Are My Kids Missing Out by Not Channel Surfing?
Last weekend I had some time between various projects I was doing at home. i made a cup of coffee and sat in my chair to chill before checking off the next thing on my list. I didn't really have enough time to get into a new episode of one of my show, and I didn't really want to get into a movie, so I just flipped channels.
As I was was hitting the remote's next button and sampling each channel for a few seconds I thought of my kids. They don't watch TV. At least not in the way I did when I was their ages. They watch YouTube and Netflix on devices anywhere in the house.
For me, after school, late nights, and weekends, I was channel surfing. Where I grew up, in rural-ish western Nebraska, we had cable TV nearly all my life. Cable TV started as a way to bring TV to parts of the country where the over-the-air signal didn't reach. That was my hometown. If you didn't have cable you could maybe get a PBS out of Colorado and a distant ABC affiliate. So, I was there in the early days of USA Network and when TBS was WTBS and started everything at :05. When CNN did news and Disney Channel was just old Disney stuff. Flipping channels when I was a kid was serious business.
When I think of the way my kids consume entertainment now, I'm kind of worried that they are missing out on the discovery process of flipping through the channels. Sure YouTube and Netflix have suggestions and recommendations, but they are tailored by algorithm based on what you've already watched.
When I was flipping channels I would discover things because there was no recommendations. Just changing the channel until something caught my eye. That's how I discovered Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater 3000. I would come across interesting documentaries on the Discovery Channel one hour then switch to USA Up All Night. I don't know of an algorithm that would connect that.
This is probably more about nostalgia for my youth than really worrying about my kids. As I think about it YouTube has really served my kids well. Take my daughter for example. She started watching a silly toy unboxings, that led her to crafting videos, some great cooking series, science experiments, great music, American Ninja Warrior and kids showing off their talents on Ellen. The messes created by slime aside, her YouTube watching has led to an explosion of creativity in our house.
Maybe it's not bad, just different. The kids are still exploring the world and ideas. And I know that eight-year-old me would be consumed with jealousy if he knew that in today's world he could watch every episode of Pee Wee's Playhouse whenever he wanted.