Parents expend so much time and energy worrying about screen addiction and whether or not the relationships kids form online will have the same value we as adults place on our person to person interactions that they may be missing the here and now with their own kids. We have already had the conversation regarding technology and its permanence in our lives, let’s not waste another minute missing out on what our kids are doing.
Douglas Rushkoff makes a wonderful point in the FRONTLINE episode, Generation Like. “We are asking the wrong questions” (when it comes to digital and social media). He worries, “ What are companies doing to our kids through technology?” And this really is the bigger question, the more important question we need to be asking.
Rushkoff talks about how much of what he is discovering through his interactions with the teens he is working with remind him of the Merchants of Cool episode FRONTLINE aired in 2001. Interestingly, I had been thinking about the concepts expressed in that video just before it was mentioned.
Having a BS in Marketing (how appropriate!), I saw this video when it aired. I was working on a paper and actually used this show as a source. Because the thing is, the concepts of buzz marketing and the consumed consumer are not new. They are just digitized now. And just as in 2001, the younger generation is the victim.
Thanks to social media, companies are no longer selling to an audience, but getting the audience to sell their stuff for them, all the while claiming transparency. But are they really as transparent as they claim to be? Just like in the Wizard of Oz, (though rather than a man), there is a marketing juggernaut behind the curtain pulling the strings.
Mr. Rushkoff felt that the kids in Generation Like are more sophisticated than those in the Merchants of Cool. But he does see a vulnerability in them, and that is those pesky Likes. He likens them to social currency – the more you have the better you feel. What these kids don’t realize is that that Like data is collected, and then turned into REAL money for companies. It is, as mentioned in the show, “the perfect mashup of culture and commerce”.
It is no secret that kids consume media. They have just moved on from TV shows to the Internet. Honestly, the level to which they do is staggering. But what is key here is how that consumption has changed. I look at my own children, and while they do not yet have their own social media accounts (lack of interst – thank God for boys), they are avid YouTube viewers. And some of the stuff they watch is absolutely inane in my opinion. But, like Tyler Oakley said, (to paraphrase) what is lame in real life is cool on the web (must be a generational concept). But it’s all about the Likes. Gotta have ‘em.
The thing is, kids want to be famous. This desire for attention is nothing new; kids just have a way bigger stage now. A global one, even. And they will do the most bizarre things to get noticed. The notion of selling out has no meaning any more. One speaker in the show even mentioned that selling out is not selling out, but more like getting the brass ring. Young kids don’t even know what the expression means.
There is a girl featured in this video who is a rabid fan of the Hunger Games phenomenon. The report compares social media to the Hunger Games. This is our version of it. I loved Suzanne Collins’ series, but as a parent, I also struggle with the concepts in the book. Our choices as adults have such a huge impact on the future of young people it is scary. To coin a question from FRONTLINE, “Can kids really win when they don’t make the rules?”
So…What will I do with this knowledge? It’s really hard to say. I have to watch what my students watch, read what they read, listen to what they do, and find out what makes them tick. Certainly, I have to make every effort to connect with them on levels that appeal to them. I have to deliver lessons that engage them. I want to be that cool teacher that kids Tweet about, sure. But am I cool if they don’t learn anything in my classroom?