For friends Benjamin Wong, 13, and Noah Golder, 15, of Upland, productivity during the coronavirus pandemic is off the charts — and they are just kids. Spoiler alert: If you are watching endless loops of reality TV or spending hours posting on social media, you may not want to keep reading.
As soon as Pioneer Junior High School closed its doors and shifted to distance learning in March, Wong captured his free time by re-starting his podcast “Kid CEO,” featuring segments on business, entrepreneurship and social issues.
But that’s only the beginning.
In June, he formed Kid Podcast Co. and launched a second podcast, “Fireflies: The Original Kids Debate Show,” with Golder as the host and producer. “Fireflies” features two teens debating a current news issue in a serious, no-nonsense format.
So far, they’ve produced two episodes using the Zoom virtual meeting platform, staying totally socially distanced, one on K-12 distance learning (July 8) and the other on whether the U.S. should make good on threats to shut down TikTok (July 15), a social media site owned by a Chinese company that usually features people dancing or lip syncing to songs.
Wong, who will attend International Polytechnic High School in Pomona in the fall, just finished rebranding his startup, now called Kidfinity, and launched a new website, kidfinity.co, on Tuesday, July 21. A third podcast called “The Gift” is taking the shape of an audio drama and is in production.
“I have a message for 13 to 18 year olds,” Wong said Friday, July 17. “I text friends in quarantine and ask them what are they doing? I say, if you want to be an astronaut, start now learning astrophysics. Don’t wait.”
Golder, who will be a sophomore at Upland High School in the fall, says the idea behind “Fireflies” is to inform young people about relevant issues. It’s always better to hear from their peers, he said.
“Also it’s to increase kids’ productivity, rather than listening to entertainment or watching YouTube,” Golder said. “Podcasts are more educational than just playing video games all the time.”
“Fireflies” is one of the only news podcasts produced, written and starring kids. It is available on Spotify, Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts and is on the Anchor platform.
“There are podcasts for kids but very few podcasts are kid-run and have kids on the show. That is very unique,” Wong said. The Kidfinity team also includes: Talia Rahaman, 14, audio engineer, who will be attending St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, and studio producer Christopher Hartman, 14.
Wong and Golder met at Boy Scout camp in Big Bear three years ago and have been friends ever since. Both attended Pioneer Junior High and were part of the school’s debate team.
“Ever since I can remember, whenever someone asks me what I want to be I said a billionaire,” Wong said. “Now, my economic interests go hand-in-hand with the news.”
At a resort with his family, his sister was annoyed when he turned off the Disney Channel in favor of the news. “I like history class; it is like reading a story book,” he said, going on to broadcast the news at Pioneer Junior High as part of Pioneer Student News.
Wong likes to bounce ideas off his family. One night he was talking with his sister, who wasn’t interested in business or stocks (Wong has had his own portfolio since sixth grade). So he and Golder came up with a debate-show podcast on issues affecting kids, by kids.
While watching cable shows, it always bothered the duo that kids weren’t featured, even when the topic was distance learning vs. opening up the schools, or the future of standardized testing.
“The kids, who are most affected, their voices are not being heard,” Wong said. “I can’t remember when a kid has been on a mainstream media show talking about issues.”
On Wednesday, July 22, their podcast episode on the Black Lives Matter movement will be released, featuring Angelica Gordon and Ted Le, both from Upland High School, they said. Having two teens discuss the issue of police brutality and the death of Black people while in police custody, including George Floyd in Minneapolis, is an example of what Wong and Golder are trying to accomplish.
“Kids are relevant to discuss these issues. They will remember where they were when George Floyd was killed,” Wong said.