Dustin Hoffman’s eccentric portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 classic Rain Man popularized the autistic individual on an unprecedented scale. Overnight, autism became associated with extraordinary savant skills (memory and math), and quirky behaviours – with the corresponding social difficulties and odd mannerisms.
Media portrayals of autism since Rain Man have often obscured autism rather than illuminated this complex condition. Jim Parsons’ Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory is often described as a poster boy for Asperger’s syndrome, but he too is an exceptional case of savant traits (eidetic memory, extraordinarily high IQ), and verbal fluency that is non-existent for many on the Autism Spectrum.
Is it not time for popular media to address autism accurately in programming, given that approximately 1 in 68 children in North America are autistic?
Every kid grows up idolizing a superhero. For me it was Batman. I was in love with the city that he lives to protect–––Gotham, his trusty sidekick–––Robin, and even the villains he faced, my favourite being The Joker. Most of all I loved the fact that Batman was so relatable. He had no otherworldly powers whatsoever, just his brain, his billions and his brute strength. I thought that if Batman could defeat some nasty people with no real help, anyone has the potential to as well.
It’s obvious that not only Batman, but superheroes in general had a large impact on my life from childhood. Now though, as I enjoy the new movies and TV shows based on superheroes that come out–––I can’t help thinking about how hard it will be to introduce my potential children to them. It continuously crosses my mind how the market of superheroes for children is declining.
The kinda strange thing about the new wave of superhero movies/shows is that most of them totally aren't intended for kids. Sorry, kids.
— John Squires (@FreddyInSpace) March 25, 2016
Those of us who read Batman, Superman and Avengers comics are no doubt stoked about the movies. Everyone wants to see something they love created in a different media. Though with children, what do they have to look forward to? The cinematic industry is always growing, always changing, and now they are shameless with their Rated R explicit superhero remakes.
Ah, memes – possibly the best thing to happen on the Internet! Who knew that so few words and the perfect picture can bring people from all over the globe together? It seems as though they have become popular overnight… literally, those Caveman Spongebob memes appeared from nowhere, but were everywhere this past summer!
Why are kids so obsessed with memes? Well, there’s a simple answer to this – it is either hilarious to them, or relatable. I sent out a collection of six memes to one fourteen-year-old and one sixteen-year-old, and both of them sent me back these following memes as their top two, which features a weird, white monkey-looking animal and Mr. Bean.
Parents: what happened to all your money….? Me: pic.twitter.com/uVrhUEJzGI
— Average College Kid (@AvgCollegeKid) December 15, 2016
Both of these were the favourites because they are “so true,” as both these teenagers put it. At their age, I find that anything school related is usually retweeted the most because you can’t help but share something that is relevant to your current situation. For example, the bulk of memes that I personally see on my twitter and Facebook pages are all mostly school related, because everyone I’m connected with is still stuck there…I mean, attending.
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.
Media offers a world of entertainment and learning possibilities for children and youth. The kidsmediacentre explores kids' media futures and is committed to supporting cross-platform content producers in Canada to ensure the kids' media industry is vibrant, indigenous and committed to the healthy growth of children.