My husband and I try really hard to understand the games my kids are playing. My ex-husband plays a lot of games with them, even incredibly absurd ones, and I watch a lot of the let’s play videos with them.

I’ve listened to probably a hundred Sky Does Minecraft videos. (Ten million subscribers.) I’ve watched all the Game Theory videos. (Fascinating, even for adults.) And I’ve seen PewDiePie (and my kids died of happiness when an Australian newspaper listed me with him as an Internet celebrity you’ve never heard of.)

Something I’ve noticed is that my older son wants to consume content, but my younger son wants to create content. Which makes sense: my younger son is a musician, and he loves working with his hands. He sees making a YouTube video as something similar to playing music.

He wanted to have a channel on YouTube, so he started out for a week posting one video a day. It was a lot of work. He cried one day and I told him I know how he feels—I’ve been posting once a day online for almost ten years. It’s a lot of pressure. “You get used to it,” I told him.

He told me he has a lot more respect for me now that he knows I post every day. And then he quit his channel.

But there was this guy he bought his YouTube intro from. (The YouTube intro is to Generation Z what the domain name is to Generation Y. It’s an identity statement and you can never have enough.)

There’s a whole economy in YouTube that is people buying and selling services related to video games. My son asked around and decided he needed Cinema 4D so he could make his own intros.

When the software was too difficult for him to learn himself, he asked one of the guys selling intros to teach him how to use Cinema 4D. The guy said my son was too young.

So my son went to elance.com, which he has heard me talking about when I’m doing career coaching on the phone. He found someone who does Cinema 4D and I sent an email to ask if he would teach my son.

My son is so excited to be part of the YouTube economy. He is not so much excited to learn software as he is excited to sell something for real money.

This reminds me of the study at Stanford about writing—kids learn to be better writers writing online than writing for a classroom because online, thousands of people see what you write and you want to persuade them what you say is good and true. When there is only one teacher, it doesn’t nearly matter as much.

The same seems to be true of learning digital animation. My son wouldn’t sit still long enough to learn any sort of game. He has no patience for days and days of solving a problem. But he is happy to be part of the economy, being valued for the work he does with his hands.

When he asked me who Vim Venders is, I told him to look it up on the Internet. He didn’t. He is not lazy, but he doesn’t care enough. On the other hand, when he needed to set up a store to sell his YouTube intros, I told him to go to a site called 1&1.  “I know them,” I told him. “You can set up a store there.”

My son didn’t say, “I don’t wannna!” And he did’t say, “Show me how.” He said, “Thanks.”

Which is not like him. And then I realized that the fact that he can be part of a real economy at such a young age drives him to find and refine his strengths faster to get him where he wants to go.

For better or worse, kids know that society values people with money. And it’s not just adults who want to feel valued. So I’m excited that my son doesn’t have to wait until he’s older. The only thing that’s stopping him from making money is whether or not he can tough out the steep learning curve of Cinema 4D.

8 replies
  1. Eve
    Eve says:

    I totally agree, that kids don’t just consume media. They process it in many different ways. Like your son’s trying to be a part of the real economy, I have a niece who has adopted a pet on http://www.neopets.com/, just to prove to her parents that she can be responsible for a pet. The deal makes me smile at the ability children have to turn tables. Her parents asked her to prove she is capable of being responsible, and now, she wants them to give their word, that she would get a real pup, if she proved to be responsible for her virtual pet in the next 5 months!

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    My favorite paragraph (insight) of the post – “This reminds me of the study at Stanford about writing—kids learn to be better writers writing online than writing for a classroom because online, thousands of people see what you write and you want to persuade them what you say is good and true. When there is only one teacher, it doesn’t nearly matter as much.”
    I think it’s my favorite since it’s such a revelation to me even after reading and thinking about it after several times. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t possible or practical when I was a student. Or maybe it’s because I’d didn’t think about the writing process in the above perspective until you brought it to my attention in your previous post. In any case, I find it fascinating since it sheds light on the writing process from multiple angles including motivation and evaluation.

  3. sarah faulkner
    sarah faulkner says:

    Very well written post. Really enjoyed it and so did my kids. My kids are determined to be famous You Tubers. Ethan, my son, said to tell you “Everyone who gets paid big money are young adults. Kids lack the sophistication to comment with a game. There is a fine line to say commentary and keep a teen/adult interest and a kids. This is why the Simpsons are so successful. They can appeal to both age groups.” :)

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Youtubes just the new television then isn’t it?

      All these kids wanting ‘fame’ at such early ages. Then they realize fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

      The more crowded the arena, the better the content needs to be. Kids wont be able to just sit and comment about toys all day, or sit and comment about games all day and expect $. There are so few that actually make money.

      I have wondered what some of these youtube kid stars are going to be like in 10-20 years. Will they be ok? It’s quite obvious the parents are pushing the agendas for more revenue.

      Are youtubing parents the new stage parent?

      • marta
        marta says:

        I know a couple of youtubers whose parents didn’t have a clue about what the kids were doing until someone showed them the videos (fashion and techy gadgets). But these are teenagers, so of course parents aren’t exactly looking over their shoulder… These kids get some Google cheques every now and then and are able to pay for more clothes, movies, etc. Seems pretty ordinary to me as a teen job.

        But it is a fad like any other fad. As you say, kids sitting and commenting about games&toys&whatever all day is pretty limited as far as creativity and entrepreneurialship go. To me it all looks like the modern, materialistic, globalized equivalent of the writing on the school’s lavatories doors – I luv Duran Duran/Jon Bon Jovi is God kind of babble. The fact that kids are being paid by adults to do it makes it a bit freaky…

        If this is the global economy… World, stop spinning, I want to get out!

  4. malaika
    malaika says:

    this is one of my favourite articles in your homeschooling blog. how easy it is for kids, and people in general, to test a career these days!

  5. Corey
    Corey says:

    It is so true that kids become better writers online. Online writing requires that kids write with purpose and with mind for an audience.

    I like to assume that my students have as much to teach as I do, especially concerning modern technology (I am a life coach who works with at-risk kids in a non-tradition setting). One of my students who is a very reluctant learner and very shy, surprised me recently, when at the mention of a website, he opened up and began talking about Podcasting, Facebook followers, marketing, his first song on I-tunes… I was simply amazed.

    Thanks for this wonderful post! I am inspired to encourage creative and productive thought for all of my students, if I can discover their passions and dreams one by one.

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