I've become something of a YouTube addict. My son's band, MGMT, plays around the world these days, and the morning after almost any of his gigs — whether in Paris or San Diego or Nijmegan(!) — I can go on YouTube, type the band's name in the search engine, sort by "date," and watch a clip of their performance from the night before.
YouTube is simply amazing. There's even a comedian who has a routine based on the ubiquity of the website's contents. "YouTube, give me a farting donkey," he'll say, typing in the search terms. And lo, one will appear. Or anything else he can think of. And it's not surprising, given that almost everyone with a cellphone has video capabilities these days.
My 11-year-old stepson loves to show me great basketball dunks on YouTube. We monitor his computer use, but he'll hear about a great play from a classmate and want to look at it on my laptop. Like I said, YouTube has something for everyone. And sometimes that's not good.
At the top of the site, there are five small boxes containing "videos being watched now." Yesterday, one of these was hard-core porn. No doubt it had slipped past the site monitors, because it was soon removed. But it was startling — and worrisome. How do you keep kids from seeing some things when they can go on the Internet and see everything, even if accidentally? And how does such an inevitable and early loss of innocence shape their sexuality, their relationships?
I remember like yesterday my first sight of female nudity. I was 11, accompanying my father to pick up his car from the repair shop. As he paid his bill, I stared saucer-eyed at the Playboy pinups decorating the grubby office wall. Holy crap! My eyes were scalded. This was a whole new world.
Like most boys of my generation, I learned of the mysteries of sex first from an awkward fatherly talk and then by looking at Playboy and Penthouse. And no, I didn't buy them for the articles. But later generations — my son's and my stepson's — grew up, and will grow up, seeing it all, mostly performed by over-endowed "actors" working in seedy Hollywood backlots. There are no mysteries anymore. And there is little to imagine. I fear for them, and I am sad for them.