Thoughts On A YouTube Generation

Kids Aren't Really Different, Are They?

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A little over ten years ago, my father retired from 30 years of teaching middle school world history and geography, and my mother kicked herself upstairs to the countywide administrative level after 25 years of teaching law and justice and geography. (Yeah, I know my social studies, right?) Before their departures from the classroom, though they have agreed on little else since I’ve known them, they agreed on this: Kids are different these days.

Mom said that about the changing attitudes of children not too long after a student—a classmate of mine—dropped a little chalkboard cleaner in her coffee when she wasn’t looking. Local politics kept the boy out of trouble (his dad was sheriff), but not out of the path of my clenched teenage fists.

If camera phones and YouTube were around then, I imagine you would have seen it online or on the news already. You may have seen on the news, just a couple of years before the chalkboard cleaner incident, that a student shot a teacher and a janitor in the neighboring county. Instances like these were rare enough then that you may not have heard about them on the scale that you would later hear about Columbine or Paducah, again in my home state.

I thought still that those were just isolated incidents of temporary insanity, that my parents were provoked into their viewpoint that kids were different by age and by unfortunate pranks. (More than once the car had to be taken in to remedy the bumper-to-bumper key-scratch down the side of it after sitting in the high school parking lot. Teenagers were just punks, I concluded, even if I was one.)

It’s hard not take their viewpoint that kids are different, though, when you discover an assault on a Baltimore teacher was posted on MySpace, and a cheerleader ambush posted on YouTube not even a week earlier. It’s hard not to remember and appreciate my parents’ warnings when I told them, at the uber-idealistic age of 18, that I wanted to teach high school and make a real impact on the youth where I could.

I don’t know whether to be comforted or disturbed that it happens in other countries and not just in the States. This report of ten year-olds in Britain posing as online pedophiles to bully the other kids is most certainly disturbing and not comforting.

I can’t answer the question definitively of whether kids are really different, these days, or whether we just have more exposure to it. It’s possible that kids having their very own media to use both encourages behavior and provides a new, wider, and multi-angled lens from which to view it. The effect of seeing it more often, as we would discuss in a mass media class in college, is that it appears it happens more often.

But we did have bullies when I grew up and they were vicious. I think it’s harder to watch as an adult. When we were kids it never occurred to us we might do permanent damage to someone. And usually we didn’t.

In the 9th grade, in gym class on a mat, I perfectly executed a pile driver I had seen the Hulkster do. It was perfectly executed because I didn’t break the kid’s neck. We were both lucky.

Point is: Monkey see, monkey do. You have to wonder if kids are different these days because they see more than they used to. YouTube’s good for that. I see those videos and have to protect myself from the thought that 2 percent of being human means awesome technological developments and endless possibilities, and 98 percent of being human is being a chimp.   

Maybe you’ve seen online or on TV how chimps treat each other, especially outsider-type others.

I’m not going to blame the Internet, or video games or TV. These are positive human developments. Besides, I played Mortal Combat and never finished anyone. I’m not going to blame a loss of moral fabric in society, either; a century ago we packed a picnic and the kids along to public hangings. Before that, there were worse things people did.

I look at my 14-year-old stepson who loves his Xbox 360 shoot-em-up games and his YouTube and his Gaia and his WOW and wonder if I should be somehow afraid. But then I see a lot of myself in him, even if he’s someone else’s son, and note that he is a kind and gentle and bright soul without any violent tendencies. He’s a lot like I was, actually, generally a peacemaker in a world of bullies.

Unless it involved my mother, obviously.

Point is: He’s not so different, and that makes me feel better.

Who do I blame? Parents are easy scapegoats and I sure had good ones to keep me in line (and teachers to pull out scary, holey paddles). But that’s hard to say definitively. Most parents I know are doing the best they can and aren’t near the level of some abusive jerks I knew growing up in the previous generation. Then, just like now, there were good parents and bad parents. Then, just like now, there are good kids and bad kids. I don’t blame parents. I blame chimp-ness.

What should we do about it? I don’t know, but we can’t go censoring the Internet. Seems that could have worse consequences. Perhaps instead of thinking kids are different now, just like every generation in human history has thought of the generation that came after them, we should show them as much love as we can and try to find shreds of ourselves in them.

Then they won’t seem so different.   

Thoughts On A YouTube Generation
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  • http://www.heaven4affiliates.com Josip Barbaric

    Thanks for the article!

    It really made me think about things. Who knows where the answers lie?!

  • http://www.pinkpasty.blogspot.com Pink Pasty

    Thank Goodness for YOUTUBE!!!

    It gives youth a voice where they would otherwise be censored. 

    If you want to know what I mean …then watch this youtube video about disgusting Instututional abuse of a formerly 15yr old homeless boy


    This is on his own youtube channel

    If the worst that has happened is a board rubber in a cup of coffee, what a privalaged life mid class America leads!






  • Guest

    Are kids worse today? The question begs a generalization as an answer. Generalizations are hard to get right because they require a lot of correct information about a lot of people over a long period of time. Most people don’t have access to that kind of information.

    Generally, we could say that sin is the problem. That’s not just my opinion, but is the opinion of many people over a very long period of time.

    If your "monkey see, monkey do" insight is correct (and I think it is), then sin is like a disease in that it spreads through exposure to the moral virus. Some people seem to have an immunity to the virus, and others don’t. More study of the immunities may be valuable.

    Again, you are correct in that technology is not the problem. And yet, communication technology does allow for greater exposure. Technology allows us to do more of what we do, for good of ill, and get more exposure.

    Personally, I think that the world is getting both better and worse at the same time (wheat & tares). It’s always a matter of which is on the ascendency. One guy said that you reap what you sow, both personally and socially. There may be something to it.

  • Guest

    It’s odd. My husband mentioned the other day how much more common it is to read about kids being punished for expressing themselves sexually.

    My God, I thought. It’s true. Back in the 70s the games we used to play (and enjoy, I might add) would be considered illegal these days. And right now I know of one mother who can’t let her son out of her sight because he was caught kissing his cousin and was turned into the police.

    And then I thought, is this how it works? Is this how hysteria takes over? They can’t put every little boy on a sexual offender registry, can they?

  • Aroagel

    I think it is not so good for the next generation to abuse of Internet,including you tube.  The HUMANITY  will regret one day all this incontrolled IT developement , but it could be too late. Anyway, there is no other alternative……

  • crowmd

     There’s so many factors here that we could fill up an encyclepedia with this one.So let’s tackle the obvious first. Are they different? yes and no: Having been through the raising teen thing and seeing there friends etc. I can honestly say that with some sense of being right.

      The problems today seems to stem from a fact that we are a consumer gluttony culture,meaning our kids just have to have the latest sneakers,cell-phones,gadgets,clothes etc.This is not new,and peer-pressure does not always play into this factor but a lot of times this behaviour comes directly from the parents themselves.

     I agree that technology today is good and bad in a kids life but I still don’t want no govt. agency passing laws  and regulating against these things that we hold dear today. It’s up to the parents to put restrictions on there kids ,not the schools,or govt. etc. it’s hard I know today in a 2 parent working world but it can be done.

     Every time a kid screws up we have to see it blasted all over the media to scare the elderly and the easily led into going along with the passing of a new restricting law .One bad apple does not mean the bushel is bad.And if the kid is bad instead of tossing him aside let’s get him some help.

  • http://www.madsdam.net Mads Dam

    This is really not a new problem. Let’s go back 25 centuries and ask Plato about his opinion:

    "What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

    Socrates says more or less the same:

    "Today’s young people love luxury. They have bad manners, scorn authority, have no respect for their elders and gossip when they should be working. Young people don’t stand up any more when older people enter the room. They contradict their parents, swagger around in society, gobble up all the sweets on the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers."

    This sounds perhaps absurd at first, but there are actually some points worth reflecting upon: Different ages have different needs, and it’s oversimplifying to ask which is right. Young people need to discover the world – as it is now. Older people have already done that (let’s hope), and they’ll rather use the experience they’ve gained.

    Every journey comes to an end, eventually. Otherwise it would not have a target at all…

    Really, this is also close to simplifying things. Maybe I should rather compare with walking: one leg firmly on the ground while the other freely swinging. Both are necessary, neither is of much use alone…

  • Al

    Everyone and society itself has changed.  We used ot be more autoocratic and had more respect for authority.  with the hypocrisy and abuses we’ve seen from those in power, it has lead us all to decide more and more for ourselves.  I think kids are just a reflection of that.  

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