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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Dixon

A Letter to Ms. Rachel

Ms. Rachel a youtuber who makes videos for babies and toddlers that claim to help them learn. She sings in her signature pink shirt and denim overalls. She has 7.75 million subscribers and her estimated net worth is $8.24 million dollars.

Dear Ms. Rachel (and fans),

This letter isn’t a personal attack on you. I’m not a hater. Just an advocate, the same as you claim to be. I am sure you are a very lovely person with good intentions. Your work, however, raises very serious concerns for me as an early childhood expert, mother and someone who understands that play (without screens) is the undeniable method by which young children learn best. 

I would like to know:

-What research have you done on the long-term impacts of screen time on child development, particularly in the areas of cognitive and social-emotional development and particularly for toddlers (all of your videos are labeled “for toddlers”? 

-How do you justify babies, in many cases under the age of 1 year old, watching a screen for long periods of time? Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly states that screen time shouldn’t be avoided until at least 18 months of age.

-What do you say to the research that suggests that screen viewing before age 2 has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, short term memory, attention span, mental health and increases their chances of becoming overweight or obese as they get older. It also contributes to problems with sleep and hyperactivity. I’ve listed some further reading on this below. 

Here’s my thought. Parents are tired. They need a break. So they turn to you. Seemingly “educational”, they don’t feel so guilty about putting their children in front of a screen if you’re on it, and you have capitalized on that. And by capitalize I mean becoming a multi-millionaire. And it doesn’t sit well with me. 

Why not create audio content or content for parents to be able to sing and practice language development with their own children WITHOUT a screen? How about a music curriculum or classes that you franchise across the world? Write a book. Start a podcast. But please stop encouraging the habit of putting our youngest children in front of a screen and/ or encouraging parents to use screen time as a break. Why haven’t you chosen other options? I’m guessing because those things don’t make your face something that babies cry for because they’ve gotten used to the “hit” they get when they see you on a screen? 

Also, utilizing videos posted by parents of their children on the internet as a marketing strategy (duets) feels really icky to me. 

Ms. Rachel, please correct me if I’m wrong about these things. So many parents praise you. They look up to you. And in my opinion, you are doing wrong by them through their most vulnerable channel (no pun intended): parenting.

If you are FOR children as you claim—a member of Save the Children, advocate, expert—Then why is your business something that at its core is so harmful for young children? 

Further reading about screen time and young children view this post and the list compiled on the last slide:

To the parents reading this. You haven’t done anything wrong. There is a better way to support your children that will still give you the breaks you so desperately need. It's called independent play. 

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