There seems to be an ever-growing amount of content available online for our children. If you have internet-savvy kids, you know it’s super tough to keep up with. Has your child approached you in recent weeks asking if you have instant coffee that she can whip into the perfect beverage? If so, just know they are aware of many fun food hacks, ideas, and crafts available to them. My own daughter finds these things, but it’s not until the New York Times picks it up that I pay attention. I get it: the struggle is real here.
There are lots of fun food hacks on the web, from the recent craze of whipping instant coffee, to bleaching strawberries to make them white. Some are fun science experiments, some are fun to eat. Unfortunately, sometimes folks compile those quick ideas into a long video that combines the two. Even among the experiments, many (like microwaving sugar) are not safe to perform at home.
How do our kids find this stuff so quickly?
Maybe you’re wondering how your kids can locate all these ideas when you can’t even seem to find answers to your most basic questions online. The first part of the answer is that put simply: our kids know this stuff better than we do. The second part is all about “clickbait.” You know the idea even if you don’t know the term: it’s content that lures you to click on something that you didn’t even know you cared about. Much of the content that attracts our kids to DIY YouTube channels and food hacks is clickbait. While they aren’t marketing to our kids, they are doing everything to be attractive and pique their interest. Yes, there was a time when this was called marketing to kids…it’s a bit trickier now.
Should you be concerned about this?
It’s important to help kids choose experiments and cooking techniques that are safe. Microwaving sugar to melt it, for example, can lead to serious burns. And bleaching strawberries belongs firmly in the camp of “adult-supervised science project that uses food but is not edible.” How do you make sure your kids are safe with the projects they find online?
Like most things with kids, it all starts with a conversation:
- Ask if they have ever heard of YouTube channels like 5-Minute Crafts, which have videos that include bleaching the color out of strawberries and other “cooking” techniques.
- Find out if they tend to follow folks on TikTok that share food hacks.
- Tune in if you see your kids seeking food to “make something.”
- Ensure that the cooking method and final product are safe, and that it will be treated only as a craft or science project if that’s what it is.
One more thing, in this remarkable time we’re living in, it’s also important for us adults to make sure we’re seeking sound advice. When COVID-19 rates were rising, for example, many turned to the internet for DIY hand sanitizer recipes and the best advice on how to clean our groceries, especially produce. This led to some inaccurate information and dangerous cleaning practices. Given how easy it is for us to stumble upon false ideas and unsafe sites, imagine how easy it is for our kids too.
If you’d like to direct your kids to explore kid-friendly recipes that are safe (and, incidentally, nutritious), check out the Guiding Stars’ kid-friendly recipe category. Your children may be able to make many of these recipes on their own. Here are a few to get you started.