A few weeks ago, I was pottering around the kitchen and overheard the girls (aged 4 and 7) randomly shouting the word ‘cakes’ very loudly and very clearly. Closer investigation revealed that they were shouting ‘cakes’ at our iPad. I’m sure I’m a little late to the party but it turns out that you can do a voice activated search on YouTube. Who knew? My kids did, because that’s the way they now watch television or consume media.
Like most parents, it’s a constant balancing act when it comes to screen time. If I had the guts (or indeed the energy), I’d love to do away with it completely, as fellow TMK blogger, Rosie, did for a week. Maybe one day, we’ll try that particular social experiment but right now, I love snuggling down to a family movie and I love the extra hour in bed that a few cartoons buy me on a Saturday morning.
That said, when we moved to our little cottage in Cornwall, gasp, there was no television reception, and we weren’t prepared to fork out several hundred pounds to get connected in a rental property. So we bought an iPad and we watch DVDs and iPlayer and it’s starting to really shape the way the girls interact with the internet and the programmes they love to watch. For small children, YouTube is like crack. They watch a short clip (small children + short attention span = instant addiction) and straight away, other relevant clips are suggested to them. Are they going to click for more? Of course they are. And they are hooked, heads over heels, with the instant gratification of being able to watch what they want, when they want. Just the other day, a friend told me that her 4 year-old son gets agitated because you can’t ‘just pause it mummy’ when watching CBeebies on live tv.
There is a cautionary tale here though. The girls’ addiction began when we first gained an iPad. I found a short film on YouTube about making doll outfits, showed the girls what wonders could be theirs and left them to watch some highly educational doll-clothes-making videos whilst I gathered together the craft supplies. I returned 10 minutes later to find them watching two Barbie dolls have simulated sex. Aaargh! One clip really does lead to another.
Since then, we’ve restricted YouTube time to when we’re in the same room. And they have discovered cake-making videos, which so far seem pretty harmless. Their favourite baking YouTube celebrity, is a hipster girl from Seattle, called Rosanna Pansino who has a frankly brilliant YouTube channel called Nerdy Nummies, where she makes all manner of brilliantly nerdy cake creations (Harry Potter wizard cauldron cake pops, for example, or Angry Birds cupcakes). She makes it look easy, it’s funny and with 750,000 subscribers, clearly her fans love her too.
Is this the future of television? I’m pretty sure it is. Suddenly, the playing field is level. Anyone with a half decent camera and something interesting to say or do, can create their own big break. I’m not talking about the one-off YouTube stars like the guy who made a million pounds with a video of his son called ‘Charlie Bit My Finger‘. I’m talking about the people who making cracking short programmes week after week and make a regular income for ad placement and social media deals. BBC1’s Matt Edmondson first got himself noticed with his hilarious weekly blow-by-blow accounts of the X Factor. It’s no longer about knowing the right people in the business, it’s about being talented and putting something out there. I’m fascinated and excited by this, but also concerned about how my kids are going to be interacting with this online world. I want them to be able to use the internet as a prompt to get out there do something in real life instead of being passive consumers.
And so, in homage to the highly entertaining Nerdy Nummies, we set out to make our own version. Dear god, it was complicated. We wanted a theme tune, a logo intro, close-up shots…in short, we were overly ambitious. Things went wrong, we accidentally deleted footage, our editing sucks. But we had great fun and we now have 50 Wimbledon-themed cake pops on sticks in our freezer. Which I’m sure will come in handy.
After editing this thing for at least 5 hours, I have discovered that I have a double chin and hate the sound of my own voice but if you would like to see our very clumsy YouTube project, you can click here and have a good laugh. All of the scenes were directed by the girls, they chose our ‘intro logo’ and the sound effects were hand-picked and randomly applied by them too. It is, as my American friends say, a hot mess. I’m pretty sure YouTube won’t be calling us, but we did have fun. We’ll be leaving this to the professionals in future!