It seems like nowadays, everybody uses YouTube. To describe it simply, it is an online sharing space to upload videos. People of all ages use YouTube in several ways; to get laughs, to figure out how to do something (DIY or cooking for example) and even to entertain young children etc. To combat inappropriate videos reaching young children, YouTube has introduced YouTube Kids. In the Apple AppStore, YouTube Kids is “designed for curious little minds to dive into a world of discovery, learning and entertainment. This is a delightfully simple (and free!) app, where kids can discover videos, channels and playlists they love.” The app allows parents to turn off the search engine, and set time limits on how long their child can watch the app. While YouTube Kids strives to be suited toward children, suspicious material still makes its way onto the video platform making parents question whether it is safe for children to watch.
My personal experience dealing with YouTube Kids started when my 3-year-old niece got an iPad for Christmas. She soon became consumed with videos and even started talking like the kids she watched on the site trying to gain subscribers and thanking them for watching their videos. It was cute (but sometimes annoying) to hear her mimic the videos, so nothing raised my suspicions…at first. One day, as I was watching my niece as she was on her iPad on YouTube Kids when I heard an ear-piercing and eerie rendition of “Let It Go” from the children’s movie Frozen. I quickly took the iPad from her to check out the music video and saw that it was NOT a Disney video, but an edited version which looked like something out of a horror movie! After this incident, I wondered if other inappropriate videos made their way onto the YouTube Kids, so like any curious person, I took to Google to find out.
I found was that many inappropriate videos are being uploaded to the site disguised as different recognizable children’s characters on the surface, but instead contain inappropriate and disturbing material, ranging from sexual content to violence. Some examples include a children’s TV show character, Peppa Pig, going to the dentist and getting much pain inflicted on her resulting in blood, an evil small Spider-man cutting off a women’s bikini top, and even real-life people pretending to be Elsa from Frozen, and Spider-man, acting out different sexual positions. It can be hard to spot these disturbing events in the videos as they might just be small blips.
While not all videos on YouTube Kids are like this, it is important to note that these videos are easily accessible, often times coming up as recommended videos that children innocently tap on because the cover photo includes characters that children know and like. Before tossing your child’s iPad or banning YouTube, there ARE many ways to help get rid of these videos and have your children still enjoy YouTube Kids and other sites under your supervision:
- Turn on safety/restricted mode on YouTube Kids. At the bottom of the app there is a safety button you can choose which blocks videos that have been previously flagged as inappropriate.
- Instead of just exiting out of a video that you determine as inappropriate, be sure to flag or report this in hopes it will be taken down from the YouTube Kids app.
- Make your own playlist for your children. You are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child, so make your own kid-friendly playlist that your child can watch and you won’t have to worry.
- Clear your child's history! By clearing your child's history it allows for the recommended videos that automatically play after a video ends to change and hopefully go down a different path than an inappropriate video popping up.
- If you try all of the above and videos that are still questionable pop up on your child’s app, use a different site or download different apps.