I had considered writing, back when everyone was talking about it, about the “Johnny Johnny” videos. It was a remarkably short-lived obsession, though, and I’d already scheduled something else for that month, and the next month it felt like I would have been jumping on a trend too late. However, my kids were still watching those videos. And I’d hated them way before the majority of the internet seemed to have become aware of them, because they are awful and deserve hate. I don’t know, now, if “Baby Shark” is still something people are talking about. But my four-year-old definitely is.
My son Zane never liked singing, when he was four. (Zane, in one of the most clever moments of his young life, used to announce during “circle time” at his play group when he was very small, that he had to go potty. He was newly trained, and he knew I wouldn’t call his bluff, so he could escape the singing.) Sandy, however, does. She likes singing, and she likes hearing people sing, and she likes videos where people sing. And also unlike her brother, what she wants to listen to is the ubiquitous “Baby Shark.”
This is another one where I cannot myself watch it. Sandy is heartbroken because I only let her watch just enough to get the picture—she’s dancing, there. I did recently watch a Big Fat Quiz of the Year where it was one of the answers, and the entire panel cringed. And I wanted to tell them that “Baby Shark” is the mere tip of the iceberg in dreadful children’s YouTube programming. And, yes, I’m pretty sure she still hears “Johnny Johnny” now and again.
She is in fact routinely banished to her room with her tablet because her brother’s in class. If she is quiet in her room with Cocomelon, well, she’s not disrupting his education. (This year has been hard on all of us.) She starts preschool in the fall, Gods willing, and while it is in fact possible that they’ll listen to some of these songs in class—her brother did, and I have the video of the year-end party to prove it—at least she’ll be listening to them with other children, and half the fun will be dancing with her friends, not alone in her room. (She is not an introvert.) Music with other kids is an important part of development.
At least I don’t have to worry that these things are radicalizing her. I don’t have to be afraid that Daniel Tiger—she also watches some Daniel Tiger videos—is leading her down a dark path to the alt-right, even if it’s a show I loathe. I don’t even feel any particular need to talk to her about what’s going on with these videos, as I will soon have to have the conversation about That Ryan Kid and his place as a sales force. Some of them are educational, even, so I guess that’s something.