YouTube is all about videos of funny cats and children playing video games, while they talk about it. That’s at least what adults may think YouTube, the Google-owned video platform, is about. The Gen Zs and Gen Alphas, however, think differently.
We interviewed 10-18-year-olds from Berlin and Sao Paulo. What we discovered was that YouTube is used for more than entertainment. Parents everywhere will be thrilled to learn that they also use YouTube for education.
Gen Z is the first generation to be digitally native and for which YouTube is the most used social media platform. Video is becoming increasingly popular across all age groups. However, it’s especially appealing to younger internet users.
Open the Classroom
This is why it’s not surprising that the internet has revolutionized education. The internet has revolutionized every aspect of our lives, including education.
Unlike the days when teaching was done in lecture theaters at universities or evening schools, online learning is now possible. All you have to do is search for it. With COVID-19 causing the closure of colleges and schools in many countries, the transition from classroom learning to online learning was accelerated.
You can find everything you need online, whether it is a university module on biology or a course in UX design. You can access information on almost anything as long as there is an internet connection, whether it’s fast 5G or slow 3G.
As the younger generation proves, there are many other options than the obvious ones – online training providers and distance learning sites, among others – that you can use to get your education. Accessing all of this information is only half the battle. It’s secondary to how we use it. This is the biggest shift, not in platform or format but in attitude.
This generation actively searches for information online, rather than just consuming it. It’s a virtual learning space that Gen Z and Gen Alpha use. It’s engaging, interactive, and fun.
Welcome to the School of YouTube
We asked our young interviewees their opinions about social media and YouTube. They revealed that they spend a lot of time watching video games (and other videos). The biggest surprise was the fact that all of them claimed to have learned something from YouTube, regardless if it was a skill or complicated academic theory.
YouTube covers everything they could possibly need. YouTube will answer any burning questions they may have, such as why the ocean has tides or how to win at Chess.
YouTube has a wealth of information for anyone with a specific interest in wildlife conservation or cooking. They can learn anything they want, or just be curious about it, in a tutorial, or TED Talk.
The Socially Savvy Generation
However, it is clear that these teens and kids aren’t ignorant about YouTube. YouTube has its negative side effects, which they are well aware of. It can become addictive if you spend too much time on it. They also know that comment sections can sometimes be abusive and toxic. These young people are intelligent and can recognize and decide what is good and what is bad about the internet.
They have learned how to navigate the web’s peaks, pitfalls and enjoy it whenever they want. They are experts at using the internet as a tool, and as a source for endless and instant knowledge. They don’t need to rely on their parents or teachers to answer their questions. They can search for the answers themselves. The school of YouTube is crucial because it gives them the opportunity to learn and play simultaneously.
Our research also revealed that this generation does not take the internet for granted and doesn’t waste its potential. They want to interact with the internet and make use of it to its full potential.
Democracy at Work
Interviewees shared with us that YouTube feels more authentic and “unedit” than other media platforms like Instagram or Netflix. YouTube is not only known for its entertainment, but also because of its educational aspect.
We were told by them that YouTube learning is more democratic and personal than traditional teachers and professors. Instead of learning from stern old professors and fusty old teachers, they learn from their peers, charismatic, free-thinking YouTubers and inspiring YouTubers. They like that they can participate and interact, instead of being dictated to and talked at.
Everything has been made possible by the internet, including music and fame. It allows you to create music from your home and share it with a worldwide audience. You can also make celebrities out of people with a flair for social media and a large Instagram following. This generation is known for their DIY approach to everything. It follows that the same applies to learning.
We can rest assured that we are not being influenced by social media or the internet and that this is not the case.
The internet has helped young people develop independent minds in education and are more open to taking a ‘why don’t you’ approach to it than ever before.