3 Things YouTube Can Teach You About Your Switch Students
We can’t reach our students if we don’t first know who they are and what they’re about. So, as Switch leaders, let’s seek to understand our students to find common ground with them and learn better ways to communicate truth to them. It’s no secret that teenagers are into YouTube. In fact, YouTube is now the number one social media platform for Gen Z. So, what can we learn about our students from YouTube?
- They turn to YouTube to avoid boredom, evade stress, and even to fall asleep. In a recent article from Variety, 77 percent of students say they turn to YouTube to escape boredom. If you think about it, today’s students have grown up with access to devices, and they’re constantly plugged into technology. It’s no wonder they’d turn to those same devices as a remedy for boredom, instead of going outside, reading, or engaging in other hobbies. Another chunk of teenagers, 61 percent, say they turn to YouTube to relieve stress, and 44 percent say it helps them fall asleep. The same reason many of us turn to Netflix binging or mindlessly scrolling through cable television remains true for students today. YouTube can numb you. It can make you forget about your stress and engross you in someone else’s world, which feels good until you’ve procrastinated too long.
So, what can we do? Ask your students what they’re really passionate about. Encourage them to do more of that when they’re bored. It could be creating art, playing sports, writing in a journal—whatever it is, help them know there are other ways to cure boredom. But also—leverage YouTube to make your small group time richer. Is there a recent video or vlogger that captures your students’ attention? Instead of insisting you get back on topic, spend some time discussing why they like that YouTuber or video so much. It may open the door for more discussion than you ever could have dreamed.
- They see YouTube “celebrities” as real-life, authentic people. YouTube influencers are the new celebrities. We can all relate to looking up to celebrities in our own lives, but students today are more fascinated with the authentic than the fantastic. Whereas once celebrities were praised for their polished look and extravagant lifestyles, YouTube influencers are seen as real-life people, and in many ways, they are. It’s often normal people who started vlogging or recording themselves playing video games in their homes than turned into the influences your teens know and love.
So, what can we do? We can learn from students’ love for the authentic and seek to bring vulnerability to our Switch groups. Students don’t need to see us as those who have everything together—they’re interested in real conversation. We can invite our students to be vulnerable in group as well, just like their favorite influencers. We can ask who they look up to on YouTube and why, and we can glean lots of insights into their world by looking at who they watch on a regular basis. Some of these YouTubers are unfiltered and have lots of inappropriate language, so we can ask about that too. What makes the unfiltered moments so relatable to you? Do you think use of bad language is ever appropriate? What makes you think that? Use these insights to open the door to deeper discussions on Wednesday nights and in your group texts throughout the week.
- YouTube allows the conversation to be a two-way street. Unlike traditional TV, YouTube is a social platform. That means students are invited to subscribe, comment, like, and request content that they want to see. When YouTubers actually make a video that teenagers request, it gives them ownership of the channel and shows them that their voice and perspective matters.
So, what can we do? We need to offer that same power to our students at Switch. We shouldn’t monopolize the conversation but rather invite our students to lead the conversation. Ask your students what they want to talk about, what they’re learning about, and give them opportunities to decide how your group will do certain things.
YouTube may get a bad rap, but it’s not all negative. It can offer a valuable way to get to know your students, start conversations, and give us some ideas for how to make our Switch groups more engaging. While we should encourage our students to maintain a healthy balance with technology and pursue other passions, we shouldn’t write it off as a waste of time either. Incorporate these insights in your next group, and see how conversations open up that you may never have expected before!