Keeping Kids Off the Internet?

A young girl watching a video about Egyptian pyramids
As a parent we can only hope to raise kids who make smart decisions when we aren’t looking and keep them from following a Kardashian into a cult.
Jon Kile

As a father, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest in social media. Particularly now that Elon Musk is hemming and hawing over spending $44 billion to buy Twitter. Depending upon who you ask, this is terrible news because he’s going to turn Twitter into an echo chamber for conspiracy theorists, or it doesn’t matter because Twitter is already irrelevant because the kids are all on TikTok and Instagram.

I hope that Musk buying Twitter is like paying $44 billion for an AOL subscription. Twitter is for old people and politicians, right? In 10 years it’ll be like Myspace, which, as we know, Facebook killed. And Facebook is now the minivan of social medias. (“Just drop me off at the corner, Dad, I can walk.”) Did you know that Myspace still exists? It’s true. In 2018 it was bought by the hippest of media outlets, Time, Inc., whose interest in it was strictly for the data, which is kind of like buying an old Yugo for parts. I’m pretty sure the folks at Time just wanted to recycle Myspace for the copper in its servers.

Our kids are of the age when they are getting phones. If social media is like a drug, phones are the rolling papers. They haven’t asked for Facebook or Twitter (lame!). But they did ask for TikTok and Instagram. Instagram was a quick “no” because as far as I can tell, it’s where the Kardashian-Jenners “influence” young people to get them to steal their parents credit cards to attend the Fyre Festival. We briefly let our son get TikTok for the funny videos, but that lasted about a week. I honestly can’t even recall what it was that made us pull the plug on TikTok, but it was probably profanity. 

It doesn’t really matter because they both watch YouTube and pretty much anything stupid on TikTok is on YouTube. You can’t ban YouTube because YouTube is television now and we aren’t Amish. When my family got cable, circa 1983, our cable box literally had a key with a lock that turned so my parents could shut off HBO and MTV. I was left to watch reruns of The Waltons (so many troubles on Walton Mountain than an ‘80s kid could relate to, too).  

If social media is like a drug, phones are the rolling papers.

At the very least, YouTube has some age settings that allow you to restrict content. I don’t really expect YouTube to be good at filtering out the bad stuff, so once in a while I steal a glance at what my kids are watching. And recently, I was appalled. Our daughter was watching a video like I’ve never seen – an educational video! Did you know that the the pyramids in Egypt are even taller than they appear because their bases are covered in 25 feet of sand that has blown in over the years? 

I took a gander at our son’s viewing and I found him still watching Dan TDM. If that name is familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned him in this space. This guy was just 20 years old when he started posting Minecraft videos. Minecraft is like playing with Legos on a computer (which means it doesn’t hurt when you step on it.) Dan TDM leveraged his YouTube fame into a book deal, a world tour, and movie cameos. Now, he’s 30, married and lives in the English countryside with his wife Gemma and their son Asher. He doesn’t do heroin or have drunken fights. I don’t think he even TikToks. He just lives a quiet life getting rich playing video games that require a lot of creativity.

These are their role models? 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As parents, we’re afraid of the internet because we didn’t have it when we were kids and we know all the bad stuff that exists out there. But to kids, it’s like food or air. Being afraid of the internet is like being afraid of books. Who could be afraid of books?

Don’t answer that.

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