Brain food

What can YouTube teach us?

Story by Curtis Billue

We’ve all heard it. Screen time is bad for you, bad for kids. Scientists have linked too much screen time to higher risk of obesity, diabetes and restless sleep. News media outlets report that face-to-face communication should replace social media status updates, TV consumption, games and video watching.

The cause for concern is understandable. According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report Q1 2016 for the U.S. population, the average time spent per adult on computers, smartphones and tablets was 3 hours and 21 minutes. Throw in live TV, games, DVD players and recorded shows, and we spend nearly 9 hours a day staring into a screen.


Wow. That’s a ton of junk.

Or is it? What if some of this stuff isn’t junk at all?

Let’s take a look at YouTube, for example. It can be a trash can of memes, stunts, epic fails and idiocy. It can be glitzy music videos, endless unboxing of products or just a bunch of cats being cats. But beyond all of this, YouTube can enlighten us, delight us and just possibly be the brain food we crave.

Check out these recommendations for some educational, online inspiration.

Smarter Every Day

Destin Sandlin isn’t your average run-of-the-mill rocket engineer. He’s a YouTube star, combining his passion for scientific exploration with his boyish, southern charm. His enthusiasm for scientific discovery makes this channel an educational treat.


Host Michael Stevens’ curiosity has no limits. He explores the known universe, theoretical ideas and the weird and turns it all into a science lesson. His 11 million subscribers prove he’s on to something here.


Vi Hart

Victoria Hart (known as Vi Hart) has hands that are well known among math geeks everywhere. Her mathematical musings in the form of doodles, food and polygonal shapes make math fun. Really.

Every Frame a Painting

Tony Zhou gives insight to the fine art of editing and filmmaking. His video essays dissect the forms of film into memorable love letters of the craft.

Veritasium – an element of truth

Clever in name, clever in concept, Derek Muller contemplates life through scientific, economic and mathematical lenses. Great visuals and experiments. His “man on the street” interviews are fun and informative investigations into human behavior and our misconceptions about the world.


A tinkerer at heart, Ben Cusick takes simple items and combines them into low-cost projects of wonder. Levitating magnets with Bismuth crystals, a vacuum- suspended fish tank, homemade plasma engravers, and a fretted cigar box guitar are just a few examples.

It’s Okay to Be Smart

Quirky and fun, Joe Hanson wants science to go beyond facts and into the world of excitement and wonder. His perspective is fun for the whole family.

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Want to understand complex issues in our world with cute animations and nerdy cultural references? Follow these colorful ducks in deep discussions of science, politics and technology.

CGP Grey

Grey, as a stick figure with glasses, keenly observes the world of politics, geography, economics, history and culture with British charm and wit.


John and Hank Green began their modest project as a way for the brothers to converse by video during the week, and now they have turned their weekly vlogging into a media powerhouse. Enjoy any one of their cornucopia of shows: SciShow, SciShow Space, CrashCourse, Mental Floss, vlogbrothers. (And yes, that’s the famous author John Green. Same dude.)

This story originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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