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Tapping Into The Skills Of The YouTube Generation, One Minute At A Time

14/03/2017 11:12 GMT | Updated 14/03/2017 11:12 GMT

YouTube this week published its latest stats and confirmed what we all know: that we're all video addicts, consuming on average a billion hours of footage every day. The numbers are a ten-fold increase on 2012 and show our love affair with vloggers, music videos and water bottle flipping means we'll soon be watching more online videos than TV.

Personally I can't get enough of the Slow Mo Guys - check out their latest 25 paint explosions rainbow.

But whilst the YouTube stats don't seem surprising to anyone with a smartphone and a long commute, they do sit a little uneasily with me. Much has been written about the dangers of becoming a sofa addict or absorbing too much 'blue light' through screen use. But I'm less concerned about the time spent in front of a screen and more about what we're doing on the screen.

For a long time at Nesta we've campaigned for children to become makers of technology not just consumers. We want to see more kids learning to code, to interact with tech, rather than just to passively absorb it. We're delighted the national curriculum for primary school students now includes time to code.

But it's not too late for the rest of us to put our screen time to better use too. Rather than letting Youtube's AI bots hook you into watching clip after clip (and by the way they are really getting super savvy at knowing what to show you next), why not use that screen time to give a bit of your time to help others.

You could be texting messages of encouragement to a peer trying to give up alcohol for good or lose weight - both proven to drive success. Or you could be helping a student with their homework via virtual tutoring which we know improves exam grades. You could even help to solve a local problem by contributing ideas to 'the hive' - such as potholes and sustainable energy supply.

You don't have to have loads of time to give. Most of these volunteering opportunities can be done in less time than it takes the Slow Mo Guys to blow up five colour-filled air bags, even more in under an hour, and all from the comfort of your sofa with your preferred device in hand.

If we spent just 1% of the one billion YouTube watching hours on giving rather than on consuming, just imagine the impact on our neighbours, communities and societies. That's 100,000 hours of volunteering a day - squeezed in between binge watching House of Cards.

Maybe these new ways of giving using tech will help us turn a nation of Youtube addicts into a nation of givers, one minute at a time.

Vicki Sellick is a director at Nesta, a global innovation foundation. www.nesta.org.uk