by Patrick Casey, Minimoviemakers.com
October 6, 2009
One thing they have learned is that the concept that children won’t be significantly exposed to new technologies “until their teen years” is outdated and just plain wrong. In fact the platform for kids learning how to interact with video, the Internet, and computers, is being laid at an increasingly early age. Research has found that 86% of children 6 months to 6 years old know how to use a mouse and 50% know how to turn on a computer and insert a cd-rom. More telling, and frightening some to parents, is that 42% of 6 month to 6 year olds have visited a web site and 21% have sent e-mails with the help of a parent.
But the area that is creating the most interest for researchers and parents alike is the rapid increase in children’s use of video technologies. This is an exploding trend for pre-teens and indeed across the board for all age groups.
Total videos viewed in all age groups has increased from 7.2 billion in January 2007, to more than 21.4 billion in July 2009. This represents a tripling of viewership, with the largest viewing audience being among young adults. More and more pre-teens are spending their time watching videos on-line. As of January 2007, time spent by preteens, per month, watching videos on the Internet was 2 1/2 hours. By 2009, this amount increased to 8 1/2 hours. What’s a parent to do?
Parents have long been advised to take control of their child’s relationship with media at an early age. However, parents are recognizing that they are rapidly losing control of their child’s communication and socialization activities to the Internet. More and more kids are moving away from face-to-face conversations to digital image interaction. The Pew Center for Internet and American Life found that more than half of all teens are currently creating media content and a third have shared content they produced with others using the Internet. Preteens have embraced the Internet culture precisely because it is participatory and because it has very low barriers to entry. Anyone with a video camera or even computer video cam can create content and share (or impose) it on the world.
Bill Gates said: “if you want to teach kids something – the first thing you have to do is get their attention.”
One way to get their attention is to get involved in teaching kids how to use media tools. Parents and educators need to be participants in the process instead of just spectators. By teaching kids how to use video tools properly we can help them to become better judges of the media they see.
We believe that if you teach kids the basics of good movie making early, then they will learn to appreciate and not abuse the myriad of opportunities it offers.
Over the past ten years of teaching movie making, we at Mimimoviemakers.com have witnessed the increase in kids who make movies or videos and share them on-line. But, unfortunately, much of what we see in video content produced by kids today is a poor use of the medium. It is often used to make fun of or otherwise hurt other kids. Some kid videos are also very dangerous to kids – especially as they try to imitate dangerous stunt tricks, stage schoolyard fights, and other inappropriate attempts to create “me-too” videos.
An approach that we suggest to Parents is to make it fun to learn how to make movies the right way. We use a variety of characters that the kids can relate to and we use repetition of messages to reinforce the rules of sound moviemaking. For example, we use a “Video Police” officer to teach the “do’s and don’ts” of moviemaking and a “Video Librarian” to teach movie making terms. The producers of Blues Clues and before them, Sesame Street have had great success using fun and entertaining characters to repeat key messages.
Getting the attention of pre-teens is essential to presenting the basics of any discipline. Many feel that if it is educational, it can’t be fun. We suggest that movie making be fun.
Kids love to see themselves on TV. Kids are most attracted to the “magic” part of the movie making process – it is by far the greatest draw for youngsters. We help unlock the magic by providing Tips on how to replicate various movie making tricks. After kids learn the “WOW” techniques of video we can then inspire them to become good storytellers. As they learn to tell their stories properly, they are less likely to shoot aimless, hurtful video.
We found that there really isn’t much guidance available for parents or kids to get them off on the right track in their movie making. We created an instructional video “Movie Making Fun for Kids” as a guide to parents and kids to provide some of that guidance.
Preteens today are actively using and preparing their own videos for sharing on-line. When left to their own devices, kids will learn about creating video content by searching YouTube and watching videos created by others. The question is not if kids will continue to produce and share video on-line - it is what will it ultimately look like.
The effects of the new technologies on this generation are in the hands of parents and educators alike. Their active participation in the process can assure a positive result.
by Patrick Casey, Minimoviemakers.com