A brief discussion of children and their harmful access to the internet.
This post is in response to James Bridle’s “Something is Wrong on the Internet” (2017).
After reading through all the different articles for this week there was one reading that really stuck out to me, and it was the discussion of YouTube Kids and the freakishly massive demand for this type of content. With this week’s topic being digital literacy and misinformation, I’ll sort take the reigns in a slightly different direction to build off of Bridle’s conversation of the can of worms called the Internet that we are opening up to children.
As an older cousin of a 6 year old and 4 year old, I’ve always been extremely puzzled by the types of content that my cousins watch. Occasionally I will catch them on YouTube watching play throughs of Super Mario Bros. that have no music or voiceover, and is just the game sound effects. These are typically 30 to 40 minutes long, and they will literally just sit there and watch it all the way through. As well as videos such as how to draw a cat but with no intention of getting out a piece of paper to actually follow the tutorial, and even unboxing videos of the most arbitrary things, similar to Bridle’s (2017) discussion of the incredibly weird popularity of opening Kinder Surprise Eggs. Despite the bizarre nature of these videos, there is nothing really wrong with them. But that isn’t the issue.
One time, I set up a coloring video for them on my laptop so we could draw together, and when I stepped away for 5 minutes to get them a snack, they had smothered their grimy, sweaty little child fingers all over my screen and managed to land on a video of Marvel superhero figurines beating the literal sh*t out of each other. Like, how did we get here?!? Not to mention the strange amount of videos filmed of Barbie dolls engaging in weirdly sexual activity? What the actual f**k is up with that.
In addition to the peculiarity of what children are seeing, it’s a matter of them seeing it all the time. Over the past few years, the term “iPad Kid” has made its mark, the stereotype of a child who is constantly glued to their iPad. The iPad Kid is often depicted as a toddler with horrendous posture, holding the screen way too close to their face and carrying it with them to the dinner table, to family events, and just about anywhere they can. It’s wild to think that while my generation grew up with street hockey in the cul-de-sac and water balloon fights and getting up at 6am to watch Pokémon, this new generation born in the Technology Era is getting anything and everything they could possibly think of shoved down their throats in digital form. I know for a fact that there is absolutely nothing that will get my little cousins to shut up better than putting ANYTHING on the television. Crying? Television. Hungry? Television. Tired? Television. Bored? Television. Being a goddamn menace because that’s what kids do and it’s a crucial step in how they grow and learn and become emotionally self-aware? Television.
After talking to a few of my peers, I was able to reflect on some very refreshing opinions of future parents having absolutely no desire for their children to even touch a smartphone until their early teen years. As a collective group, I think we can all see simply from an observational standpoint the irreversible damage of raising an iPad Kid.
Bridle (2017) puts it perfectly, referring to on-demand video as “catnip for both parents and to children.” Simply put, it’s a cop-out. Growing up, these kids aren’t going to know how to function independently, and will constantly rely on some sort of stimulation to feel whole or at peace. To reflect back on the start of this course, these kids have had their attention stolen before they even had it (Mod, 2017), born with an iPhone camera in their newborn faces. Before we can even discuss the implications of a screen addiction at the ripe age of 0, Bridle (2017) highlights the inevitable danger of simply exposing children to the Internet.
How on earth do we teach children to be digitally literate? How do you explain to a five-year-old how to use RADCAB or CRAAP (Caulfield, 2016) and use critical thinking to assess the video of Peppa Pig eating her father? If a busy parent doesn’t take the extra second to ensure that the videos they’re showing their child is indeed the official YouTube page, there’s nothing convincing us that a kid will. And with that, how do you even regulate a child being able to view a coloring video to, within a few clicks, watching Iron Man rip Spiderman to pieces? Most times out of a ten, a kid has absolutely no clue what they’re looking at and are thoughtlessly consuming videos that look cool and sound cool. As Bridle (2017) puts it in regards to the creation of these videos, “most of them are not trying to mess kids up, not really, even though they are,” and there is a system in place that is frightening and traumatizing children – whether it be intentional or not.