My 6 year old son entered the house loudly. This was normal, and almost expected. He does most things loudly and I love him for that.
He tossed his orange schoolbag in an awkward spot where it wasn’t supposed to be, then headed over to our Alexa studio, right next to the family’s TV, and started to get angry.
He said, “ALEXA…”, with a drunken hellish elf’s speech patterns. “PLAY RICK ROLL… ON SOUNDTRACK.”
Always asks Alexa to play songs”Increase the volume. “
That’s when it happened. Thirty-five years after the song’s initial release (and 16 years after “Rickrolling” first hit the Internet) my house was rocking the sweet, sweet sounds of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up.
How did this happen? How did this 6-year-old know Brick Astley and this song? The reasons were not clear.
So I asked him. why? Why Did he casually come into our house and ask Alexa to play Never Gonna Give You Up?
I was immediately disemboweled.
“Baba. Don’t even know what a file is rick roll he is? “
As Director Skinner once asked: Am I out of reach? Or are the children wrong?
Parenting books won’t help you. Nothing written or published in our modern age can prepare you for the hell of parenthood on the latest technology. They can’t teach you how to deal with Roblox or Fortnite or the time your son/daughter “accidentally” used your credit card to spend $100 on Minecoins.
They won’t particularly tell you about memes. But I know one thing: children the love Memes.
I have two sons. 6 years old and one at 9. Kids this age, for one reason or another, love memes.
But not like you or I like memes. No, they don’t consume memes like us, and they don’t talk about memes like we do. They don’t even think of them the same way. It’s weird.
Contrary to the “kids get a lot of screen time” narrative, most young children are not as attached to internet culture as we are adults. As a result of screen time limits and intermittent access to online devices, they don’t browse Instagram Stories or scroll thoughtlessly through TikToks like teens.
No, they’re exposed to memes the old-fashioned way – on the playground.
Just like the old days, where urban legends spread from older brother to younger brother and beyond, kids are constantly breeding pre-existing memes that are completely disconnected from the context of their origins. They are consumed by osmosis, via a family member or a YouTube streaming device, and then quickly picked. Soon they became part of a strange lingua franca. Irrational words that are simply yelled on the field but don’t have any literal meaning.
This is why my 9-year-old son yells “Chinese meal hit” at completely inappropriate times. Why my 6-year-old son knows every word of Never Gonna Give You Up and finds it funny, even though there is no real understanding of why this song has had such a massive impact on generations of people online.
I vividly remember driving my oldest son and one of his friends to an indoor trampoline center. Unsurprisingly, one of the kids rolled out of my car window before shouting “Name MAH JEFF“Randomly from passers-by on the street. All the children engulfed themselves in laughter. I was in shock.
I guarantee that none of these kids have seen 22 Jump Street and I also guarantee that none of them could pick Channing Tatum from the lineup if their life depended on it. so what happened? My guess: One day a cool kid said “MAH NAME JEFF” on the playground and everyone laughed. So everyone kept saying it. Repeatedly. Like a cooked Budweiser ad.
This is normal in some ways. Memes have penetrated our wider culture so much that you don’t need to understand its history to find it funny. There is a common collective understanding that “this is funny”. Memes evolve. We apply their concepts to new, increasingly complex situations, and just implicitly Get He. She. We laugh en masse because that’s normal. Somehow it makes us laugh more.
But kids are taking it to the next level. Now this nonsense doesn’t even need to be done sense.
One day I was having dinner with my kids. We were laughing and joking and I started talking in a silly voice. I can’t remember a single thing you said or even what it sounded like, but my kids were missing out on it so I just kept moving forward. After a while it became old. The laughter subsided. Then my eldest child stopped and asked me very seriously.
“What meme was that from?”
When it comes to consuming memes, kids are disconnected from time and space. They simply don’t care. Old memes, new memes… There is no distinction between the two. Their world is a playground. Everything that is appropriate there has to do with them as individuals and as a group. This is it. nothing else matters.
My 9-year-old would regularly come home and say, “Hey Dad, are you seeing this cool new meme?” Then, without any sarcasm, ask me on Google”. “
But while kids are turning away from trends and understanding what’s new, they are on the cutting edge. Consuming their meme is a different and almost elevated experience. We just adopted the meme, they were born into it. Children exist on a different level separate from meaning. They shout a word or phrase like a distorted spell and its desired effect affects them like magic. excellent! It’s almost impressive. Completely without pretension.
How will this develop? How will this translate when this damned generation of kids have direct and unrestricted access to the internet via their mobile phones and laptops? Impossible to say. The bets are up. One thing is for sure: we will be left behind. We will be laughed at or ridiculed in group chats, TikToks, or whatever ends up being their favorite platform. This is the nature of things.
Everything adults do now is wrong. Sorry Director Skinner, these are just facts. Whatever they are about to do is the only way forward. Maybe you will get used to it. You may jump on board while there is still plenty of time.
The name MAH JEFF.