July 9, 2017



Dear Brandon,

I have this obsession and it’s getting REALLY BAD. I’m obsessed with watching YouTube videos. Because of my obsession, I hardly get any sleep at nights from staying up past three every morning watching them. I seriously need your help with this! How on earth can I get over my crazy Youtube obsession?

YouTube Fanatic

Dear YouTube Fanatic,

Hey, thank you for writing in about this. That took guts. I hope what I have to say will help you. But I know it will help someone, because you are FOR SURE not the only person with this problem. It might not be YouTube for everyone—some people can’t stop posting on Instagram, Snapchatting, checking Facebook, tweeting or binge-watching Netflix. I think the internet is amazing for a lot of things—I mean, here you are asking me for help through a website! But yeah. There are definitely some ways it can be harmful, and this is one of them.

You used the word obsession, which is a good one. But I think what you’re talking about here is also an addiction. We think about addiction as being about drugs or alcohol. But addiction doesn’t have to be just those two things. You can be addicted to anything that takes over your life in an unhealthy way.

And, it sounds like that’s what’s happening here. If you feel like you don’t have control over how much time you spend on YouTube, then it’s probably an addiction.

Here are a few more signs of an addiction:

  1. Even when you’re not watching YouTube videos, are you thinking about getting back online and what you want to watch next?
  2. Do you get frustrated, anxious, or irritable when something prevents you from doing it?
  3. Have you stopped spending time with friends or doing other things you used to enjoy because you want to spend all your time watching YouTube? (And in this case, sleeping is something you enjoy, or at least need, which you’ve stopped doing as much as you should.)
  4. Do you keep watching videos even after you see negative results from your behavior (like being exhausted the next day)?

Are you going to die from an overdose of YouTube videos? Um, no. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. The loss of sleep could cause poor concentration, irritability, and major exhaustion. And during the school year, I’m sure it’s not good for your grades or even your relationships. So, you need to take it seriously before it REALLY complicates things.

The first thing you need with an addiction is HELP. This might mean a therapist. You might be thinking I’m WAY overreacting and they’re just some silly videos. But if you Google “teen internet addiction” you’re going to find all sorts of serious information and resources. Because this is no joke!

But before you need a therapist’s help, let’s start with your parents. I know you might be worried they’ll get mad at you when you admit how late you’ve been staying up. But I think they’ll eventually be really proud of you for recognizing the problem and asking for help.

Here are some things your parents could consider doing:

    1. Install apps that monitor how and when you’re using the internet, or apps like Freedom that shut off access to the internet between certain hours. These apps can also block specific websites.
    2. Turn off the wi-fi or change the wi-fi password at a certain time each night.
    3. Let somebody take your phone/tablet/computer at a certain time each evening so that you can get some sleep, and then have them return it to you in the morning.
    4. Give somebody access to your YouTube account so they can see what you’re watching and when.
    5. Set up a reward system for when you successfully reduce the time you spend on YouTube, which will give you a positive goal to work towards. (Aside from, you know, sleep.)

I know this sounds really restrictive and controlling. But it won’t be forever. You just need help getting a handle on it right now, because it’s out of control. Once you’ve gotten things under control, you’ll learn how to use the internet in a more healthy way.

I hope this is helpful, because like I said, this is a big problem for a lot of people. So thanks for having the guts to bring it up!

Have you ever felt like you can’t stop doing something? How do you not overdo it?