Don’t let your sons grow up to be YouTube stars

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 11/13/18

When I was five, my heroes were my Mom and my Dad and older brother. Just because. When I was eight, my hero was Luke Skywalker, because he had magical powers and he got to swing across the chasm …

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Don’t let your sons grow up to be YouTube stars

Posted

When I was five, my heroes were my Mom and my Dad and older brother. Just because.

When I was eight, my hero was Luke Skywalker, because he had magical powers and he got to swing across the chasm with Princess Leia.

When I was 10, my hero was Mr. Spock, because I appreciated that he faced every challenge with logic and reason.

When I was 12, my hero was Pete Rose, because I loved how “Charlie Hustle” played every game as if it was the most important game ever. Gambling will do that.

And then, when I was 15, I discovered Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severenson and the New York Philharmonic.

I tell you all of that because, as I’ve written before, I think most people end up being an amalgam of the people and ideals they elevate in their lives. I’m not saying I’m the smartest kid in the room, but I do value intelligence; I’m not coldly logical, but I do try to let reason rule my decision-making process; I’m not a Jedi…

Yeah, I got nothing for that.

You see my point. As I matured (a slow, ongoing process, to be sure), these were the characteristics I attempted to emulate. Some were successful, some less so.

By contrast, my son really enjoys watching “YouTubers.” And no, that is not some bizarre cartoon show about talking worms. YouTubers are a strange new brand of entertainment in which people record themselves doing something, and then narrate what they are doing. In my son’s case, the thing they are usually doing is playing some video game and showing off advanced tactics or skills. They also seem to be British and make strange noises. Could just be me.

One of the most famous of this brand of entertainer was a man named Logan Paul, whose fame even spawned a line of clothing. He, in the never-ending quest to remain relevant, leapt across all lines of good taste and decorum one day last year, and recorded himself being an idiot at the site of suicide. He has since apologized.

This is, apparently, one of the most popular pastimes for boys. And, for the most part, I don’t really care. It’s harmless — and mostly mindless — fun.

But the YouTuber must remain relevant with increasingly mindless ways of drawing attention to themselves. And so, ultimately, like Kim Kardashian and all the other attention seekers in the world, I suspect each of them will eventually jump their own shark into oblivion.

And what will be left behind are young men — boys — whose ideals are mindless attention whores. Meanwhile, their counterparts (girls) are being constantly pointed in the direction of smart, ambitious and accomplished women to emulate, like Nikki Haley and Sheryl Sandberg. And if they can manage to avoid being sucked into Hulu, they will see that the world is being laid at their feet.

This is a phenomenon that I would advise parents to be aware of. Like many entertainments through the years (Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind), it is largely harmless. But we are starting to notice that one of the most striking achievement gaps in education is between boys and girls. In fact, women outpace men in earning college degrees by almost 20 percent. And that gap begins early. Boys are being educated in an environment that is very unnatural for them, and then they chase entertainments that retard the maturation process. And if you don’t think boys’ maturity issues aren’t huge, I would advise you to spend time in a school. It’s a double-whammy.

The antidote? Like in everything, the real world. Make boys play outside, play team sports, take them to games, point out the good guys. Help them form values. Encourage them to grow up according to those values. For God’s sake, don’t let them subscribe to Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Show them the way.

Someday, they’ll be voters.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” will be available November 16 at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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