Howcast

Common Sense Media says

Free site's top-notch how-to videos include sex tutorials.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

We’re not born experts. Most life skills, whether building a bookshelf or learning how to kiss, require practice and, ideally, a how-to video. Not every video on the site models behavior suitable for children but overall its message, that learning can be easy and fun, is a positive one.

Violence

Nothing too objectionable unless you're a parent concerned about kids imitating the moves in self-defense and martial arts instructional videos, of which there are many. Some cartoonish violence, too; for instance, a claymation bear repeatedly rips the head off a hapless claymation man, and a remarkably realistic stop-action T-Rex munches a live-action victim. 

Sex

Amply covered with several hundred how-tos available in the Sex & Relationships section of the site. These videos, many of which can be funny, teach how to flirt, kiss, have sex in a car and fake an orgasm, among other romantic skills. A series called Ask Dan and Jennifer features a winsome therapist couple answering common questions about sex. Nudity is only hinted at, and of the dozen or so videos aimed at teens, only one ("How to Seduce your Professor") offers irresponsible advice about sex. Still, the adult sex how-tos are pretty, well, adult, and most parents will not want tweens watching these parts of the site without supervision.

Language

Mostly tame. A video on how to tell ghost stories begins with, "It was a dark and stormy night and you wanted to scare the crap out of your campfire friends."

Consumerism

Pretty commercial. Ads appear on top of videos, next to videos and occasionally mixed in with video thumbnail search results. The banners and Google ads are often tie-ins, which makes them especially effective; for instance, a video on how to tame frizzy hair might be accompanied by an ad for a hair-straightening product. Most of the products are G-rated mainstream stuff like automobiles, network TV shows and beauty products.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking isn't exactly glorified, but neither is it treated very seriously, unlike the smoking-related how-tos, which are generally about quitting. The tongue-in-cheek alcohol-related videos include "How to Fake Being Sober." The drug-related videos are mostly about the effects of various medications.

Privacy & safety

Anyone over the age of 13 can join the site and start uploading videos or text wikis immediately. The only guideline is that content must be how-to or instructional and not "obscene." The only personal information required to join is an email address, which can be seen by others on the user's profile page. If kids comment on videos or create a playlist of their favorite videos, these will be visible, too, until they close the account. But more intimate information, such as photos, gender, hometown, and school, is optional.

Kids can watch any video on the site without registering or revealing their age. Parental consent is required only if a child under 18 wants to upload a how-to video.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most of the videos on this excellent how-to site are kid-friendly, but some cater to adults. The Sex & Relationships section contains hundreds of videos alone. Even the teen section features sex advice some parents might find objectionable, such as how to get on the Pill or tell your folks you're pregnant. The site specifically states that users must be older than 13 to use the site, but it has so many nicely done instructional videos written just for kids that it would be a shame to ban it outright. Parents will want to keep an eye on what kids are watching -- the site makes all videos accessible -- and prescreen if necessary.

Parents say

Kids say

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

How do you remember a word you've blanked on, help a friend improve her self-esteem, or kiss like Angelie Jolie? Howcast -- YouTube only funnier and smarter -- answers these timeless questions and more. The site boasts 100,000-plus how-to videos and text guides organized by topic including games, health & nutrition, kids, and teens. Each rewindable video is broken out into easy-to-follow steps. The acting is droll and the lessons, serious or not, can be very good. Claymation, stop-action, and the odd farm animal glued to a popsicle stick (see “How to Tip a Cow”) are just a few of the techniques effectively used to get ideas across. Prepare to laugh out loud.

This site will keep any halfway curious eight-year-old engrossed and giggling for hours. Therein lies the rub for parents, who will need to decide whether they're OK with kids stumbling across Howcast's brand of sex education. The videos are tasteful and feature little bare flesh but do contain frank language. And as for Angie? To kiss like her you'll need "full, pillowy lips" and "an inappropriate partner," preferably someone
else's husband.

Online interaction: Leaving comments after videos is the only means of interacting on the site. Most of the comments sections were empty when we visited -- except for the sex videos, which drew some predictably suggestive remarks.

Families can talk about...

  • Discuss what satire is. While they usually have a grain of truth, some of the silly how-to videos on this site do not necessarily model ideal behavior.

  • What kind of how-to video or wiki could families try creating for this

  • site? Choose something you're knowledgeable about, such

  • as teaching the family pet a trick, and write down the steps. Parents

  • can help younger kids shoot videos using the site's special enhancement tools.

Website details

Genre:Educational
Pricing structure:Free

This review of Howcast was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old July 8, 2010
AGE
9
QUALITY
 
I find HowCast very amusing. I did watch a video on how to lockpick once where the woman demonstating pulled out a paperclip from between her breasts. But that is, honestly, the only graphic content I've seen in their media.
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 13 years old Written bybawano January 28, 2010
AGE
14
QUALITY
 
it so boring!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Safety and privacy concerns
Parent Written byaries929 April 30, 2014
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

New user not impressed with Common Sense Media

First search for age appropriate websites for 10 year old. Recommended result is Howcast, which apparently offers sexual instruction as well as pointers on "How to get a tattoo". For 10 years olds. Right.
What other families should know
Too much sex

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