Understanding My Kids’ Relationship With YouTube

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So lately I’ve been trying to watch some of the YouTube video channels that my oldest daughter is into. I watch them with her, because none of them are things I’d likely go to on my own, trying to understand what she sees in them. This is a bonding experience, I suppose, because from my perspective, the attraction to most of these is like a train wreck: you just can’t look away.

Let’s be clear: not all of them. There are actually a small handful I enjoy, although I wouldn’t sit down and watch a whole bunch in a row.

 

Fun Stuff on YouTube

Movie Sins is probably my favorite. Produced by a guy who goes through popular movies and points out all of the problems and plot holes that are running through my head as I’m watching them. While I manage to keep the easy ones to an eye roll while I’m watching the film, he adds them up. And every movie gets a score at the end of the video. Higher numbers are bad.

I also kind of like Game Theory. This is an entertaining little segment where the host takes some strange little, or not so little, item or incident from a popular or classic videogame and then blows up into a giant conspiracy theory, completely “supported” by “evidence” in the game it’s from and from other related games if necessary. This is fun, and shows immense creativity.

Your Grammar Sucks is also worth a mention. The host, Jack, takes user submitted scrapings of comments from YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook of the most atrocious grammar, spelling, and things that just don’t make sense, and reads them as seriously as possible. He has a couple of other channels in his feed, too.

And I get some of the College Humor material. Some of it. There are videos that are absolutely hilarious. Some of the work, well, a lot of it, is clearly not targeted at me and most of that I don’t find particularly funny. Some isn’t even mildly entertaining.

 

Sturgeon’s Law

Now, before you get the idea that I’m actually liking everything YouTube has to offer, or at least the chunk of it my kids are watching, let me remind you of the generalization of Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.

In that light, I’m trying to understand the attraction to streaming video of someone playing a videogame with running commentary that never stops. I mean, I get the idea of an exciting play through. Fun and weird stuff happens that can make it really entertaining. Watching a two player or team game is the geek equivalent of watching football or hockey.

I don’t understand watching something where the commentary provided by player is a never ending stream of meaningless drivel and noise. I mean, we all went to school with the guy or girl never shut up and thought everything that fell out of their mouth was hilarious. We didn’t pay an awful lot of attention to them back then, so why are we giving them hundreds of thousands of views YouTube now? (This is the same reason I don’t like Deadpool, by the way. Deadpool is that guy only with superpowers. No thanks.) There are some fun and entertaining play throughs happening, but remember Sturgeon’s Law.

Then there’s amateur standup or sit down comedy hour.

Hours.

Days.

Eternities.

A lot of YouTube are somebody sitting in their bedroom, living room, basement, etc, talking about random stuff for no apparent reason and we’re supposed to hang on every word like it’s life changing. Or at least we’re supposed to find them incredibly entertaining. Unsurprisingly, Sturgeon’s Law applies again.

The question becomes how work with the Law, how to find the good stuff among the random chatter. Clearly, we can’t trust popularity. If a girl telling the story about how she knows everyone and is friends with everyone who works at the local 7-11 because she’s there every single day gets a hundred thousand hits, there’s clearly something wrong with us as a species.

I have developed three rules that I think apply beyond YouTube.

 

Rule Number One

If your kids are watching it, watching it with them.

Yes, you can make fun of it here and there, but only after you’ve taken the time to see what they’re seeing, ask questions, and make efforts to get them to explain to you what it is they find so entertaining or attractive about the particular channel or the selection of shows it has. YouTube is a lot like TV or movies this way.

 

Rule Number Two

Give something three chances. When you’re checking out something new, don’t assume the first thing you see is the creator’s best work. Everyone has an off day sometimes, but if they have, by your perception, three off days in a row, then either they’re going through some major issues, or they only have an on day every so often. If it’s the former, watching their unappealing video content is probably not going to help them get through, though putting extra views on the good stuff might. If it’s the latter, you’re just encouraging them and it isn’t going to help either of you. Either way, I’d suggest finding something else to watch. If you’re far enough along the path, ask the child you’re watching with to switch to a channel in their list to one you know have a chance of liking. But do it casually. Hey, is there a new Movie Sins this week?

 

Rule Number Three

Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially something completely new. You never know what you might like, and at least it will give you some insights into your kids’ minds, if you’re following rule number one.

Bonding with your kids is never an easy thing. You can only force them to like what you like for so long. And it’s probably better if you don’t force it in the first place. Let them see you like something to decide to join you. That will stop at some point, a different age for every child of my three. After that, if you want to spend time with them, you’re going to have to find things that they like. You need to go where they are, not drag them to you. That way lies and madness and sulking.

 

There is no rule four, five, or six. At this point, I’m working with just the three. And believe me, it’s hard sometimes.

Be well, everyone.

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Lance
Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than two dozen stories published or on the way. 2019 is the year he dives into independent publishing, starting with "Thorvald's Wyrd", "Skip To My Luu", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.

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