At a guess, I’d say the statement: “Kids spend more time online than watching TV,” probably hasn’t made you leap out of your seat in surprise and/or disgust.
If, like me, you’re childless and closer to 40 than 14, it’s one of those ‘well, DUH’ headlines you read in the free papers or see on the morning news and brush off, before going about your day unabated.
But seemingly, judging by the tone of some of the coverage, it’s a worry for those with kids over the age of (seemingly) six months. This new generation are already ridiculously aware of social media, tablets and at least some of the digital landscape we’re all a part of.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I really don’t think this is as much of a problem as it’s made out to be. See, the headlines about Childwise’s report seem slightly alarmist – granted, more time is spent online than watching traditional TV, but the same report reveals Netflix and YouTube being the favourite outlets for programming, alongside the startling reveal that ‘boys prefer sport’ and ‘girls preferred reality shows like Made in Chelsea’.
One of the most important factors that the story fails to address is exactly what kids are doing with their ‘online time’. Ideas are offered; ‘watch videos, listen to music, play games and research their homework’. Is it just a case of switching one procrastination-enhancing vice for another?
I can vividly remember my parents instantly regretting their decision to buy me a SEGA Mega Drive at the age of six or seven due to the adverse effect it had on the amount of time I spent in my bedroom – to the point where they’d actively send me outside, where I would find the nearest console-owning friend’s house and play their SNES instead. Twenty odd years later and the gaming industry is bigger than Hollywood. You can’t stop progress.
I can’t see the same amount of future parents having an issue with their kids playing computer games or wiling away the hours staring at a tablet, much like my grandparents got sick of the amount of time my mum would spend watching TV or on the (landline) phone, it’s about assimilation with that technology and understanding it.
For example, it turns out the countless hours I spent as a teenager in front of my family’s desktop PC weren’t wasted after all – try reading this in ANY office and then tell me that knowing the inner workings of a computer aren’t an advantage.
It’s just that now, toys, books, TV shows and other distractions of the mini-folk are all in one place – I had to play Pokemon on my Game Boy then pick something else up to do a different thing, y’know, like a book or a yo-yo or something.
The fact is, we can put as many headlines on it as we want, but whoever happens to be the youth populous of any specific time are always at the forefront of what’s about to grip us all, technologically – give it 20 years and we’ll be talking about how use of tablets is falling due to the rise of holographic technology (I can’t wait to read this in 20 years).
Struggling with new technology, it seems, will become one of the new absolute guarantees in life (others include: death, taxes and Kanye West).
Understanding early adoption from the younger generations and the gulfs it can drive between inter-generational communications is absolute key to anyone looking to speak to any of these audiences. From direct brands to schools and even parents.
Chances are you aren’t going to aim a radio-led campaign at teenagers, unless its entirety is contained fully within Radio 1 just as much as a company like SAGA probably isn’t going to advance its SnapChat output anytime soon.
Besides, it gives me the chance to say something I’ve been waiting to say for a long time:
“I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG, MUM…I was right.”
By Stuart Buchanan