When my daughter's art class took up crocheting last year, she had some trouble keeping up with the instructor. Frustrated, she asked me if I could show her how to crochet a simple circle (her homework for the night).
I made a few clumsy attempts before I finally set the crochet hook down. "I am sorry," I told my daughter. "This is something I haven't done for years. If I had known about this earlier, we could have asked Grandma for help."
As I resumed my work at the computer, I realized that the answer to my daughter's dilemma was sitting right in front of me. I quickly Googled "how to crochet a circle" and met with thousands of results. As expected, there were many instructional articles to choose from, but what really intrigued me were the short video tutorials available on YouTube.com. These video tutorials featured people crocheting circles and explaining all the steps in easy-to-understand language. What a godsend!
In the months since that incident, I have returned to YouTube several times in order to find more video tutorials for my children. As a result, they have gained many interesting skills that could have cost hundreds of dollars in fees for special camps, DVDs, or private lessons. My ten-year-old son, for example, is learning to speak Japanese and is also dabbling in Spanish and Italian. He is learning from native speakers and is having loads of fun. Most lessons take just a few minutes, which is perfect for a child who rarely sits still for long.
My daughter, meanwhile, has been pursuing some of her other artistic interests and is benefiting from video tutorials that teach professional calligraphy techniques, portrait drawing, manga drawing and assorted crafts. The other day, I found her drawing what she called "realistic eyes." It is really nice to see her so excited about developing her talents, and she is now planning to send some of her drawings to a magazine that showcases the artwork of children and teens.
My children's interests represent just a smattering of what YouTube has to offer those wanting to learn new skills. There are video tutorials on everything from "How to French Braid Hair" to "How to Solve Sudoku Puzzles." Kids can take math lessons, watch science experiments, learn new karate moves, and become expert chefs, jugglers, chess-players or perfume-makers.
Adults, too, will find plenty of video tutorials on every conceivable topic. The next time your sink leaks, you may wish to postpone calling the plumber until you check out one of the videos on how to fix a leaky faucet. I will also be looking for videos on car repair and various do-it-yourself home-improvement projects before I rush to hire an expensive mechanic or contractor.
Despite the many beneficial video tutorials available on YouTube and similar sites, parents should be vigilant about protecting their children from inappropriate content. It's not just sexually explicit videos and vulgar comments left by site visitors that are the problem, however. Some videos may also pose a serious danger to impressionable viewers by featuring and promoting risky behaviors like inhaling helium, which recently killed a young man in Riverside, California, and playing the "choking game," which has resulted in several teens around the world suffocating themselves to death.
To avoid having your children view distracting or potentially harmful content, you may prefer to hand-select the videos they watch. Then make use of Quietube, a neat tool that allows you to watch the videos you want in peace on a white backdrop that contains no ads or visitor comments.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to learn "how to calculate percentages in Excel" and it won't cost me a dime!
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