“Kids today have to watch what the other kids are watching. Why just web shows, it happens with video games and cartoons too. There is so much violence, and absolutely no control”, a principal of a reputed school recently mentioned while speaking to us. It got us thinking. Do kids watch what they do, because they want to, or because the cool kids are watching it.
When 13 Reasons Why was released, the series showed an 18% increase in viewership from week one to week two. It was primarily a show that appealed to young adults. Was it because there were rave reviews about the show? Maybe. Was it because other kids were watching it? Definitely.
There is a desire among kids to be a part of a group – any group – and if it has the cool kids, what can be better than that? There used to be a time when the topic of discussion used the be the latest film running in cinemas or fashion. Today, they talk about web shows. The fact that parents are being very liberal with phone time for their kids simply fuels that. If there is a kid who does not have access to a mobile phone, because his or her parents don’t feel they need that, he will not be able to watch the show other kids are watching. Neither will he be able to indulge in any discussion pertaining to that. What would that mean? Feeling like an outsider. That pressure to feel that they belong, makes them force their parents to buckle and hand over their phones, or maybe even buy them a phone of their own.
The desire to put up that ‘perfect selfie’ is giving way to putting up a post about the web show that everyone else is watching. And there is a race for it. If few kids have not watched it by the time their friends have, are they even cool? It does not matter whether it is a subject that interests them or not. Forget teens, my 7 year old knows the names of more vloggers than I do and keeps telling me to give her a phone of her own, because ‘other kids have their own phones’.
What we need to note is that this peer pressure is not a harmless one. In May 2018, an Alabama girl committed suicide after leaving 7 letters to different people, a lot like Hannah Baker sending out 13 tapes in 13 Reasons Why. She had recently binge watched the show. Did her friends pressure her into watching the series? We will never know, will we? However, are the repercussions scary? Of course they are. If only peer pressure also pressured kids to stay away from things that could harm them.
We came across a crowdfunding website where there is a web series concept about not giving into peer pressure. Now, that is one show there should be peer pressure to watch, isn’t it?