Parents, if you hate kids' YouTube programming you aren't alone. Ever since I first clicked on the "Baby and Mom 'i want ice cream'" video on YouTube, which has more than 33 million views to date, I cannot get the torturously-monotonous lyrics that repeat over and over (and over) for two long minutes, out of my head. I apologize if I'm introducing you to this video for the first time, but chances are pretty good you have already seen this or one of the many other videos being spit out like candy on a conveyor belt from the BillionSurpriseToys content factory. Kids seem to be addicted to the bright and colorful, yet inexplicably creepy mini-movies going viral online. And as a parent, I am at a loss as to why!
Take my infant son for example. Once I hit "play" on the video, he stopped mid-tantrum and glazed over, lured into a trance by a banal, repetitive scene featuring a wide-eyed baby and dancing desserts. I too watched in disbelief, as baby Johny asked again and again for ice cream during a stroll through a park with his pushover mom. His echoey, horror-moviesque voice uttering two simple words will plague your nightmares: "Yes, mommy." Mr. Ice Cream's equally disturbing line, "OK, baby" sent shivers down my spine. After Johny gets ice cream what feels like a dozen times, the video mercifully ends. But then the torment persists when this video rolls into dozens of seemingly-identical clips on the Billion Surprise Toys channel.
In "Say Please Sorry & Thank You," Johny learns about manners through a song that's gotta be the same as the one from the ice cream video. Seriously, this can't possibly be a different song! The "Baby Dental Care song" also features a similar one-note tune and bizarre content about infant tooth decay that doesn't seem to justify the video's 108 million views. And "Safety Rules for kids" has a decent message, but again, its featured song is so headbangingly uninteresting, you'll be cursing the day you handed your child a tablet.
Based in Dubai, Billion Surprise Toys describes itself simply as "a new age media company that creates 3D animation entertaining videos for kids and publishes them on the web." Of course, this isn't the only baby video factory that creates programming for kids on YouTube. You may be acquainted all-too-well with another such channel, Baby Bum Bums, a United States company that also boasts 16 million subscribers and endless, mindless content for our children. For example, the "Sick Song" is indeed sickening due to its mind-numbing repetitiveness and a not-so-cute, big-headed cat family I wished would "go away" along with the sniffles. Almost every kids' YouTube channel also has its own rendition of "Baby Shark." If you're not walking around going "do-do-do-do-do-do" by now, I don't even believe you have children!
So what exactly are we parents missing when it comes to these lame and vaguely terrifying videos? Why are our children amused as we look on in mild revulsion? Parents.com talked to Dr. Lauren Knickerbocker, a child psychologist from the Child Study Center at the Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone about this type of YouTube content. "Young kids especially may stare at a screen transfixed because the visual and auditory elements are designed to attract and maintain our attention, sometimes regardless of content," she explained.
"The [slow] pacing, sound cues, like fun upbeat noises and silly voices, repetition, and familiar themes make this [kind of] media accessible to young children," she says, adding, "These videos are predictable and provide a sense of mastery when the child can identify what is going on or what might happen next." Like that Johny is going to get his ice cream!
Unfortunately, young children may prefer Johny's vapid expressions and bobblehead animal adventures until they are old enough to appreciate plot lines and more varied scripts and sounds on shows like Sesame Street or Caillou. And trust me, you'd be happy to hear those shows playing in the background after just one run-through of the ice cream video!
The good news is that "simple videos that are boring for parents but enjoyable to kids can be part of [their] media diet," Knickerbocker tells us.
So it seems we aren't harming our kids by allowing them to zone out on long car trips. As for the damage Johny and friends may inflict upon my mental state? That's another story!