Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ice, Ice, Piglet...

We are in the middle of a battle of wills with YouTube.

Why are we battling a video sharing website, when it doesn't even know we are battling it?  Ugh. If I knew that, well... we wouldn't be battling. We would be peacefully watching Winnie the Pooh sing Vanilla Ice songs... if he released more than one. I forget now.

Here's the scenario.

Billy has some down time, and cranks up YouTube. He watches videos on repeat. A lot. He has a photographic memory, so the words in those videos are in his brain whether he likes it or not. He is well supervised, so we know what he is watching. He wears headphones so we do not have to listen to things on repeat (which appeals very much to his brain, but not to ours).

Not seeing any issues here?

Look a little deeper.

To do this, it's especially helpful to have an eye into the minds of two groups of people - tweens and teens. The tween (autistic or not) is often ready to push some boundaries, and delighted by farts, poops, explosions and swears. The teen (autistic or not) is mysteriously interested in taking product intended for younger kids and inserting farts, poops, explosions and swears. I can deal with the farts, the poops and even the explosions.

The swears are seriously going to kill me.

Billy loves YouTube. Since he was old enough to point his chubby cheeks at the computer screen, YouTube has been his friend, his escape, his teacher, his mood enhancer, his encyclopaedia and increasingly, a repository for his ideas.

A quick disclaimer, lest you think Billy is gaffer taped to his computer, grey matter rotting and middle expanding.

Billy loves the outdoors. He loves his scooter. He loves the trampoline, swimming and walking the dog (as long as there aren't barky dogs around) but... he is not made for group sports. I could go so far as to say he is not made for sports, generally. He likes watching them, especially the ones that involve crashing, tackling or falling down. He loved the Olympics like it was his own personal sports pageant. He is not a natural participant.

Before the chorus of 'I'm sure there's a sport for him' hits, let me say, slotting him into the sporting world is the least of our concerns. If he was keen, sure, we'd go nuts. If he becomes keen, we're onto it, for sure. As long as he's moving and eating well, we're good with keeping him out of the cute uniforms.

But...I digress.

Back to YouTube.

Like many kids his age, Billy has pretty high level computer skills. He also spells and reads pretty well. He also loves what he loves, and thinks a lot about what he loves. He is a visual learner. He needs downtime, where he's not talking to people, but he's also not sitting in a room by himself.

YouTube was made for him.

It's an endless pit of information and affirmation that being yourself is OK. On YouTube you will find people who think like you and see the world like you. All you have to do is look. And Billy knows how to look.

Match two totally disparate ideas? Bam. There's a thousand videos.
Endless episodes of your favourite show badly videoed while sitting in front of the TV? Easy.
Something you have seen before randomly translated into a variety of languages? Hardly a challenge.

It's all good. Unless it's bad.

We are not slightly worried about real internet danger, at the moment. That stuff is easy to buffer a kid from. Vigilance, safe searches, software if you are really scared or your kid loves things with names heavy in double entendre (do not ever let your child google Britney Spears and Pink at the same time).

It's the Thomas the Tank Engine re-duxes, laden with swears that are our nemesis (nemeses?) right now. The Spongebob revoiced by stoned teenagers. The Simpson's montages with mysterious mother-effers thrown in for some reasons explicable only to their makers. It's also the videos where people scream, endlessly and hopelessly at each other, also for no apparent reason.

It's hard to pick them, because there isn't any kind of mother-effer warning at the beginning of the video. It's hardly an issue for the people who made the video. It's only an issue for the kid with the photographic memory and the emergent penchant for naughty swear words.

When you are Billy, you take in this stuff and you regurgitate it at the worst possible moments, uncontrollably.

When you are Billy's mother, you try very very hard to have that not happen. Especially at Grandma's house, or the doctors or in the middle of a very quiet library.

I know it is out of his control (the regurgitating part). I wish the watching part (once he's been made aware of the ban) was in his control better, but it's not.

It's like a compulsion. Consequences be damned. I'm holding the ipad. I'm typing the letters. I'm watching. Then I'm busted. I'm banned. I'm begging for another chance. Wait 24 hours for ban to be lifted. Rinse. Repeat.

I know when his current stealth swear love passes, he will find another. He is a child, after all. The fact that he is a child with autism makes the transition out of such potentially unpleasant behaviour... decidedly unpleasant. Or elongated, which is quite frankly... unpleasant for all concerned.

No-one wants to be in a constant cycle of behaviour/consequence. No one wants to be in trouble. No one wants to be the mean parent all the time. Also, no-one wants their lovely child yelling 'Get off the effing road, mother-effers!' to people outside the shops.

So, YouTube. Cut us some slack, would you?

Institute a warning system... ask people to add a tag for offensive language. Even if one out of ten people actually do it, then that's one out of ten less surprise swears for us to shield for unsuspecting library patrons. Maybe teenagers will actually love the idea of being labelled as a swear provider.

Or let users block videos within their account. Or send us a virtual nun who will virtually whack our kids on the back of the knuckles when they make a bad choice while we are momentarily indisposed. Seriously, I need to pee. A few times a day.

I don't want to ban you. I like you. We all like you. We need you.

Who else gives us the chance to see Winnie the Pooh singing Vanilla Ice?

Winnie the Poo. Vanilla Ice.

No-one should have to live without that.

1 comment:

Michele said...

yes to all of the above

lovehate r'ship with youtube around here.

Requires constant supervision - the amount of kids videos that have been doctored aaaaaaarrgh. The things you think are safe and then nope..or they start on something kid friendly say a Diego clip then jump from that ok one to another that is flagged at the end that is well not so ok. Dora and Diego cartoons but ah yeah overdubbed with some really unpleasant stuff

And then you have the other kid googling innocently "images/cute pussies" as she has just got a new kitten

time to pull the plug.

I wish there were some of the things you suggest