YouTube: Tool or Distraction?

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Charlie Hebert, Staff Writer

A once loved media platform at Catholic High has been blocked by administrators because its distracting nature has become harmful to student learning.  The ensuing controversy is over whether or not it should be up to students to be responsible enough to have access to YouTube and use it wisely or if it is too much power for a teenager to have.

There has been controversy over the use of YouTube at Catholic High since the introduction of computers. YouTube has been responsible for students not paying attention in class as well as not getting their work done at home. A student can fall down a hole and look up and realize hours have gone by while they have been endlessly watching.

YouTube can also have positive uses in the classroom by giving students information in different ways and allowing them to learn using a platform familiar to them. A lot of classes today use YouTube to show examples as well as present new information.

In an interview, Mrs. Margo Otterstetter, a sophomore religion teacher, spoke about her use of YouTube saying, “I use YouTube and I use it for class all the time. Whenever I want to show an example of what I’m teaching, YouTube is going to have that example. They have great artists who can readily show how to accomplish a task, and in religion, [YouTube has] lots of great stories out there”. YouTube is a vital part of her classes and helps her give her students the information they need. Though she is a teacher who uses YouTube for class frequently, she also said that YouTube can be a bad thing if it is abused.

The same is true for Mr. Tim Chustz, a religion teacher at Catholic High, who also uses YouTube frequently in class. Chustz says, “Students lack the ability to focus and control on things that are productive and they just allow themselves to tumble down a hole that has to relevance to what they are actually doing.” There seems to be a theme developing with teachers’ opinions on the use of YouTube at Catholic High that students tend to struggle with the responsibility.

Some teachers around the U.S. have incorporated YouTube into the classroom in a way that fully depends on it. This is known as the “flipped classroom”. This style of class involves teachers making videos of their lectures for students to watch at home so that they can work on other material during class. “The flipped classroom — leaves class time open for students to complete their assignments with their teacher standing by to offer one-on-one help,” says Kyle Stokes in his article titled, “How YouTube is Changing the Classroom”.

So, it is true that YouTube can be a vital part of the classroom. But does giving the students free rein encourage them to get distracted?

For students like Charlie Williamson, a 9th grader at CHS, YouTube can take up monumental amounts of time. Charlie spoke on his use of YouTube in an interview saying, “I use YouTube every single day after school for at least 3 hours.” This is time that could be spent towards homework or other, more productive, activities.

YouTube’s algorithm is created to suggest content to the user that they should be interested in. This is how students like Charlie end up using YouTube for extended amounts of time. This phenomenon is called the “Rabbit Hole Effect.”

This effect is also prevalent in the lives of preschoolers. In her article titled, “The Algorithm that makes preschoolers obsessed with YouTube”, Adrienne LaFrance says, “Kids keep clicking on them, and keep being offered more of the same. Which means video makers keep making those kinds of videos—hoping kids will click.” This is how young kids are becoming addicted to this platform.

Current CHS Senior, Joe Alexander said that YouTube is “definitely detrimental” and is a “massive distraction”. So the question remains, should students be allowed to use YouTube?

Some say yes, some say no, and some think the current system, teachers being able to unblock YouTube during class when students need, is the perfect solution.

Students want free reign, but the question remains. Can they handle the responsibility?