I was asked by my son, 13, why everyone else he knows thinks PewDiePie is cool, but I don’t.
It was probably the first time I’d really had that moment where my effort to be a well informed guide to the way my kids experience the internet was set against his wider pool of opinions from friends and other favourite YouTubers.
It came up while he watched a YouTube Rewind reaction video from DanTDM, one of his favourites and a very unproblematic kid-friendly character. When PewDiePie came up DanTDM just laughed and acknowledged him and said he likes him. My kid trusts DanTDM, so why did Dan not agree?
How to explain that another YouTuber is *not* going to stick their neck out and start a feud with fans from an even bigger channel? That these things go bad fast. Or that maybe DanTDM is just a fan and likes stuff that’s a little ‘edgier’ when he’s not producing fun content for kids?
How to explain that someone has regularly explored the realm of gross comedic efforts that feature racist, anti-semitic content and just tries to wave it away as an ‘immature’ past but does little to truly distance himself from it, or slips back toward some of it now and then?
It reminds me how many parents are often worrying about the wrong parts of what’s wrong on the internet. They fear big online disasters but miss the toxic voices that normalise Very Bad Ideas in a mixture of otherwise standard fare gameplay videos or other amusing content. Which then normalises those Very Bad Ideas in a generation of growing teens.
My son is at that threshold where he wants to align his own opinions and fandom with his peers, and I’m one of the ‘weird’ parents who is telling him that some YouTubers are OK and others are not.
We used to avoid channels with swearing when they were younger. Now that’s less of a concern – we teach responsible swearing in this house. But normalising racism, sexism, homophobia… even if that comes up as ‘a joke’ now and then and the rest isn’t so bad? That’s not OK.
We need to help kids know it’s not OK, not normal, not reasonable. Then if they do watch it a little now and then on the sly at least they watch it through a lens of exploring boundaries, not thinking that this is something that perfectly reasonable people agree with.
Here’s hoping the 2020s give us a chance to have better conversations with all our kids about these kinds of things. And that parents stop seeing these internet spaces as some ‘other’ place that isn’t attached to the real world and the values their kids are learning as part of growing up.
The Complications of PewDiePie
If you haven’t heard of him, or his problems…
The biggest YouTuber in the world has been accused of being a closet white nationalist and even inspiring mass shootings. He says it’s all a misunderstanding.
An amazing investigation of online murder markets, and how even though many are scams to grift people out of money there’s a real marketplace out there.
There should be an outcry across the world when a democratic country shuts down its internet in parts of the country to try to stop protests.
Every week there’s another reminder of why I feel better having deleted Facebook from my phone. This is its explanation of why it tracks you even when you’ve told it you don’t want to be tracked.
This story about criminals making virtual connections with children through gaming and social media platforms feels sensational but I think it’s important for why we need to get comfortable talking to our kids about their online lives. Mistakes happen, but it’s the fear of a mistake being exposed that leads to a path of deeper issues and self harm.
Leaders in artificial intelligence warn that progress is slowing, big challenges remain, and simply throwing more computers at a problem isn’t sustainable.
Taylor Lorenz is one of the best digital culture writers out there today. This interview is gold for grasping how to keep up with what’s new online without resorting to asking the kids “what they’re up to”.
Good piece from Anil Dash on how Instagram, and other platforms that disallow links, are intentionally harming our sense of the open web.
Netflix averaged just over one new original TV program or movie for every day of 2019. The streaming giant released 371 new TV shows and movies on the service in the U.S. this year, according to data from Variety Insight.
Last podcast for the year, we explore bits from last week’s The Game Awards, the new Xbox Series X, what it means to have Scorsese and Michael Bay going direct to Netflix, and a bunch of our picks for best things of the year.
I pulled together 10 of the trailers and moments that stood out for me as highlights of The Game Awards.
This could be a massive leap forward for the future of the smart home – if everything talks to everything, we won’t have to fuss about whether we’ve bought the right ‘ecosystem’ to make things work. The Connected Home over IP project aims to make your smart home devices work better together.
He’s back! In this intro letter, the man himself explains why his iconic comic strip The Far Side has never been offered online until now, after almost 25 years since he decided to retire from the cartoon.