Keeping Kids Off the Internet?

Ren Dad Internet Kids Jon Kile 05262022
A young girl watches a video about the Egyptian pyramids
As parents, we can only hope to raise children who make smart decisions when we’re not watching and keep them from following a Kardashian into a cult.
Jon Kile

As a dad, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest social media. Especially now that Elon Musk is reluctant to spend $44 billion to buy Twitter. Depending on who you ask, this is terrible news because it will turn Twitter into an echo chamber for conspiracy theorists, or whatever because Twitter is already irrelevant because kids are all on TikTok and Instagram.

I hope Musk buys Twitter is like paying $44 billion for an AOL subscription. Twitter is for old people and politicians, right? In 10 years, it will be like Myspace, which, as we know, Facebook killed. And Facebook is now the mini van of social networks. (“Just drop me off at the corner, dad, I can walk.”) Did you know that Myspace still exists? It’s true. In 2018, it was bought by the hippest of media, Time, Inc., whose focus was strictly on data, which is a bit like buying an old Yugo for parts. I’m pretty sure the folks at Time just wanted to recycle Myspace for the copper in its servers.

Our children are at the age when they receive telephones. If social media is like a drug, phones are the rolling papers. They didn’t ask for Facebook or Twitter (lame!). But they asked for TikTok and Instagram. Instagram was a quick ‘no’ because, as far as I can tell, it’s where the Kardashian-Jenners ‘influence’ young people into stealing their parents’ credit cards to attend the Fyre Festival. We briefly let our son get TikTok for the funny videos, but that lasted about a week. Honestly, I can’t even remember what caused us to unplug TikTok, but it was probably blasphemy.

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It doesn’t really matter because they both watch YouTube and pretty much everything stupid on TikTok is on YouTube. You can’t ban YouTube because YouTube is TV now and we’re not Amish. When my family got cable, circa 1983, our cable box literally had a key with a lock that turned so my parents could turn off HBO and MTV. All I had to do was watch reruns of The Waltons (so much trouble at Walton Mountain that an 80s kid could understand too).

If social media is like a drug, phones are the rolling papers.

At the very least, YouTube has age settings that allow you to restrict content. I don’t really expect YouTube to be good at filtering out the bad stuff, so every once in a while I check out what my kids are watching. And recently I was appalled. Our daughter was watching a video like I’ve never seen – a educative video! Did you know that the pyramids of Egypt are even taller than they appear because their bases are covered with 25 feet of sand blown over over the years?

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I peeked into our son’s viewing and found him watching Dan TDM. If this name is familiar, it is because it is not the first time that I mention it in this space. This guy was only 20 when he started posting Minecraft videos. Minecraft is like playing with Legos on a computer (meaning it doesn’t hurt when you walk on it.) Dan TDM leveraged his YouTube fame into a book deal, world tour, and cameos of movies. Today he is 30, married and lives in the English countryside with his wife Gemma and their son Asher. He doesn’t do heroin and doesn’t have drunken fights. I don’t think he even has TikToks. He just lives a quiet life by getting rich playing video games that require a lot of creativity.

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Are these their role models?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As parents we are afraid of the internet because we didn’t have it when we were kids and we know all the bad things out there. But for children, it’s like food or air. Being afraid of the internet is like being afraid of books. Who could be afraid of books?

Don’t answer that.

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