Time vs. YouTube


I asked Emily, my 7 year old daughter, why she loved YouTube so much. Specifically, why she loved **watching** others play Roblox over actually **playing** Roblox herself?

It’s a strange, but common thing among children her age, as my nephews and nieces do the same for other games.

No surprises then, that Google announced record profits yesterday, with YouTube alone bringing in more than $5 billion in advertising for the first time, gaining 32% over the same period last year.

But back to my conversation with Emily — without a clear answer, I offered an explanation. I reminded her of the video we watched about how ‘robots’ were suggesting videos to users on YouTube, and how the robots were always trying to get users to stay on YouTube over doing something else.

Emily agreed — her suggestions on YouTube were always good, and she always loved the videos that were suggested. But, she was confused as to why — why would the robots behave in this way?

“The longer you stay on YouTube, the more Ads it can show you, and the more Ads it can show you the more money it makes” I replied. A point she instantly understood.

But here’s where we disagreed.

She didn’t think this was a bad thing. After all, we weren’t spending any ‘money’ on it, so how bad can it be? I argued that YouTube sucking up hours of her time was even more wasteful than burning dollar bills. As a Family we had surplus money, we could buy things, but we couldn’t buy more time. Time is so precious, it’s un-buyable.

I recalled a scene from Willy Wonka, where Charlie’s Grandfather persuades him to keep the Golden ticket instead of selling it for money, with a quote that is both profound and disturbing:

There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there’s only five of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money

Growing up in a middle-class family in Malaysia during the 80’s, we were always thought to respect money — we didn’t have much of it. And as a father, I try to instill in my daughter the same values, but perhaps the world is different now.

Perhaps we need to teach children to value Time over Money. That’s its OK to spend money to save time — our financial situation has changed, and maybe the same die-hard money-saving attitude isn’t going to work in the modern world. Because we’ll all end up sacrificing a far more precious resource — time!

Or at least, we need to provide an equally disciplined framework for how children spend their time, the same way we teach them to spend their money. The challenge is, we’re thought the best way to manage money (as a child) is to save money, and not spend.

Time is a very different thing — we can’t ‘save’ it, rather we have to wisely choose how to spend it, and traditional ‘Asian’ sort of views of money-saving are less applicable here.

I don’t have the answers, but clearly this needs deeper thought.

But as I was thinking, I was interrupted by Emily, telling me how Willy Wonka ‘rigged’ the golden ticket — because how else could you explain all the tickets going to only kids, and all white kids at that! Willy Wonka needed a heir, and so he ensured only children got the ticket — hence he rigged the supposedly random Golden Tickets.

And where did she learn this rather interesting theory from?

YouTube of course!

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