Debate Magazine

The YouTube Generation (from the Archives)

By Stevemiranda

Earlier this week, someone asked me where I get my news. “Twitter,” I told him. “I have a few people that I trust that I follow, they give me the headlines. Then, it’s just a matter of following the weblinks.”

That’s my news, totally customized just for me.

* * *

When I was growing up, our TV got about nine channels. It was a really big deal when a major motion picture finally made it to TV. The networks would hype it for weeks, and it would be a big family event to watch it together.

Then came cable. All of sudden we had about 60 channels. That was great, but we were still at the mercy of the station program managers: we watched what they wanted us to watch, when they wanted us to watch it. (The invention of the VCR was nice, but a trip to the video store was too inconvenient to really change the game. Our entertainment options were still essentially being directed by others.)

This was my expectation at school, too. I’d show up, the teacher would tell us what to do. We did what she wanted, when she wanted.

According to the New York Times, OnlineFamily.Norton analyzed more than 15 million web searches over a 10-month period and disaggregated the data by age group. The No. 1 search for kids 7 and under, 8-12, and 13-18 was the same: “YouTube.” In fact,  separate searches for “You Tube” and “Youtube.com” both made the top 12 for all three age groups. Kids are getting the entertainment they want, when they want it.

At school, however, teachers still expect them to sit still and take what they’re given. To a new generation of digital natives, who are used to skipping the commercials and ignoring the banner ads, this strategy of teaching will be increasingly ineffective.


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