photo: Thijs Knaap via Flickr

You don’t want your kid playing video games all day — and you don’t want him watching endless TV either. But what if he’s watching other people play video games, on YouTube? To the bewilderment of grown-ups everywhere, this is actually a thing.

According to Randy Kulman, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of LearningWorks for Kids, kids are spending an increasing amount of time watching “Let’s Play” videos online; basically, narrated videos of other people playing video games. The genre is so big that the top Let’s Play stars are making millions of dollars and pulling in millions of subscribers.

“Many adults are understandably confused as to why kids would want to watch somebody else play a video game rather than play it themselves,” Kulman said. “When it comes right down to it, though, the phenomenon is no different than watching someone play golf, tennis, poker or any other professional sport on TV.”

photo: Stampylonghead via YouTube

So what’s the draw? Kulman said there are a few reasons kids like to tune in, and most of them are actually not all that surprising:

To Get Better at the Game: There are a lot of hidden rules and hidden treasures in games like Minecraft. Watching others play helps kids better understand the game.

To Get Closer to His Friends: Oftentimes kids watch the videos together, or use what they’ve learned to connect with other kids.

Sometimes, They’re Just Fun to Watch: The good YouTube gamers are actually pretty charismatic speakers (at least, to kids). And kids think it’s fun to watch big kids have fun playing the games they love.

As far as how much is too much, Kulman said watching video games on YouTube isn’t much different from watching a show on TV; consequently, your basic screen time rules should apply. Also, parents should watch a few shows with their kids to make sure the particular channel they’ve found is kid-friendly. Sometimes, the language can be more teen-oriented than elementary-school-aged.

Need some guidance for your little game-watcher? Check out this list of the 10 Best Kid-Friendly Minecraft Channels on YouTube.

photo: PopularMMOs via YouTube

Is your kid hooked on “Let’s Play” videos? Tell us in the comments below.