Welcome to another Media Moment! This month, Kristina Folta, a current student at Pomona college and intern at CMCH, shares her experience talking about important real world issues with her younger sister after watching BuzzFeed videos on YouTube. These stories are meant to help create a village square of commiserating and co-celebrating the many ways media intersect with the lives of children. Please comment and even submit your own ‘Moment’ to share with your fellow readers.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
BuzzFeed Takes the Lead
For as long as I can remember having access to electronics, YouTube has existed. The notorious Internet version of a black hole. Once you’re in, it’s nearly impossible to get out. Recently, I’ve found myself spending more and more time on YouTube, watching videos by “BuzzFeed” – a self-described “social news and entertainment company.” Fairly new, BuzzFeed was founded in 2006, only a year later than YouTube. They make videos on almost anything you can imagine: DIY, food, popular news, and more.
One of the channels on BuzzFeed I have spent the most time on is called the “Try Guys” who, as their name suggests, try everything. Teeth whitening, American Ninja Warrior, labor pain simulations, extreme food challenges, sexy lingerie, coding, UFC fighting. The list goes on and on, and each video gets a couple million views. They are truly entertaining, partially because they are so outrageous. Are these videos informational? What is the point? And beyond this specific channel, is the subject too mature for younger children, who can easily access any of these videos? I started asking myself these questions when I learned my younger sister, now 13, is an avid fan of BuzzFeed. The more time I spent on it myself I saw themes of drug and alcohol use, specifically in videos where people who binge drink challenge people who are high to different activities. Sex is also a common topic, some are videos with photos and text of “11 Facts You Should Know If You’re Having Sex” and “30 Days Of Sex.”
I was extremely uncomfortable that my sister was receiving information about these things in a manner that made them cool, social and funny. I wanted her to learn about drugs, alcohol, and sex in a different way from myself and my parents—one that was more responsible and realistic than that portrayed online. However, I have also discovered that BuzzFeed broaches topics like sexual orientation and racism in an experience-based manner. They have videos of their employees asking and answering questions about their experience with these topics. They also take it further and interview people in different cities like New York and Los Angeles. I feel that this is a very simple way to be introduced to heavy, complicated topics, especially for young viewers.
Like most things online, there are pros and cons. While I am not necessarily comfortable with my younger sister being exposed to some of the subject matter, I have been impressed with how she now wants to talk with me about bigger social issues, from what it means to be transgender to dealing with eating disorders and body positivity since she has started watching so much BuzzFeed.
Being the older sister, I feel like I am also responsible for making sure that my sister is consuming media in ways that are beneficial. So, I have come to accept that while BuzzFeed has videos that should be reserved for an older audience, there are also videos that can be useful to opening conversation about difficult topics with younger kids in the tween age group when you feel the time has come.
~ Kristina Folta