YouTube has stolen my daughter.
(I’m fully aware that the following rant makes me the crotchety old man on his porch yelling, "Stay off my lawn!" but I’m a dad and therefore too uncool to care.)
Jellybean and I hadn’t gotten through the front door before she declared, "I’m going to go lay down for an hour." She grabbed a bowl of Chex mix and headed for her room, Cooper the basset hound loping close behind.
(She actually said that … "lay down.")
I thought she was actually tired from all that learning they’re doing in third grade these days. If I had to do all that whack math they’re teaching, I’d come home and toss back a couple of highballs like J.R. Ewing.
Plus, I’m not going to lie, I liked being able to gather my wits before gearing up for the second part of the day: dinner, bath, homework, arguing over which TV show to watch during dinner, brushing teeth, bed, sleep. Jellybean wanting to crash was a blessing … until I realized it was all a ruse.
Turns out "lay down" was code for "gorging on YouTube videos from a bevy of young women who seem to always be yelling at me, so it’s a lot like high school."
I knew something was amiss when, rather than the sound of snoring coming from her room, there was loud, uproarious, almost maniacal laughter that would’ve given Freddy Krueger nightmares.
I thought she was huffing glue or something. Nope. YouTube.
I have no one to blame but myself. I was the one who introduced my 8-year-old daughter to this cultural black hole, assuming, with creepy accuracy, that she could find some interesting channels.
Jellybean loves to perform, so I thought that by watching what other people had done on YouTube — creating their own channels and, essentially, their own personas — she could discover some of her own creativity.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I set up an account that I can keep an eye on, showed Jellybean the basics (which weren’t much considering I only used YouTube to watch old videos from the days of Mascara Metal and download episodes of "Punky Brewster" she loved a few years ago) and sent her out like Bilbo to explore the world.
Oh, the places she went.
She found Rachel Ballinger, the craftiest of her favorite YouTubers. Sometimes, Ballinger makes stuff — like Rainbow Waffles — or teaches her viewers fairly useful stuff — how to pump gas or nail-painting hacks — but most of her videos are of her loudly and enthusiastically reacting to stuff like "Grossest Urban Dictionary Words" and something called "Fro Toe."
Next is Miranda Sings (who has actually graduated to a sitcom on Netflix), who is the tone-deaf alter ego of Rachel’s older sister, Colleen. Grating but funny, Sings is usually responsible for Jellybean’s bursts of hysterical laughter.
Finally, there’s DisneyToysFan, a group of seeming adults who dress like Disney movie characters and play games in which one of the participants either has to eat something gross or have it dumped on their head.
I don’t get it. Of course, I’m not supposed to. But my daughter does, and I guess that’s what matters.
Excuse me, I see some kids on my lawn I’d better go yell at.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.