For this week’s post, I have interviewed three Year 11 boys from my school who just happened to be outside my library office at lunchtime waiting to see the IT Help Desk. I recorded the interview and then summarised the answers of the three boys. Here are the results:
Q) What books are you currently reading?
Q) Do you only read books if they are for school?
A) Yes. One of the boys then says that he read the “Hannibal” series and a book called “Zero Dark Thirty” which is a war story about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Q) When you do read books, what kind of themes do you like?
A) Dark themes. Like stuff about war or things that keep you guessing.
Q) Did you read more for pleasure when you were in primary school?
A) Yes. Definitely.
Q) Why do you think that has changed?
A) Too busy now with other things like jobs and homework and sport. Like to relax doing other things.
Q) What are the top TV shows that you are watching at the moment?
A) “Breaking Bad” (all vigorously agree on this one), “Big Bang Theory”, “Walking Dead”, “Family Guy”.
Q) What do you think it is that you like about these TV shows?
A) They are funny, but also have dark themes that keep you interested. Good storylines and characters.
Q) Is the major drawcard that they are funny?
A) Yes. Definitely.
Q) Do you watch any Reality TV?
A) Not really. The girls seem to watch more of that.
Q) Do you think that girls your age would watch the same TV shows?
A) No. They talk about shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “Big Brother”.
Q) Do you watch TV shows live or do you download them?
A) All agree that they watch them live but they have friends who download. Two of the boys say they don’t know how to download shows.
Q) What types of games do you play, how often and what are your favourite?
A) Video games!! (very enthusiastic about this topic). Most agree that they spend about 10 hours per week playing video games. They would like to play more but their parents monitor this and they have jobs etc. All boys agree that this is their favourite leisure activity. They also emphatically state that the most popular game at the moment with everyone is “Grand Theft Auto 5” which has been recently released. They have friends that stay up all night on weekends playing this game.
Q) Any other games that are popular at the moment?
A) Not really. Everyone is playing GTA5. One boy says that he likes a game called “Battlefield”. Another boy says that he sometimes plays games on his phone such as “Fruit Ninja” and “Fifa”.
Q) Do you think these games are violent?
A) Yeah – but you know it’s not real. The graphics are pretty lifelike but you still know it’s a game.
Q) What music are you into at the moment?
A) All agree that they like a band called “Rise Against”. One of the boys says he likes “Usher” then one of them mentions “Froggy Fresh”. They all laugh when this artist is mentioned but agree that he is good because he’s funny.
Q) How do you listen to your music and where do you get it from?
A) All agree they listen to it on their phones through the day but will have it playing from their computers in their room when at home. Two of the boys get their music from iTunes and one uses “Spotify” where a monthly fee is paid and you can listen to any music you want.
Q) Do you use YouTube a lot and what for?
A) Yes. They all agree that they use YouTube extensively, mostly for watching funny clips that are recommended to them by friends or they “like” clips on Facebook and then new ones appear in their feed. The main attraction is to watch anything that’s funny. As an example, they said the “Best of Vines” are a series of funny clips that are really popular amongst their friends.
Q) What social media do you use?
A) All use Facebook. One uses Instagram a little bit. All have played around with “Ask FM”. They say that “Tumbler” and “Instagram” seem to be more popular with their female friends.
It seems that overall, the most popular texts for these teenage boys to engage with are video games and YouTube clips. These got the most enthusiastic and detailed responses. The most attractive feature of popular culture texts for these boys was comedy value. The funnier a text is perceived, the more they seemed to enjoy it. They are also drawn to darker themes such as war and violence and seem to be aware of the differences between what they like and what their female peers are into.
As an extra observation, over the last few months I’ve noticed an explosion of students playing a new card game in the library at lunch time. It’s called Cardfight! Vanguard and is a manga based game. It started out with about 4 students and is now up to about 30 each day. I’ve actually given them an annexed room to use in the library. They have been hosting their own tournaments with prizes etc. Interestingly, it is mostly senior boys with some Middle Years boys joining recently. A couple of girls attend, but I think they mostly just watch. It’s nice to see them all mixing together with a common passion. The librarian in me loves the ones who have purchased special boxes to keep their cards in so they don’t get crinkled! I’ve just watched the You Tube tutorial on how to play, and to be honest, I’m baffled! It sounds like something that would have appealed to Johnson (2005) in his article on the “Sleeper Curve”.
It was interesting for me to look up a few things that I’d never heard of. For example, I found out that “Froggy Fresh” is an American country rapper who became famous by posting a song on YouTube called “The Baddest”. After watching the clip myself, I can see why teenage boys would think this is funny and yet the fact that the rapper and his friend are brandishing real weapons during the clip is kind of disturbing. I’d also never heard of the YouTube clips called “Vines”, which is a video-sharing app from “Twitter” where people upload short clips. Most of these seem to be made into compilations for viewing on YouTube. Again, the appeal to teenage boys is obvious – a mixture of pranks, skits and accidents, reminding me of Rizzo’s (2008) idea that YouTube is the new “cinema of attraction”. The fact that the boys wanted to know why I was asking them these questions really surprised me. They told me that teachers never really ask them what they are into but just presume that it will be rubbish. This whole exercise was a good reminder about taking the time to find out what our young people are into. Having this knowledge can be a powerful tool for us to use in learning – but also as a signal to our students that we are interested and invested in them!