Children, brought up YouTube

YouTube has become a digital babysitter for today’s parents – while the children “stick” to the short vivid video, parents can eat in the restaurant, clean or just relax. But the impact of these videos on children? The author of the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal learned how to create mega videos on YouTube for kids and if they can benefit.

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ChuChuTV channel included in the list of the most viewed babies on YouTube. The history of its origin is quite interesting. Vinoth chandar, Director General of the channel, did a little video on YouTube for his father, the famous Indian music producer. But when he and his wife have a daughter, which they called Chu Chu, he realized that now he has a new audience. He drew a picture of Chu Chu in the program for Flash animation, and then created a short video in which the girl is dancing to the popular Indian song “Chubby cheeks” (Chubby Cheeks).

Chu Chu loved the cartoon. “She demanded to put it again and again,” says chandar. And he thought: “If that is so like my daughter, like children around the world.” He created a YouTube channel and uploaded a video. In a few weeks it got 300,000 hits. He made and uploaded another video based on the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and it took off. After posting only two videos he had 5000 subscribers on his channel.

Someone from YouTube contacted Chandar and said, “You guys just do the magic with your content”. So chandar and a few friends created the company in Chennai city in southern India, the administrative centre of Tamil Nadu. They hired several of the animators and started to produce videos in a month.

10 million subscribers in just 5 years

Five years later, ChuChuTV competed with such giants of the decade, holding high positions, as “sesame Street”, “Disney” and “Nickelodeon”. From “sesame Street” more than 5 billion views on YouTube. Impressive, certainly, but ChuChu – more than 19 billion. Channel “sesame Street” has 4 million subscribers, and the channel ChuChuTV – 19 million. Thus, ChuChuTV is among the 25 most popular YouTube channels in the world, and its child channels (ChuChuTVSurpriseEggsToys and ChuChuTVEspañol) include another 10 million subscribers.

According to ChuChu, about a third of the visitors to the canal from the United States and India. But also from the UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Asia and Africa – every month tens of millions of views. About 20 million times a day people on Earth run YouTube to watch the video ChuChu. It all started with a funny prank and has grown into a huge company. “We want to be the next disney,” said chandar.

But while the Studio “Disney” for a long time alters the legends and myths of different peoples, adapting them to the format of family videos and consumer demand, videos ChuChu operate on a different scheme: the company takes the Anglo-American nursery rhymes and songs and is releasing their new version with a subcontinental flavor. Nursery rhymes turn into a music video, complemented by Indian dancing and iconography. Children of all skin colors and hair speak with an Indian accent.

Many observers do not believe the unexpected success ChuChu, suspecting that the creators somewhere gamed the system. “Whenever we come to the United States, says chandar, people say, “You guys hacked the algorithm”. But we didn’t do anything. The algorithm is a myth.”

ChuChu does not use shocking headlines to attract attention. The title of the video is simple, Sunny, clear. Win good and high quality video here is the secret to the success of the channel. “We know what we want our subscribers, and we are doing this for them,” says chandar. ChuChu adds about 40 000 subscribers a day.

This growth suggests that there is something unpredictable and wild: American control over children’s entertainment comes to an end.

ChuChu is the largest of the new constellation of children’s media brands on YouTube, which is distributed worldwide. And in London this LittleBabyBum in Moscow AnimaccordStudios in Bangalore Videogyan, in Dubai BillionSurprise, in tel Aviv and ToysTuTiTuTV in Iasi (Romania) – LooLooKids.

New children’s media look not so, as we adults would expect. They are colorful, cheap, strange and multicultural. YouTube for small children — it’s a hodgepodge, an explosion of creativity. It’s unregulated, streaming capture the attention of toddlers, and its effects can be deeper and wider than you initially think.

As ChuChu create hits for kids

I have two small children. And my youngest, she was 2 years, still can not long hold the attention to watch the show Netflix that we set for my 5 year old son. But when I showed her the video, ChuChu, just to see how she will react, I almost had to take the phone from her. What’s the matter? Why it produced this effect?

To find out, I had to go to Chennai.

Uber in Chennai essentially the same as Uber in Oakland (California) where I live. At the airport I pressed the button on the phone, and soon I was waiting for the white sedan. My driver was a student who came to Chennai to break into Tollywood. Yeah, Tollywood: say 75 million people, mostly in South India.

The driver dropped me off South of the city centre, in the district of new skyscrapers that overlook Srinivasapuram, a fishing village on the Bay of Bengal. The village lies on the edge of town, which quickly modernizarea; the government is trying to move the village for many years.

Headquarters ChuChu occupies the entire first floor of the building of blue glass with bright yellow stripes. In the center there are large colorful shapes – odd chairs, columns with graffiti. It employs about 200 people.

Chandar met me and brought me in a huge conference hall. Besides the fact that he’s the CEO, he writes the music for ChuChu. He is the public face of the company. He was 39 years old – a bit younger than the other four founders, each of whom has an equal shareholding. He sent a young man for coffee, and then we sat down to talk. Also the conversation was attended by his friend B. M. Krishnan, a former bookkeeper and co-founder of ChuChu, who is now the chief creative officer of the company.

Vinoth chandar (right) and B. M. Krishnan. Photo: Asmita Parelkar /

After Krishnan joined the team, told me chandar, ChuChu really came to worldwide popularity. For example, Krishnan decided to rewrite those songs that, in his opinion, went badly and did not carry moral overtones. What if Jack and Jill (heroes of the English poem “Jack and Jill”), which are known to have fallen from the mountain with an empty bucket, do not get water, rise, pick up the damn bucket of water and give it to your mom? “It was, “Jack and Jill-2,” said chandar. – I thought that this should be a children’s song”.

Krishnan copied songs, and chandar took the lyrics and composed music. This is a very simple melody, but if you hear them once, you’ll be humming them all my life. ChuChu is, in fact, music videos for kids, sometimes using dance moves on the Theme that chandar Krishnan, and show animators.

The guys from ChuChu is not going to be engaged in educational content. They just shot the video for entertainment. Do they know that they will be the main giant in the children’s entertainment industry? As time went by, employees became more and more company made a series of instructional videos entitled “Learning English Is Fun” and created ChuChuSchool for preschoolers. But overall chandar Krishnan and just wanted their video was to entertain and slightly educate.

Krishnan a father myself, and a different kind of experience he had. But if what he was doing as a parent, worked with his children, why it doesn’t work for everyone? For example, usually he taught his children to distinguish between right and left in the car when they were sitting in the back seat. That is, if he pointed to the left, it was left for them as well. So when ChuChu did a video teaching how to distinguish right-left, he has always shown characters from behind, and not a mirror, – so children at the screens easier to understand and repeat.

When it became clear that the video ChuChu watched by millions of people on six continents, and Krishnan chandar took the original songs and nursery rhymes which Krishnan wrote over the last few years. Their content covers the entire spectrum – from an adaptation of the English song “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, dedicated to planting trees as a way of combating global warming, to the “Banana Song”.

But their most popular video, of course, “JohnyJohnyYesPapa”, to the tune, popular in India. Video at 1.5 billion views – one of the most popular videos that ever existed.

A little boy wakes up in the middle of the night and sneaks to the kitchen. He grabs the jar of sugar, puts piece in his mouth, the light turns on, and enters his father.

“Johnny, johnny,” says the father. “Yes, daddy?” “Eat sugar?” “No, dad.” – “Tell a lie?” “No, dad.” – “Open your mouth”. – “Ha, ha, ha!”

When the son laughs the whole song and all the kids playing and dancing.

When Krishnan is watching “johnny, johnny”, he sees a universal interaction between father and child. The child tries to outwit the father and when the father catches the baby, he really is not angry. On the contrary, he is almost in awe of the cunning of his son. “Deep down, the father a little happy, says Krishnan. – That kid’s got brains.”

The attractiveness of adult video ChuChu is not obvious. On the one hand, the songs catchy, the colors are bright and the characters are cute. On the other – animation of two-dimensional and fragmented, it’s a throwback to the era before Pixar. A lot of traffic; sometimes it seems that every pixel on the screen is in motion. Krishnan and chandar think any frame should include a lot of different things that a child could notice a bird flying in the background, something stirring in the corner. These things attract children’s attention.

My interlocutors say based on mathematical facts. Analytics YouTubeAnalytics shows, when the audience of the video falls. ChuChu and other companies see that it keeps the kid’s attention, moment by moment, and when he switches. If the video is viewed on average by more than 60%, ChuChu knows – there’s a new hit.

But desires change. As soon as YouTube became the world’s nanny – electronic pacifier during trips or parent dinner parents began to seek out videos that would have lasted longer.

So currently, YouTube for kids the most popular three-minute songs, and compile that last from 30 to 45 minutes or even longer.

ChuChu keeps feedback from the parents. For example, parents noticed that all the characters are fair-skinned, and now the video has two light-skinned, and two dark-skinned main characters. Or parents saw toy guns in one video and the channel deleted it. Or the parents have noticed that in an earlier version of “JohnyJohny” little boy sleeping in a common bed with her family, as is customary in India; but now in the new version he has his own room.

Fifty years ago, “sesame Street” improved vocabulary children in the United States

ChuChu, like any young company, responds to the request of the consumer. Despite a sincere desire to teach children who watch the video, she tried to use the lessons learned by previous generations of educational TV makers. It managers and developers do not cooperate with scientists who could help them create content to promote healthy brain development in babies. So, what effect video ChuChu has on children? What is the difference of the channel’s content from the fact that the children were watching before?

The absurdity lies in the fact that these questions are asked only after something metastasizes and spreads throughout the world. But the children’s content reflects our time.

Fifty years ago, thanks to funding by the Carnegie Corporation in new York, was born the most influential children’s television Studio twentieth century – Children’s Television Workshop. The Studio has created an unprecedented thing – Studio “sesame Street” with the help of many experts in the field of education and Jim Henson, Creator of Muppets. The show was broadcast on television throughout America, spreading the multicultural ideal in times of racial hatred. It was the primary media is the embodiment of the war on poverty and urban issues in America.

In 1990-e and 2000-e years have seen growth in cable TV channels targeted at children. With the growth of niche-specific content powerful American media companies such as Disney, Turner and Viacom, have figured out how to make money with young children. They created, respectively, DisneyChannel, CartoonNetwork, and of course Nickelodeon, which was the most watched cable channel during the television peak period 2009-2010.

Now, however, young children are less and less watching TV; as of last spring, the ratings declined by 20% compared to last year. As I like to say analysts, the industry is in free fall. The reason is obvious: more and more children are watching videos online.

But it’s not a tragedy. Americans watch a lot of TV. In 1949-1950, each family on average spent 4 hours and 35 minutes a day for viewing. In 1970-1971 – 6 hours, in 1983-84, seven hours in 2003-04 to eight hours, and in 2009-10-up to eight hours and 55 minutes. Since then, the numbers slide down, but the latest data shows that Americans watch TV about 8 hours a day.

Given this, perhaps it is well that the phone app – in particular YouTube – off people from the TV.

Institutions of the twentieth century has turned television into a learning tool. Researchers, managers and makers have invested huge resources in the development version of children’s television, which not only harm children, but even useful under the right conditions.

First, television for children was poor – dumb cartoons, cowboy shows, provincial shows. And even that was very little, so that children often watched programmes for adults on TV.

In the early 1950-ies one teacher listed the changes she saw in her students since they “got TV”:

“They have no ideas about good and evil, they’re not surprised by anything, they have to anything no sustained interest. The superficiality of the thoughts and feelings are obvious, they are not able to work in a team and not able to finish the job.”

It was a call to action.

Congress held hearings about the possible harmful effects of television for children (and adults) in 1952, 1954 and 1955. But nothing really has changed – the government criticized the TV, the TV promised to be corrected, and then the government stepped aside.

In the absence of supervision, in the late 1960-ies of the calls for change have entered a new, more creative phase. A group calling itself “Action for Children’s Television”, began to advocate specific changes in television for young children. The Corporation for public broadcasting was established in 1968 with state funds. At the same time “Children’s Television Workshop” has started to produce “sesame Street” and PBS began distributing the program Fred Rogers “Our neighbour, Mr. Rogers”. These shows have been extremely successful in creating educational television.

If you add up these factors, found an amazing thing: thanks to the tireless efforts of children’s television of the reformers there was something good.

Concrete results: “sesame Street” improved vocabulary children, regardless of parents ‘ education. Another study showed that adult television hindered the development of vocabulary in children, while the quality of the educational program accelerated language acquisition.

The most fascinating study began in 1980-ies, when a team at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has installed cameras in more than 100 homes, and these families and hundreds of other people began to keep written log of their mediadata. More than ten years later, the researchers found that “viewing educational programs at preschool age have improved in school, promoted the reading of books, more creativity and less aggression”. The team was unanimous in the interpretation of these results: it is much more important that children be seen and not how they looked.

How YouTube affects children

What about the little kids get of the most popular videos on YouTube today? And like these videos form the children?

To explore this question, I sought out Colleen Russo Johnson, co-Director of “UCLA”s Center for Scholars & Storytellers”. Johnson defended his doctoral thesis on children’s media and is a consultant to the studios that produce programmes for children. I asked her to watch “JohnyJohny” and several other videos on ChuChu and tell me what she sees.

Her answer was simple: “Bright colors, extraneous elements, and more rapid stimulation”. In one of the movies that I showed her, a little boy dances with two cows. The crowd waving hands in the foreground. Flashes of light and stars rotate in the background. The boy and the cows sing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, and together with the exercises, the dance floor lights up. Johnson told me that all these movements run the risk of diverting children from any educational load, which carries video.

To learn something from the video, it should unfold slowly, like the book I read to a child. “More calm, slow videos with fewer distracting features are more effective for younger children, she said. – It also allows you to focus on relevant visual effects of the song, thus helping the understanding.”

That is to make the video, which will be able to study small children, difficult. Children up to 2 years to translate the world of the screen into the real world, with all its complexity and three-dimensionality. The most important for children under 2 years of age is the interaction with people and the outside world. Older kids can really learn something from the video.

But even in relatively limited doses, these videos can influence the development of young children. If they watch a lot of dynamic movies, they think that such videos should be, and then educational videos become less attractive and effective. “If children get used to all these crazy, distracting, unnecessary visual movements, they can start to require it in the future to keep the attention,” says Johnson.

Over time, ChuChu has changed – he slowed the pace of my videos focused on the key elements of the scenes and made more explicit educational videos. But in the wilds of YouTube for the top video with the highest number of hits, not the greatest educational value.

Don’t want to give it too much importance, but I think this is the same problem faced by the world media. Because quality is difficult to measure number measure attention, not the effect: the views, view time, completion rate, subscribers. Recommending a video to view, YouTube uses these figures, supposedly objectively. But, as said Theodore porter, the great historian of science and technology, in his book “Trust in numbers”: “the Quantitative indicators actually do not decide anything, only creates the appearance of influence.”

The market itself will not seek to improve broadcasting for children

Actor and writer James Bridle found in the vaults of YouTube many violent, strange and robotic children’s videos. And while none of these videos has not reached the scale ChuChu, they sometimes show children.

The YouTube world is much different from the world of broadcast television. Television broadcasting in the United States and other countries restrict certain rules and threat of punishment for violation of these rules, much less restriction applied to YouTube. On YouTube default age rating 13+, but the company has developed an app called YouTubeKids. The problem is that only a small portion of 1.9 billion YouTube viewers every month using this application, and in some countries YouTubeKids generally not available.

A team of pediatricians, Medical center of albert Einstein (Philadelphia, USA) found that YouTube is among children under 2 years of age. 97 percent of the children in this study had mobile devices.

To 4 years 75% of children in the study had their own tablet, smartphone or iPod. And this study 2015.

But YouTube can improve the situation by subsidizing, in partnership with the government the creation of educational content. Could help and other more intensive measures. For example, how about limiting videos for kids app YouTubeKids? And on the main platform – no children’s videos. And let videoproizvodstva upload videos for kids just for YouTubeKids. So children will be in a safe environment and, in the long run, will be protected from scandal.

There may be a better or more elegant solutions, but if the history of children’s television something has taught us, it’s that the market itself will not seek to improve broadcasting for children. Appear the heroes who will achieve change in the new world of YouTube, and some of these heroes will not come from the West. They come from all over the world, maybe even from Chennai.

For any well-intentioned of child producer example to follow – so glad you’re here TV host Fred Rogers of PBS. Captain Rogers was not the academic experience of raising children, but he quickly realized what educational opportunities the new environment, and 15 years of work on the children’s show tried to make them better and more interesting for children. Today ChuChu can aspire to do the same. The channel was founded just five years ago and faces other, more rigid media landscape, but the example of Rogers should still follow.

These luminous, alluring rectangles is not going anywhere

I’m afraid to see how my daughter plays with my phone, at this point, it becomes a little adult. Her little fingers poked at the buttons, stretch your screen over something again and again. It’s like she has a second brain at your finger tips. Most parents know the horror. Watching children immersed in our phones, we understand that these luminous, alluring rectangles is not going anywhere, and the consequences of their influence is unknown.

Need energy, imagination and public support to rectify the situation with videos for kids. Will it happen? Who will pay for research and then for production? Will YouTube implement General recommendations?

I am very concerned about these issues, but when I visited Chennai, I felt that there is a chance. Video for kids, ChuChu published on YouTube, a multicultural, vivacious and cosmopolitan. Their philosophy: a world in which all children are part of one vast community, relying on the world heritage of tales and legends. They have the sea of stories, educational lessons, and that ChuChu and similar companies are ready to make maximum use of the Luggage, building on the legacy of American educational TV.

The founders ChuChu know who they have to deal with new media platforms, the undercurrents on YouTube, increasing the power of the devices, but their chances are great. It seems that they still do not understand how they managed to seize millions of people from the office in South India, but they are not going to lose your chance. In the end, there’s so many stories that could be told.

On my last day in the office ChuChu Krishnan told me a story from the Mahabharata, the Indian epic. The Prince wanted to be seen as generous, so God Krishna decides to subject him to a test: he created two mountains of gold, and commanded the Prince to give all the gold in 24 hours. The Prince began to distribute the gold to those people who, he believed, need it. But the day came to an end, and the mountain of gold appeared even depression. Krishna then called the other Prince and told him that he has five minutes to hand out the gold. The Prince saw two people walking along the road, approached them and gave each mountain. Quite simply, the job is done. The moral of the parable is simple, though confusing: don’t limit your generosity.

Krishnan loves this parable. “The same thing I can do to ChuChu, he told me. – But only with pizza instead of gold.”


Translation Of Maria Stroganova

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