Most parents consider what media is being consumed by their children and dutifully provide age appropriate DVDs and games, and switch off the TV before the 9pm watershed. Parental settings are placed on smartphones and other technological paraphernalia.
We are aware that some material out there is not good to be consumed by our 11 or 8 year olds. We install filters on our internet too (OpenDNS is a great, free service that works via the router to all computers in the house). We feel we’re at least making an effort to protect our children from sinister content and feel we can relax a little, right?
Since time immemorial, older kids introduce the younger ones to vile language and rude jokes. Can’t really be stopped, I accept that. But that’s where it used to stay: in the school playground or dinner hall – confined to a few minutes a day or subject to threats of detention if overheard by a zealous teacher. Most kids realised it was pretty naughty and took care over what they repeated.
But then someone came up with YouTube. I love YouTube; I think it’s a great idea and a great tool. But I wish they would come up with a YouTube for kids, that was free from the uncensored bile that is spewing forth from its videos these days.
The same parent that won’t let their child watch The Simpsons because of its rude content, may not realise that young Jack is happily viewing Epic Rap Battles of History which all his friends are raving about.
To save you the bother, I’ll explain: These are witty little raps between two characters from history or popular culture who engage in a slanging match of sorts, whereby they sing their own praises while dissing their opponent in uber derogative fashion. Thus we have Hitler vs Darth Vader, Moses vs Santa and Dr Seuss vs William Shakespeare. Sounds fun?
It is, to an extent. It’s a clever idea and very entertaining.
But this is 18+ stuff that you would have only come across on the comedian circuits or late night Channel 4 programming in a previous generation.
The first video I mentioned in this piece, at 1 minute 41 seconds long, contains 9 expletives or crude phrases. That’s one every eleven seconds! And it’s being watched repeatedly and regurgitated by the masses at a secondary school near you.
Perhaps more disconcerting than the profanity, is the misrepresentation of historic figures, along with the trivialization of some major events (holocaust, slavery and the like). Prepare to see a whole load of Hitler impersonations in school corridors very soon. And unsuspecting eleven year olds getting unwittingly put in detention or accused of racism for something they really don’t understand and haven’t been taught yet.
Thanks a lot, YouTube!
This is where parenting gets tricky. You can easily keep some unsavoury stuff away from your primary (elementary) aged children. But be prepared for an onslaught of filth once your child enters secondary education.
I’m now thinking about blocking Youtube on the older boys’ iPod touches and only allowing it on a family computer at specified times. No, it won’t stop what they see at lunchtime, but it’ll prevent the multiple, mindless viewing.
Ugh, the challenges of the Internet Age. I don’t like to ban everything, but something needs to be done. We may have blocked the porn, but YouTube is broadcasting something akin to audio porn. And the masses are lapping it up. Hitler vs Darth Vader has racked up over 68 million views, and it’s readily available for your younger children to see too.
How do other parents handle these dilemmas?
first of all, I like your post a lot and you’re not one of those parents who blame the internet for everything, you also did your homewokr and informed yourself, so well done!
But unfortunately I disagree with you. First off, what are eight or eleven year-olds doing on the internet anyway? When I was eleven I played with dolls. And epic battles of history is not about representing hostoric figures it’s about satirising them.So when your children are not able to excogitate what say see on the internet then they shouldn’t be there.
Thanks for commenting Theresa. Regarding children being on the internet at a young age – I actually agree with you. But these days schools in the UK require that children conduct a lot of ‘research’ on the internet for homework or encourage them to use online educational tools such as ‘Mathletics’. It’s tricky to keep them offline in this era.
As for the issue of satire – I also agree with your comment. The alarming thing is that children who have little concept of the historical events are not in a position to fully comprehend or appreciate satire, yet this content is being consumed voraciously by pre-teens. Even if I banned my children from accessing the internet at home (apart for homework), they have countless friends who would eagerly spend an hour at lunchtime sharing these latest viral videos with them on their iPhones and iPods. (Thankfully this does not yet occur at my 8 year old’s school, where such gadgets are not allowed.)
In the meantime, as a parent with a modest interest in history, I’m taking the opportunity to discuss some events with my older children.
i get your point there and on second thought keeping your kids off the internet in the 21st century seems nearly impossible. I would suggest talking to your kids about what their friends are doing on the internet or even to watch said videos with them and explain the idea behind them. This seems like the most radical but also for me the most logical way to solve this problem. And in this point it is not Youtube’s task to keep your children from those videos but yours as a parent, And if all parents – unfortunately they don’t – keep track on what their children are doing on the internet, there won’t be any friends who can show inappropriate stuff to your children since they aren’t allowed to see it either.