Hello! My recent school tour has caused me to reflect further on how youtubers affect school children.
Old media is asking why is Youtube so popular, what gives? Why do millions and millions like to watch someone else play games or talk about stuff? To explore that I will start off by sharing with you my own likes and dislikes to do with YouTube and from there I shall try to unpick what’s going on. I watch a fair amount of Youtube in a week, probably 20 minutes or so every day, usually a specific channel. My favourites are probably Hatfilms (a bunch of nerdy lads, screaming abuse at one of them in particular) and Funhouse, another group of guys shouting at each other. For me it’s easy – it’s funny – what I like is that it is simply a group of people being stupid with each other, the Jackass effect, and that makes sense. I grew up with the rise of Jackass and the movie craze of people doing stupid things. What I dislike are the vloggers, talking about the minutia of their lives, and people playing games on their own. However, it is the latter that are the popular channels, which usually consists of one person playing games with a webcam that they talk into. People like Pewdipie, and KSI syndicate – these top youtubers are typical of the type -with a big personality, nerdy guys and girls, which appeal to their viewers because of the loneliness felt by those young people watching.
The reality is that YouTubers talking to a webcam, whilst playing a game, is like playing a game with a mate because it’s so intimate, it is making our young, due to the lack of decent role models, look at these nerd Gods, as they see them, and identify with them, so much that they idolise these people. You can see the numbers; it’s like rock and roll in the 60’s. Parents just didn’t get it, to them it was just noise and there was a stark disconnect between parents and children. Now that is inevitable, most kids don’t want to be like their parents, but the issue is that music, since the 60s, has run through almost all its forms; from rock to metal to pop techno, and because of that diversity some parents might like the same music as their kids, which kids don’t want! So the world of YouTube, in its unfettered wildness, has become home for youth rebellion. No doubt, in 20 years time YouTube will decline because the children of the YouTube generation won’t want to use it – because their parents do. In the meantime we need to be clear about this point – YouTube is uncensored, and not really policed – it is a medium that feels intimate – as I said, watching your mate game, and it is anonymous – and most of all – parents, in the main, don’t have a clue what’s going on – so YouTubers, especially the big names, are setting the tone, becoming the role models of behaviour, teaching, and crafting the next generation of people.
Which leads me to my next point, I noticed when in schools recently that a lot more children are having difficulty in speaking and communicating, so much so that the teachers commented on this being a growing concern. More and more are very shy and reserved; I noticed that when giving my talk. Don’t misunderstand me, I need to stress this, I am not saying that they are damaged, because when you engage them most will speak and try to join in – but the reality is that a lot of these children are learning their language and social skills from YouTubers – so their experiences, vocabulary, and confidence is limited. A lot of YouTubers will admit to having been dysfunctional children themselves, which is often why they started videoing themselves and reaching out – as that’s not a normal thing for a young person to do.
The other factor is that these YouTubers are relatively easy to access, unlike the Rock stars or highly talented performers like Jimmy Hendrix, JK Rowling, Katy Perry, talent sets them apart but these YouTubers are ordinary folk that play games and talk- it’s not difficult and the phenomena of being a YouTuber gives children the false hope that they can could do it and become rich. This myth is similar to what the Kardashians, etc have done in ‘reality’ shows .
So what to do about this? First of all, there is no escaping it, parents need to take control, They must take the time to understand the media before letting their children (as young as 10) watch these channels. Secondly, YouTubers have to take responsibility, they know their audience and because of their massive influence over them they must realise that they are having influence over children – and that is a huge responsibility. YouTubers need to think about how they use that influence – for example, stop brain washing them to buy your books and games for a start! And thirdly, as a civilisation we need to reflect on what we are doing and pull down the safety curtain for our youth- move them into the mainstream areas by enabling them to get involved in writing, reading, music, theatre – to engage with opportunities for them to be creative themselves and appreciate the creativity of others – if children are just left to soak up the sludge of the YouTube world – alone with their headphones on – then they will forget how to do things for themselves – and probably only read pop-up books from their favourite YouTuber – because they feel they are on the periphery of what older people value as mainstream and as children lose connection they will feel further marginalised and hostile to mainstream – which is super damaging to the future of our society.
On a personal note to finish off this piece, a message to mainstream publishers – stop aiding and abetting the demise of our society by publishing ‘YouTuber’ books. I know it is easy money for you, just like the mountain of ‘celebrity’ books you churn out, but these things are one of the reasons why literacy rates are falling – because you keep publishing these awful ‘pop-up’ books for boys to buy instead of epic stories to ignite their imagination, and through that grow a passion for reading – short term commercial gain, long term decline of society. Calling all publishing houses, it is your public and moral responsibility to feed the minds of our young people and promote reading – so let’s see you doing that.
Thanks for reading. I have really enjoyed the school talks that I have done so far. If you work in a school and you would like me to include your school then just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and my team will try to add you to the next tour we are planning for the New Year.
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