I spent some time with my nephews recently, 6-year-old twin boys who are just adorable by the way. They are clever, funny, polite and kind, everything you would want a young boy to be - a huge shout-out goes to their parents for doing an awesome job so far. High fives all round.
So, while they were visiting, I asked them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I know it is a question that adults seem duty bound to ask any kids that they encounter but I was genuinely interested. I have teenage girls myself and we had recently spent quite a bit of time discussing the subject of careers while one was choosing a college and the other was choosing her year 10 options, so it was a hot topic in our house.
Previously when the girls were young I had posed this question at strategic points in their development, to gauge where they are at and what their interests seem to be outside of clothes and makeup.
My eldest since being very small had always responded with “I want to work with children and babies”, and my youngest had always said, “I just want to be fabulous”.
For me, I want to be fabulous was by far the very best answer. Maybe it wasn’t particularly aspirational and did not really constitute a career but she was quite young and so it was nice to know that she was so far unburdened by a life beyond her immediate surroundings, aside from that, what a great outlook, being fabulous sounds perfect to me.
Anyway, back to the twins, in answer to my question, one had responded, “I want to be John Cena” (a wrestler) ok so that’s cute - boys huh! The other had said in a very serious voice, “I want to be a YouTuber”. Wait, did he just say a YouTuber? since when was that a career option and when did it become an aspiration for a 6-year-old?
Forgive me for the stereotype but what happened to little boys wanting to be a fireman, police officer, or soldier? It’s not that I am old-fashioned, I swear I would not have batted an eyelid if he had said he wanted to be an artist but a YouTuber did take me by surprise.
In this moment I did what any self-respecting adult would do, I smiled, nodded knowingly as if that was the best answer ever given and said “That’s really nice” before setting out to do a little online research to find out which of us was crazy.
It would appear that despite my confusion this “I want to be a YouTuber” is actually a thing. A recent study of 1,000 children and young people aged 6 to 17 revealed that 75% of them actually gave, when asked, a career in online videos as the number 1 job they would most like to have with the rest saying blogger, musician, actor, and filmmaker respectively.
Perhaps I am old-fashioned after all, now I think about it I suppose I should have expected something like that. With most children now choosing to watch YouTube over TV, their exposure to the lifestyle of a YouTube influencer is having a huge affect on not only the prospects they feel are attainable but also their interests. Even my own kids were participants in this revolution to some degree.
What was really interesting to read was that many of the children in this study believed that the more important skills to learn at school in preparation for adulthood are actually video editing and computer programming over the more conventional maths and history. I can’t see maths being dropped from the curriculum any time soon but is video editing going to one day replace woodwork as the new trade skills category? I hope not, that would be such a shame.
If, as the study suggests, the kids of today are looking towards a career either on or behind a screen and not one of them mentioned a career outside of those parameters, what does this mean for doctors, nurses, police, fire, rescue, armed forces, and social services? These are the roles that depend on real people working face-to-face, with human-to-human interaction, not behind a computer.
With university applications already declining on average 5% year-on-year, soon we will find ourselves in a social crisis with too few graduates preparing for roles that require this genuine human presence - what then? What options are going to be open to the six-year-olds of today when they find themselves leaving school? What kind of world are they going to be emerging into? Are we doing anything as a society to counteract this potential imbalance? Is there a plan in place, are we already making moves towards a solution? If so, what is it? I would love to hear from you guys on this one. Am I worrying unnecessarily or do you, like me, feel we are plummeting head-first down a rabbit hole into a bizarre wonderland of social influencers and robotic doctors?
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