Reinventing entertainment for a digital generation

July 25, 2014 by Natalia Kucirkova
The digital generation are a mystery to some. Credit: Besties, CC BY

Children's entertainment is in a mess. This is in no small part due to recent revelations about just what was happening when the stars of earlier generations were producing content.

The high-profile cases of Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile have troubled the childhood memories of a generation brought up with Jim'll Fix It and Rolf's Cartoon Club. Great swathes of content has been disrupted in our collective memory catalogue. But aside from the obvious horror of the crimes committed by these two entertainers, the fallout will prompt us to rethink children's entertainment in the future.

It is a sad reality that several children's classics are now tarnished by undertones of recreational drug use and sexual innuendo. We have been reminded more sharply than ever of the inter-generational gap between the people who make children's entertainment and the people that actually consume it.

Children's entertainment needs to be reinvented not only to avoid the sexism, racism or inappropriateness of the past, but also to reflect the needs and everyday experiences of a digital generation. That implies an acknowledgement of several skills – and attitudinal generation gaps.

It is well-established that there is an ongoing and self-perpetuating gulf between the digital skills of youngsters and those of their parents and grandparents. There seem to be more and more remarkably technologically agile and digitally savvy young children and many adults feel they are unable to keep pace with the rapidity of technological development.

Generation Z is nothing like the passive consumers of the past, they are streamlining their own music and films and creating their own entertainment content.

With new ways for ensuring transparency and accountability, such as social media, younger people are more vocal about political and social issues and are far less likely to allow a celebrity's status to place them above the law. They are inter-connected, world-travelled and through observed or lived diverse experiences, also more open-minded than their parents.

These are key characteristics of effective business people. Not surprisingly, the Zs are an entrepreneurial generation. They make and sell their products which is often highly-selected and sought-after produce. They know how to monetise everyday experiences through and through the active consumption, are very savvy about market trends.

In this sense, the generational gap between digital natives and digital immigrants is not just about technology but also different world views and experiences. To connect these, we need to build a cross-generational bridge as we walk it.

This implies that a 21st-century children's programme needs to be receptive and responsive to an entertainment model that is evolving right along with Generaion X, Y and Z. Such a model takes a participatory stance to content production and innovative, cross-platform forms of entertainment. It is social and personalisable, provides selective and interactive content and comes with a clear moral purpose.

In other words, when reinventing children's entertainment models, we need to bring together the current reality of the digital generation and and the experiences and collective knowledge of their older siblings, parents and grandparents. We all have valuable experience and knowledge to bring to the table. Cases like those of Harris and Savile should not create paralysis but rather renewed energy to make things better.

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4 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2014
I don't not understand what this article is really trying to say.
"Children's entertainment is in a mess."
Not really, you have Netflix, youtube, playing outside, tickle fights, Minecraft, Wizard 101, Disney Channel. There are TONS and TONS of great options for Childrens Entertainment. How is this a mess? There are more and more entertainment options. This article sounds like it was written by a smart grandmother.....

And the thing is, IT DOES NOT MATTER what a children's entertainer does outside of his/her work. The media wants to blow it all up and they try to stop showing the show, like PeeWee Herman from back in the day. Who cares!? If the show is good, I don't care if the maker of it does freaky things.
not rated yet Jul 25, 2014
I care if the entertainer was molesting children. I personally threw out my old lostprophets albums when I found out what the lead singer had been up to.

The recent findings showthat the model we had for childeren's entertainment such as saturday morining shows has to be re-evaluated. We were placing adult entertainers on a pedestal and becoming blind-sighted to their dark ulterior motives for being next to children.

A nanny state of fear is not a pleasant position to be in but it was monsters like Harris and savile who have now lowered the bar.

A digital age of isolation may be a safer option. I do not know...
3 / 5 (2) Jul 25, 2014
If a child is intelligent enough to research and/or pay attention to the media information about a childrens entertainer, then they are somewhat beyond children's entertainment anyway.

I have never understood why people care about the artists themselves. I truly don't. I look at the ART not the ARTIST. When I see a pretty painting, I say, "That's Pretty". I don't say "That's Pretty, I want to know all about the person who created it."

If you enjoyed your Lost Prophets albums, then listen to them. Don't let your knowledge of something a person does OUTSIDE of their work affect how you appreciate their work. Would you stop driving on a bridge because the lead engineer of the bridge raped a teenager?
not rated yet Jul 26, 2014
This article is overthinking some purported problem.

"Children's entertainment needs to be reinvented not only to avoid the sexism, racism or inappropriateness of the past, but also to reflect the needs and everyday experiences of a digital generation."

Where would you draw the line? And how would you enforce this? I bet if you look hard enough at any children's entertainment, you'll be able to find something that looks like a skeleton in the closet. And if you can't, someone else on your approval committee will.

In any case, as you target your digital generation, by the time you have your re-engineered entertainment ready for consumption, it'll be technologically obsolescent. Or do you believe, as perhaps your parents did, that you can predict how technology will evolve?
3 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2014
The manipulative and propagandistic language of this article, its unexamined and false presuppositions and its hectoring and politically vile tone should make any thinking person recoil in disgust.

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