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Sunday Reflections: YouTube Killed the MTV Star (#YouTubeWeek)

On August 1, 1981 MTV debuted with the music video Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles. In my mind, I totally remember being there and watching it happen, though in many ways that seems impossible because I would have only been 9 at the time. Yes, go ahead and make your man are you old jokes here. Get it out of your system.

During my middle and high school years, I was raised by MTV. I turned it on first thing when I woke up and listened to the music in the background as I got ready for school. As I ran into my home after a day of school, I turned it on. It was on 24/7 during the summer. I lived and breathed music and music videos. I stayed up late to watch world premiere videos. I felt like the VJs were my friends.

And then there was the glory that is and shall ever be TRL. I loved TRL. Even as a person in my 20s, I loved TRL.

The funny thing is, now I don’t even know where MTV is on my tv. I haven’t looked at it in quite some time. And I’m not even sure that The Tween knows that MTV exists. One day, I’ll have to sit down with her and explain to her what MTV is and why it matters, what it meant to me when I was her age.

But The Tween and her friends get all of their music a new way – YouTube. YouTube is a presence in my home now the way MTV was when I was this age. And to be honest, it has some distinct advantages. For example, I don’t have to watch MTV for hours hoping to see the newest Duran Duran (that’s who it would have been at this age) video, I could go straight to YouTube and watch it whenever I wanted, as often as I wanted. A feature I can assure you The Tween takes advantage of. The 6yrold as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the What Does the Fox Say video. It would terrify you. I still have nightmares about it.

YouTube has revolutionized the way Tweens and Teens find and access music. And just about everything else actually. YouTube stars are now bigger than some of the biggest names in music and movies. And many award shows – like the Kids Choice Awards and the Teen Choice Awards – are recognizing the impact that YouTube has on teen culture by including them in the awards categories and inviting YouTube stars to the award shows.

The Tween and her friends talk about people I have never heard of the way previous generations talked about The Beatles or Duran Duran or N Sync. YouTube is a big deal. And in many ways, it levels the playing field. There are “amateur” created videos that rival some of the output of major movie studios. Violinist Lindsey Stirling can be just as big a deal as Miley Cyrus.

In other ways YouTube once again illuminates the digital divide and growing socioeconomic gap. For some of our teens, the only access they have to YouTube may be in the school or public library. And while many teens are growing STEM skills by creating and editing their own YouTube videos, others don’t have the chance to practice and develop those skills because they don’t have access to the necessary technology. This is one of the ways a well thought out Makerspace can help bridge that digital divide.

This week, in between some of our regular posts, we’re going to be talking about YouTube. Amanda MacGregor had some teens write a couple of posts. I’m sharing five things you need to know about YouTube in a Take 5 list. And of course we’re going to talk YouTube and books. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch the top 10 videos of the week on YouTube with The Tween. That’s where I get my music countdown now.  The truth is, just as MTV changed everything back in 1981, YouTube has changed everything once again. Is changing everything. And that can be a good thing.

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