Teens: Disruptive Innovators

youtube Yes, it’s happened.  My wife and I can officially get the “Parents of the Year” award! Why, you ask? Our child doesn’t watch any TV…NONE…and it’s voluntary! That’s I thought for just about 1 second.  Then I realized what had replaced TV – YouTube.

Over history, young people have always been “disruptive innovators”…you know, this is the buzzword of the last couple years usually associated with Apple, Google, Uber, etc…  However, it’s always been the next generation that have turned things on their heads and moved culture in a new direction.  This time, our current teens will kill traditional TV as we know it.  I realized this when my son got interested in Jimmy Fallon for only two reasons (aside from the fact that he’s darned funny): 1. He was able to view clips of the show on YouTube; and, 2. they filmed a “react” video with current YouTubers.  That signaled that it was OK to like Jimmy’s show.

If you’re reading this, you must be pretty old.  I mean how many people really READ text anymore…that’s sooooo archaic! Note to self: I need to ditch this blog and create a YouTube channel. Given my assumption that you are old, you may not even know what a YouTuber or what a “react” video is.

So YouTubers (see picture above) are typically teens or twenty-somethings that create a series of videos in an attempt to gain a following; which in turn, can give them a piece of the advertising revenue that YouTube makes.  A “react” video is when someone is filmed watching another video and then reacting to that video.  Now when typed that out, it sounds incredibly inane.  However, I can say for a fact that these can be entertaining.  As a side note, one of the more popular YouTubers are the Fine Brothers who have created a very entertaining series of “Kids React…”,”Teens React…”, “Elders React…” and “YouTubers React…” videos.  One of my favorites is watching “Teens React to 90’s Internet”.  I’ll just say that both the commercial and reactions are priceless!

As I was learning about this new world from my son, it struck me that mainstream media has not picked up on this in a big way.  Yes, there have been some stories about this new media, like this one in the New Yorker.  However, people who are middle-aged or older typically have no idea this world exists because it is very much NOT part of the mainstream media and TV world…on purpose.  While I may not like many of the videos that my son watches now (endless gaming commentary vids – uugghh!), it is refreshing to see that the whole vibe of YouTubers is very different than mainstream media.  This is something that traditional TV just can’t duplicate.

My point about this is that – as a technologist – we can no longer only listen to or watch mainstream media to keep up with current trends.  Some of you know this but most do not (at least in my circles).  Likewise the new, innovative technologies are likely NOT the ones that are sold by traditional methods.  Instead, go to some hackathons or talk to some college students.

Fortunately, YouTubers are starting to get noticed.  In an unusual cross-over event, the most popular YouTuber was written into a South Park episode.  Also, among teens the YouTubers are more popular than several mainstream stars. Lastly, to get on my soapbox for just a moment, this is one of those moments when parents need to stop and open their minds a bit.  While parents may not understand the draw of some YouTubers, it’s an opportunity to learn about and connect a little more with your kid as this one YouTuber writes (and you’ll notice it is in text for all of us “old people”!).


Veteran technology professional and manager

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