Representation matters. That’s why the BBC made a TV show with main characters resembling babies: the parents weren’t there even to say hi to their children, so they had to project the sun into a screen, with a baby face in it, so they could learn that it was really fun to interact with their peers and stuff. Multi color, super progressive. Except if you fast forward to 2022, you’ll see the NYT reporting on tweens having 5 hours of screen time. And these are not “kids”. It seems, though, that for every hint of maturity that you may want to inject into a teenager’s mind and behavior, they either abandon the notion of living in society, often dispelling the morals they’ve learned on sped up edited videos on YouTube (try to talk to them and you’ll see they don’t have a lot to say), or they’ll come to you with the classic “I’m a minor”. The importance of music is not to be understated, because it might be good for your “child” to learn what major and minor notes and chords are. The ability to interpret art is counterposed by the ability is pretend you understand it, just because it rhymed (and I’m not conservative at all, just realistic, when needed). The teens? They listen to music, for sure, but overall spend 8 hours behind the screen (on average!) and that should be the conversation we’re having. But we’re not. And the adults are wondering what Meta is trying to do, suddenly very puzzled.
Maybe marketing will refocus. With these age groups in mind (particularly tweens) and the result of their products’ maturing process (I think the teenager who vapes and snaps doesn’t give a damn about the avatar emoji, but maybe it’s to remind them they’re still young and not on LinkedIn), we’re going to see not just more Disney Plus, but edutainment. My bets are here, and that’s part of what I try to do with this blog, breaking away from “traditional blog writing”: watching an informative video, while consuming YouTube specific formats (fast cuts, heavy editing, informal text read out loud to save time, bloopers and so on), may serve a bigger purpose, which is repurposing the media. That is not our job alone, but then we have to talk about what we’ve learned (including from TikTok, which is a work in progress); and if you can’t admit that a teenager spending 8 hours behind the screen instead of talking to you, as a parent, is a sign of the times, then either take the careful approach or the libertarian approach: watch over them or let them do what they want. It’s particularly hard to say this, but I personally believe you’ve got to have conversations about the internet more often that don’t involve what the parents want to show you (I’m 33 now, but I absolutely disdain my dad’s favorite YouTube channels), but what the “kids” want to show you; and if they have a new relationship and they feel like sharing with you is gonna help, congrats, you’re doing a good job. Otherwise, you’re probably not, and that’s the entire role of the person in the family who asks, during Sunday lunch, when someone younger is gonna get married, or the Brazilian uncle who says “what about those little girlfriends, huh?” — between siblings, there’s competition to see who’s doing a better job, and when that involves how you raise a child, you might finally learn why kids are called kids and adults are what they are: nosey, arrogant and self-righteous by nature. But babies? Babies wanna cuddle! Look at Teletubbies.