Anywhere you go nowadays, there is one thing you are almost guaranteed to see – small children glued to their parents’ (or in some cases their own), phones and tablets. You can’t sit on a bus or walk through a grocery store without seeing a young child (I’m talking 2 or 3 years old), staring down at a screen so that their parents can run errands without too much distraction.
Technology is a huge part of our lives and can be very effective at keeping kids occupied. But there needs to be a limit on how much of their worldview comes from a screen instead of actually experiencing the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling parents to action, to decide what is best for their children in regards to how much screen time they are allowed per day.
Generally speaking, screen time is defined as any time that is spent in front of digital media for entertainment purposes, (online research and homework do not count). It used to be that the AAP had some relatively rigid guidelines surrounding screen time for young kids. The old guidelines recommended keeping children under the age of two away from all screen media. In October 2016, these guidelines were revised so that instead of focusing on counting down the minutes, the focus is now on how to use technology responsibly with children, no matter what their age.
A lady came into the kid’s bookstore where I work a couple of days ago. She gravitated immediately towards the display showcasing Indigenous kids’ stories. Usually, it garners an occasional glance, but never the same attention as this woman paid them.
She straightaway took a heaping stack and went to the store bench to go through each one. She then told me that many, many of these authors are not Indigenous, and cautioned against the promotion of such appropriation.
— Inhabit Media (@Inhabit_Media) January 3, 2017
Many, which I will not name as I do not want to distract from the focus of this piece, also showed “Indigenous” art – not actually by any Indigenous artists. Somehow, these books got published. I felt immediately uncomfortable seeing these books and recalling the history of residential schools, where colonizers wiped out the “Indian” in the children, and imposed religion along with brutal violence – blurring the lines between the two.
At some point, the world shifted. YouTube was born in 2005, and ever since has steadily risen into a media powerhouse by evolving and adapting to the desires of viewers. Originally, YouTube was meant to be a video dating site. After that failed, it became a space where people could post content on just about anything.
YouTube today is watched at an insane rate. As of 2016, around 1.3 billion people use YouTube. Nearly five billion videos are watched each day, and over the course of just one month 3.25 billion hours of video are watched.
So what about kids?
Well, as people continue to shy away from traditional media sources in general, children are moving with them. In fact, they are such a driving force that YouTube created the YouTube Kids app, first launched in the UK and Ireland, to placate them. This app contains a plethora of kid-friendly content while filtering out some inappropriate ads and videos.
In October 2015 alone, the top 20 children’s channels collected more than 5.2 billion views. YouTube is essentially playing catch up; they aren’t the ones trying to reel in children to go online to watch content. In fact, the massive amount of children now looking to YouTube for things to watch will likely put an onus on the company to continue to put an emphasis on their younger viewers.
Kids love YouTube, then. But why?
Me and millions of toddlers share a fascination: Little Baby Bum.
Little Baby Bum is the top education channel on YouTube. It features animated children’s songs and nursery rhymes like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.
The channel has 8.4 million subscribers and 9.9 billion views. That’s four times more subscribers than Disney and more views than Taylor Swift. How did it become so popular? Let’s take a look.
Do you remember when Charlotte crawled across her web and wrote “SOME PIG!” about her beloved Wilbur?
How about when Jess and Leslie discover the Bridge to Terabithia?
Both these children’s books bring us joy and fill us with nostalgia. While their scenes and special moments remain with us, they also contain one of the hardest and heaviest topics that make even adults stir uncomfortably: death.
And yet, Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia are both stories that have endured within our cultural psyche and earned their place among the classics on our shelves.
Death may not seem like a topic we broach with children unless we absolutely must, but the pain of loss, the complexity of grief — simple as it may sound — is a part of life’s learning process. Whether the pain of Charlotte’s death due to old age, or Leslie’s sudden passing after a tragic accident — the sadness remains with us, and that’s not a bad thing.
C. S. Lewis wrote “a children’s story is the best art form for something you have to say … the form makes it easier to see into the depths, even of death.” Childhood may be thought as a blissful state of innocence and naivety, leaving many adults skittering around emotionally heavier topics. But if done with care, introducing children to concepts loss and grief through books can aid during major transitions and difficulties. Read more >>
When Mattel released its ad for its Moschino Barbie, it caused a stir, simply because one of the stars of this video was a young boy. Male Barbie fans were enthused while there were many who were outraged.
When Target announced that it would be getting rid of the “girls” and “boys” signs in its bedding and toys department, it was met with simultaneous praise and outrage. A lot of this outrage is because many conservatives believe that “there are no gender neutral people” (Hains 2015). “Won’t someone think of the children?” cried others. Marketing toys as gender neutral is not trying to make girls and boys the same. Nor is it trying to get rid of toys like Hot Wheels and Barbie. It is a simple redistribution of toys according to theme and interest rather than gender.
So what’s the big deal? Do these labels even matter? Yes, they do. Labels are real and labels can hurt. They can instill a sense of shame in young children who find their interests do not lie with what the labels tell them that they should like. Little boys who want to play with Barbies should not feel ashamed when they walk down the doll aisle to find the one they want. Little girls with a love for Hot Wheels should not be shamed for their toy selection. Parents may worry that letting their son play with dolls will damage him somehow, but letting him play with trucks could also damage him by reinforcing gender stereotypes that could be harmful in his adult life.
“Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.” These are some wise words from our father Walt Disney, who would be astonished at how we are butchering his movies today.
Disney movies are something that we all can relate to. They’ve gotten me through some especially tough times. I remember watching them on VCR (I know I’m basically ancient!) Where I would rewind the tapes and start them over again from the beginning. Mulan was one of my favorites, I aspired to be a woman warrior even as a child.
So how should I feel when the cartoons that touched my heart as a kid and shaped me into the woman I am today are created into revolutionized live-action movies that completely miss the point? How will children be influenced by this new development?
#MakeMulanRight is a petition that was circling social media to be signed. Its goal was for the live-action in-production Mulan movie to get an Asian writer and a script change. An anonymous person in the industry leaked the early script of the movie and since then Twitter has been livid. Instead of Li Shang (a Chinese general) being the main love interest for Mulan, the script told a different story. There was to be a European man who comes to China, saves it from potential harm, and sweeps Mulan off her feet. This calls to attention not only whitewashing in the industry, but also the failure to promote the feminism that Mulan so rightly deserves.
— laura (@ezrsmillers) October 10, 2016
The hit Netflix series Stranger Things portrays Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) as the show’s youthful heroine. This is fine because she has an arc that is worth appreciating (despite ending up with Steve), but as fans have raucously pointed out since the series skyrocketed in popularity, there is another character who makes for an even better heroine.
Barbara Holland (Shannon Purser). Or Barb, for short.
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) August 24, 2016
The character appears in five of the eight total episodes of the show, and only for small moments. But in those moments she managed to strike a chord so strongly with viewers that (spoiler!) when she was killed in episode three, it sparked fan outrage and mourning.
One of the more trendy ways of communicating about Barb’s death was through the use of social media, particularly Twitter. Multiple hashtags arose in homage to Barb, with #WeAreAllBarb being one of the most popular. Not only has this hashtag been used to express feelings about the character, but people have decided to post photos of themselves from school, or photos of themselves dressed up like Barb.
But why Barb?
I grew up in the South some time ago (I’m not dropping any more hints!), and my best friend was a little boy who wore Harry Potter glasses and loved to play with my Barbie dolls.
When our moms would arrange playdates, I knew if the rendezvous point was my house, there was only one thing Liam was going to want to play with: my small collection of Mattel “girl toys.” Liam’s mom always made us play with the door open so she could keep him from playing with anything girly. There were a few times I took the fall for “forcing” him to play house, but in all honesty, Liam just enjoyed Barbies more than Legos.
My personal love for Barbies was always minimal—I liked to cut their hair off, give them tattoos, and see how fast I could destroy them. Liam was a fan of playing house. When I went to his house, he shared all the Legos, so when he came over to mine, we pulled out my stash of Malibu Dreamhouse characters.
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