The Old, the New, and the Digital Native

Easter was busy as usual this year. As a child, I eagerly awaited the hunt for my hidden Easter basket in the morning to see what sugary delights the Easter Bunny had left me. It was a fun, understated, and simple holiday. Not for my girls. Their Easter tradition starts the Friday before Easter with an Easter egg hunt at daycare. My Easter tradition starts the Thursday before Easter with a mad dash to the grocery store before work to buy candy for the thirty-two plastic Easter eggs I need to stuff for the hunt. I know it’s coming every year. Daycare knows it’s coming every year. Still, they do not post the sign till the week of, and I forget that I am not prepared until the day before.

Easter BasketAfter the Friday sugar buzz, we move into Saturday for the start of our family Easter traditions. We attend an Easter egg hunt put on by a local church. They do a fantastic job, but it is much, much more than an Easter egg hunt. The first year we went, they had a bouncy house and school-carnival-type games for the kids. The next year, they had the bouncy house, the games, and pony rides. This year, they had the bouncy house, the games, the pony rides, a rock climbing wall, a fire truck, and an ambulance that provided the kids with a real-life experience of having an EKG done! Not to mention, their egg hunts happen on the half hour with thousands of eggs. Three egg hunts total for Saturday alone. By 5 p.m. Saturday, we are all pretty exhausted.

Easter morning is the simple tradition of my childhood. We wake up, find the Easter basket, and have a lazy, sugar-buzzed morning. Sunday morning, Riley woke up at 6:30 a.m., turned her head to me, and whispered, “Where is the Easter bunny?” Those sweet memories are what make the traditions worth it.

This year, I noticed a new phenomenon inspired by another phenomenon Riley discovered the summer of last year. Riley, who is typically of the go-go-go mindset, does not usually slow down for small details. This year, she took the time to sit down with her Easter basket and open each individual egg, announce what was in it, and put the contents and the egg aside in their own respective piles. What was she doing? It didn’t take me long to realize that she was acting out what she has been watching nightly for the last eleven months: surprise egg videos on YouTube — a craze that has mesmerized kids, one that I just cannot understand.

These videos show only the hands of a person opening “surprise” (Easter) eggs containing a toy inside. The voice narrates what he or she is doing and tells what the toy is. Riley is fascinated. She is not a child who will sit down and watch TV. She will watch five minutes and then move on to the next activity. But she will sit down and watch these videos for hours! I was shocked to find out that these videos have millions of views. The lead of this group of video creators seems to be a lady who calls herself Disney Collector. She remains anonymous but is reported to be making millions on these videos. In my opinion, she deserves every penny, and I wonder if she stumbled onto this phenomenon or knew exactly what she was doing. I look forward to research that will explain children’s draw to this type of video. Is it the instant gratification, the small surprises?

Surprise egg videos

About a month or so ago I was watching the girls for the night while Lesley went to a reading from a beloved author who was in town. The moment Lesley walked out of the door Riley and Story began bickering like sisters. Poor Maddie was just along for the ride. After about 45 minutes of timing turns with one of the babies toys that would not interest either of them on a normal day, I decided to break out the videos. We have an Amazon Fire TV and are able to watch the videos on the TV through the iPad. Lesley, who is much more savvy than I am, has convinced Story that these videos are only available on  iPads and not the tablet she has at home..I knew that Story would be thrilled. The moment I put the first egg video on the screen Story shouted, ” I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!”. Both girls sat cross-legged on the floor screaming in delight each time an egg was opened. Unfortunately for me the reprieve was short lived and I returned to refereeing turns as Riley wanted to watch egg videos and Story wanted to watch Play Doh egg videos.

Shamefully (maybe), I let Riley watch her videos before bedtime while I get my necessary cleaning done. Of course, I have had my share of mom guilt. (I also secretly wait for the research that tells me she’s learning something.) I imagine this brand of mom guilt is much like the guilt moms felt when video games first came out. This new digital forum is entertaining my kid, but is it good for her, is it taking away from something I should be doing, or is this just the world she’s growing up in? I’ve contemplated, struggled with, and come to terms with my mom guilt now. Riley enjoys it, and I get my cleaning done. It works for us. Who am I to stand in the way of my digital native?

Lessons Learned: Stick with your family traditions no matter how hectic they are. Embrace things that are new. Let go of guilt and get your cleaning done.