Note: This was originally intended to be part of a rant about The Bad Side of Web 2.0 for Children. Instead I am separating the original essay into related parts.
An innocent example of young children’s use of the Internet are the Fred Figglehorn videos on YouTube which my children learned of from a-then eleven year old friend.
Lucas Cruikshank is a teenager who created the Fred character. He wrote silly stories and filmed them at home using a low budget combined with creativity and humor. After posting these short movies on YouTube for free, he developed a following. As of today the number of Fred videos viewings on YouTube is over 77.5 million! According to the Wikipedia page Fred’s YouTube channel is in second place for the highest number of YouTube channel subscribers.
The Fred videos are funny, the character is male and although he’s in his teenaged body he is acting the part of a six year old boy, whose voice was edited to make it squeaky so he could sound like a young child.
The popularity of Fred must have been known to Hollywood because Disney featured him on an episode of the popular show marketed to tweens, iCarly in the episode "iMeet Fred". After that aired I have a feeling that viewing of the Fred videos on YouTube exploded.
The teen creator of Fred, Lucas Cruikshank even markets merchandise to his child-fans in an effort to turn his free videos viewed on YouTube into some cash flow. You can’t blame him for this very American type of entrepreneurship.
In and of itself, this type of Web 2.0 use by and for tweens and teens is harmless.
My point in mentioning the Fred videos, is to illustrate how an unknown kid from a suburb can create a multimedia show for entertainment, share it on the web and wind up being known to almost every tween in America AND having been acknowledged as a presence by none other than Disney with a guest spot appearance on a very popular children’s TV sitcom!
Indeed, my sons have been asked to share their own video creations on YouTube (so far I’ve nixed that request). My sons, then at age 8 and 11 were already aware of Web 2.0 and were eager to become an active creator of Web 2.0, rather than remaining just a passive consumer.
The fact that for years they'd watched me blog and knew I was on Twitter probably contributed to this--they wanted in on the self-publishing action as well. However seeing teens self-publishing on the web opened my son's eyes to the idea that it may be appropriate for them to get in on the action as well.