Analysis: Kids in Hall of Mirrors

Kids in Hall of Mirrors

Kids in Hall of Mirrors

  • Posted on: 18/Mar/16
  • by Simon Britton

We all know that most young kids don't watch FTA TV any more. But it still comes as a bit of a shock when you talk to 11 year olds about what they do watch. It's a hall of mirrors in there. ~~

Moral Panic for the 21st Century?
The YouTube revolution is a wonderfull thing - gone are the gatekeepers, everyone's a creator and so on. YouTube, Facebook and a raft of other social video tools allow kids to talk in video to each other, as equals, without overgrown kids on network TV (aka network programmers) trying to second-guess them. But there's a downside.
In the pre-YouTube era, we grew up on a diet of FTA spiced up by the occasional VHS or DVD offering. TV viewing was a group experience - occasionally that meant kids were forced to watch something a bit more adult - like a history or nature doco or maybe even a science, religion or philosophy program. If they wanted TV, they had to tough it out in the lounge.
By osmosis, they absorbed more "considered" content and maybe had their interest piqued in something out of their usual fare of Here's Humphrey or Shirl's Neighbourhood (shudder).
Post YouTube, they control the platform, and they choose to watch stuff that is made for them (purportedly) by kids their own age. Subscribing to channels locks them in and the YouTube recommendation engine is going to serve up more of the same. So now their diet is uniformly age-specific. All cupcake, no steak.
There is higher, considered content around. Look at The School of Life, Alain de Boton's brilliant attempt to get over really complicated life concepts in 3 minutes.But how will young kids come across it?

Engineered Serendipity
Is there space in kid's online content for an algorithm that stretches their imaginations a little? To recreate that small spark of randomness, so that an eleven year old might get offered an episode of The School of Life amongst their stream of same-age vloggers?
Is there a space for just a little social engineering by a smart developer that would allow parents to inject something a little more substantial into their kid's YouTube fare?

About the author

  • Simon Britton

    Simon Britton

    Simon is screen industry consultant and publisher of Australia’s leading online screen content ebulletin ScreenPro ( Before launching MediaWave in 2008, he worked for the Australian Film, TV and Radio School’s Centre for Screen Business, focusing on emerging business models for online screen content. He has consulted to, or written research papers for, the South Australian Film Corporation, Screen Australia, Film Victoria and The Australian Film TV and Radio School. He's delivered workshops for SPAA, The Media Resource Centre, Open Channel, RMIT, Monash University, UCLA Film School and AFTRS. He is currently running national workshops on new models of finance and online distribution for screen content. He recently concluded a three-year term on the Board of the Australian Screen Institute (AFI). He is on the Board of Open Channel. Simon consults on film projects and is currently working with a range of content creators to develop strategies for online delivery of their work.