With the launch of the Xbox One in November, 2013 has finally finished giving birth to the newest generation of video game consoles. Wii U, PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One are sure to be on many children’s wish lists for the holidays this year, but these new consoles are anything but child’s play. Far from being simple machines for playing video games, these new consoles are more connected to the Internet than ever and have lots of new social features.
The theme of this year’s Media Literacy Week, “What’s Being Sold: Helping Kids Make Sense of Marketing Messages” is one I personally feel strongly about. After all, I’ve spent my entire career working in all aspects of marketing and communications. At the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), I’m responsible for the department filled with people who are experts in advertising and communications, social media and public relations.
Snapchat, the mobile app that lets users send “self-destructing” photos, has the distinction of being the only digital tool that does not have a single redeeming feature. While the moral panic associated with blogs, cell phones, social networks and online games has largely faded in grudging recognition of their more positive uses (indeed, research shows that many parents have actually helped their children lie about their age register for Facebook accounts), Snapchat is seen as the Q-tip of the digital age: its sole function is to do the thing that you’re warned not to do on the box.
We generally think of our kids’ online and offline lives as being two separate things. In reality, they constantly overlap, flowing back and forth face-to-face in the schoolyard and through texts and social networks at home. But on the Internet there are lots of moral and ethical choices that don’t have to be made offline.
I’ve already written about YouTube and Instagram, but today I wanted to share some information about four other popular sites and apps that are on my radar right now: Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr and ask.fm.
My last post here was about balancing screen time over the summer months. This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought, and I can summarize my feelings on the matter this way: my personal aim is to decrease the amount of time that my kids consume utter dreck**, and balance other free time with good quality viewing that we can enjoy as a family.
Summer can feel very long sometimes. Heck, I’ve been there. I clearly remember the days when the kids seemed crazier than a pack of wild squirrels, leaving piles of household detritus in their wake while I followed them helplessly, longing for a hot cup of coffee and five minutes in the bathroom without someone knocking on the door.
YouTube is a window into a world of wonder. There is so much great material to be found there, whether it’s for education, entertainment, or inspiration. But there’s also a lot of inappropriate stuff in amongst the cat videos and Kid President. Question is, how do we, as parents, help our kids safely navigate YouTube?