Bill Hartnett: What a 10-Year-Old Teaches Me Every Day about Technology and Social Media

When writing in Ad Age recently about how a 10-year-old girl (namely my niece) uses social media, I saw a few people musing on how their own children, nephews, nieces, cousins, and others use it. 

One of those people is an old friend of mine, Bill Hartnett, aka junglerock (see his handle below), who I've had the pleasure of working with, as he was a client at my previous agency, and we got to collaborate a fair amount. He's also one person I've been better at keeping up with than others as a friend, so when he filled me in (as he often does) on how his son uses technology, I told him I'd love the story for my blog. You, reader, are the beneficiary of him accepting the offer.

While I don't tend to run guest posts, this was too good and too relevant. Thanks, Bill. Read on for his post.

Junglerock

WHAT A 10-YEAR-OLD TEACHES ME EVERY DAY ABOUT TECH AND SOCIAL MEDIA
By Bill Hartnett 
Bill Hartnett is a marketing consultant with a boundless desire for all things digital including a healthy addiction to Twitter. Find him at worldonshuffle.com and @junglerock.

10-year-old boys are from Mars…or maybe Planet Minecraft. It’s all about mods, maps and servers. If you don’t know about Creepers or who Steve is then you haven’t spent much time with kids lately. Minecraft is the epicenter of my son’s social media world and seems to be the center of every one of his friends’ worlds as well.

He is Facebook-curious, a Twitter beginner, but Minecraft permeates every part of his social media footprint. He loves technology and most leisure time involves a computer, iPad, iPhone, 3DS or basically anything that bleeps, chirps and has a video screen.

If you believe himm ALL his friends have smartphones and brand new laptops with unlimited date plans. Apparently he is a rejected outcast with his 2012 technology while all the other cooler kids have zipped off to the future without him. He has a hand-me-down iPhone 4 and a decent iMac. There is a laptop in his near future, just don’t tell him that.

My two older kids seem to be an oracle of future media usage and I take plenty of notes as I watch them embrace, engage and discard apps, games, platforms and devices at breakneck speed. They’ve grown up in an on-demand, always-on world. My daughter was stunned when a One Direction song played on the car radio and I couldn’t just play it again. I feebly tried to explain analog, but she stopped listening long before I stopped mumbling.

So back to my son. His idle time is spent playing Minecraft, watching YouTube fan videos about Minecraft, posting Instagram photos from Minecraft and plotting his ultimate takeover of the Minecraft ecosystem. There was a brief, but intense dalliance with Skylanders, but Minecraft is the one game that rules them all.

YouTube looms large in his life. There are thousands of Minecraft fan videos and he has probably seen all of them. Forget athletes or rock stars, SkyDoesMinecraft, CaptainSparklez and Yogscast are his heroes. He wants to become YouTube famous with his own fan videos and YouTube channel. He loves to comment and praise the creators. And is incredibly adept and ruthless about skipping and avoiding ads.

His Minecraft club meets every two weeks and in between he plays online with his friends and they use Skype and Google Hangouts to talk to each other. Even regular phone conversations are generally replaced by SkypeFaceTime or Google Hangouts. Why just talk when you can make faces, laugh and goof on the other guy?

Vine is a big one for my son. He loves searching for cat and dog videos as well as general funny videos. This is a big bedtime play. Let’s watch a few Vine videos before bed. Like potato chips we never eat just one and we are up way past bedtime. He’s even created a couple of clever stop motion animations for Vine.

Instagram was his first and still favorite social platform. Pictures of dogs. Picture of cats. Pictures of Minecraft. Pictures of Minecraft Creepers chasing cats. Hashtags are quickly becoming a scond language. He also loves to give and get shout outs and new followers are a sign of pride.

Both my kids are well aware that dad will likely post photos of them to Facebook and/or Instagram and they are extremely interested in how many likes and comments they got.

Facebook isn’t part of his world yet, but as soon as his friends are there he will be too.

He likes Twitter, but it’s got too many words. Cut to the chase. Where is the instant gratification of Vine, Instagram and YouTube? He wanted his Twitter handle on his business cards (yes, he has business cards), but his mom put the kibosh on that.

Mobile Apps are where it’s at. It started with Plants vs Zombies, evolved into every iteration of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Temple Run, Doodle Jump and now it’s all about Monsters Ate My Condo, Mew Mew Tower and Giant Boulder of Death. We’ve got three different Skylanders games and Minecraft accompanied by at least 30 Minecraft knock offs and utilities. Fat Booth, Action Movie FX, Scribblenauts and others have hit number one for a week or two, but his tastes are fickle and he is ruthless in deleting lame or unwanted apps. Your life expectancy as an app on my kid’s phone is pretty grim. You’ve better keep his attention or provide some utility or you are headed for the app graveyard.

Did I mention the television largely sits dormant? An occasional Wii with friends or maybe streaming Netflix or Amazon through said Wii for a family movie, but TV means YouTube or Netflix on the iPad. And apart from Nick, Disney or Cartoon Network neither kid could name a single cable or broadcast network. But if they ever start a Minecraft network…

A funny thing happened this weekend, though. Browsing the Netflix on demand library he stumbled upon Vampire Diaries and binged all weekend. Could Minecraft be losing its grip? Creepers versus Vampires, who will win? One thing is certain: talk to me in a year and everything will have changed.

And don’t even get me start on what the 6-week-old baby will be up to in a few years. Keep your eyes open for my full report!