I think my son spends too much time in passively consuming online content. YouTube videos take up the giant share of his online habits.
A rough estimate would put the number of videos he watches at between 40-80 a week. I think this is far below the average number of videos watched by his peers, considering that I’m probably quite restrictive of his online surfing habits.
Weighing the pros and cons
However, I’m now convinced that such frequent monitoring and enforcing of restrictions can be quite detrimental to a child’s ability to keep up with the rapidly evolving technological landscape that our kids are expected to cope with and thrive in. Technology is now an integral part of learning and communications (pedagogical and social).
In fact my son’s middle-school now actively encourages kids to acquire cell phones. These devices function as pedagogical aids for calculations, research etc.
The dilemma for parents like me is that if I do oblige and allow my son another device, it is sure to result in more passive consumption of content. I’ve seen that being cable-less for a decade has allowed my kids to depend on outdoor activity and reading to tackle boredom. Like Louis C.K puts it in his unique manner about the ‘deep down forever-empty‘:), boredom is a good thing.
How to encourage online creation?
So maybe the ideal solution lies in steering children towards content creation. After all, almost all productive uses of technology involve content creation. Enhanced content creation abilities are going to be important prerequisites in a technology reliant future.
The hope is that the casual Tumblr and Instagram posts of today will lead to higher awareness of media usage in a professional (or productive) context too. After all this blog post was mostly written on my smartphone while helping (passively :)) with grocery shopping.
Maybe my son will figure out a way to create YouTube videos that can help him in charitable fundraising.
Or perhaps he will learn from his PS4 (on his wish list as of now) to create his own interactive MMORPG learning system. Or the next big technology platform.
Beyond wishful thinking, there is opportunity for educators and parents to facilitate and set expectations for productive online content creation. Similarly developers and entrepreneurs also have a chance to innovate ways that steer younger minds towards creation oriented online time.
The sooner the better, because after his initial interest in Ruby On Rails (RoR) my son has fallen back on Youtube videos once again. As a parent it is increasingly difficult to know how to handle the situation.
I’d love to know where other parents are on this.
How do you manage to steer kids towards productive online activity? Are there any sites like the RoR site above that could help in this?