someone on the internet told them to. There's enough research out there on this subject for me to get back to my original point.

Here are two reasons why I won’t abandon YouTube regardless of what dangerous content is on there:

1. I'm in charge of it.

2. It is beneficial for learning.

My husband has fixed many house issues and car troubles thanks to YouTube. I've learned how to pronounce difficult words correctly and how to hand letter without paying a dime. It's so beneficial to our learning these days.So is the internet, yet we all know that handing kids a web browser with no limits would be a disaster waiting to happen.

We use YouTube as a learning tool and for songs that we’ve already screened. That’s it.

It's that easy for me. However, if you're bothered with supporting a site that does not have these matters resolved, there are other video streaming options. Vimeo, Dailymotion, Vevo...just to name a few. I checked them out and did not find everything we are currently using for our lessons, but I did find some. My issue with what I found was that it was not the video originators posting it. Therefore, someone who downloaded a Youtube video is now getting the views, and ultimately the paycheck, for someone else's work.

Using Youtube Safely

Check the source:

One of my safety measures for choosing videos to show in the classroom and in my home has always been to check who the creator of the video is. If I want to watch nursery rhymes, then I want to make sure I use a legit account that concentrates in children content. Not HotMama9482783's version of "Humpty Dumpty." Don't look it up because I made it up, but it could potentially be there and be exactly as awful as it sounds.

Play videos without ads:

Ads can be an issue if you are using the site without a membership. This was always something that made me extremely nervous as a teacher. The last thing you want is a student to go home and say they saw the trailer for a horror film when I know I was innocently trying to show them a song about the letter A.

There are safe ways to copy a link and share the video. This eliminates worry about what will show up in the queue to play next or what ad play prior to the video starting.

I have heard of a few but have only used Safeshare.tv. While in the classroom, I would copy the link from Safe Share into my lesson plans to open easily without students waiting on me to safely show a video.

Again, I would encourage adults to limit the amount of time they use it and to always be watchful of what's playing. Watch along with your kids or only cast from your phone to another device where they do not have free access to change the videos.

Youtube Alternatives (for early childhood to elementary aged kids)

I listed a few video streaming websites earlier. You will have to check them out yourself and read reviews on their child safety access. I cannot verify anything about those sites until I have any reason to leave YouTube and use a different video streaming source.

Personally, if you are just needing to entertain your kids during a rainy/snow day, or just to make dinner, these are some of my favorite options, if playing in their rooms or outside is not an option.

Free Sites:

GoNoodle- Get your kids moving with short interactive songs and activities. Yoga, Zumba, silly handshakes, and hilarious dance moves. They have so much to offer. GoNoodle is designed for Elementary aged students. The best part is that it's completely free for parents and teachers to use. I can't recommend this one enough.

PBSKIDS- Watch full episodes of your favorite PBS shows like SuperWhy, Dinosaur Train, and Sesame Street!

Paid Sites:

Get Epic- Online library of books and videos. If your kids love books but also love screen time, here's a win-win.

Netflix- If you have Netflix, there are plenty of kid-friendly movies that will get you through a bad weather day or a show to get dinner made. We love Superwhy, Storybots, and the Magic School Bus.

Brain Pop- Animated educational videos and activities for a wide array of subject areas. This was a go-to source of technology to add to my lessons in the classroom.

Favorite Youtube Channels (Preschool to Kinder Age)

If you are wanting to use YouTube but don't know where to start finding decent kid content, here are some of our favorite channels to use. (Again, I control them from my phone and can make playlists so that I know what will play next and limit the time they watch).

Storybots-If you don't want annoying kids songs stuck in your head, this is the place to go. I can jam to Storybots and my kids are learning while I do.

Super Simple Songs-Kids like watching songs. I'm not sure why, but it's like the MTV of nursery rhymes. Every kid song you can think of with cute graphics.

ABCMouse- If you don't have a ABC Mouse account, you can still access their songs on YouTube. They have some great letter songs.

Listener Kids- Hands down, the best kids church songs. I just wish they would keep adding more because we wear them out to worship to!

Cosmic Kids Yoga-Super fun way to introduce yoga moves to kids through interactive stories.

Sesame Street- Who doesn't love Sesame Street? You can find new and old clips on YouTube.

We stick to these channels. Every now and then we will try a new source if these channels don't' have what we are looking for. I feel comfortable as long as I know the right source is playing the videos my kids are watching. All too often, people download and share content that is not theirs and that's when the dangers of altering harmless children's videos comes to play.

What are your takes on the use of Youtube? Is it something you need to add limits to or is it something you refuse to use? I would love to hear how parents with older kids (7+ years) handle this issue since mine are still little learners.