No Video

I spent three hours yesterday with junior high youth on Zoom. At the same time, my soon-to-be 7th grader at home was on a Zoom class of her own. She kept the video camera off for most of it, as did almost all of the youth I was working with. I don’t like it. It feels rude. I suspect it permits students to disengage while they do other things.

But I don’t insist they keep their cameras on. As much as I dislike staring at a black box where a face should be, it also feels like a potential technological disparity and a developmental risk to insist on video. I’ve had at least one young person explain to me that their laptop didn’t have a camera, so “requiring” one introduces an immediate inequity. And early adolescents are experiencing a higher level of negative self-awareness than they will at any other time in their life, and it feels like going dark on video is a protective measure. It feels icky to force it.

Like everything in this moment, I’m sure much of the time that I’m reacting the wrong way. But, for now, I’m fine with being wrong for the right reasons.

3 thoughts on “No Video

  1. Dear Rocky, the junior high group is so lucky to have you. I remember a lot of days in that part of the 19-forget-its that made me think “DON”T LOOK!” I am not too crazy about my video results these days, but back then, it would have been horrifying. It should feel icky to force it, and I’m glad that you don’t. From all those who wouldn’t have the nerve to say so themselves, thank you.

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. When my kids turn off the video, they are often disengaged. Or my 13-y-o hasn’t showered and is feeling self conscious about his lock-down hair. Or they are tired and cranky today. Or still in PJs and don’t feel the need to be seen.

    My son’s algebra teacher insists they keep the video on, and that feels appropriate for math class. But just as I prefer to keep the camera off in virtual yoga, I get it when my kids don’t want to be seen 100% of the time during youth group…or book club…or one of the other things that have gone virtual lately. It seems rude to me too, but when I hear them speaking, they sound respectful and engaged, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it.

    We are all figuring this out as we go, even four months in…

  3. I have been doing lots of “Zooming” these past few months and do enjoy seeing people on video whom I would normally spend time with. But I find that I am sometimes self-conscious of my own appearance in a manner that an audio conference call doesn’t create. And my image may be distracting to other participants even if I just step away to reheat my coffee or let my wife know when I will be finished. It is a new and strange world. We must create the rules as we go and give others permission to experiment a bit.

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