**Edited to add: This article is focusing more on the inappropriate content that shows up in videos geared towards children – some that do dangerous things; some that use inappropriate language; some that may bully or do unexpected things given that they appear to be ‘child safe’ in the beginning. All to say – the main takeaway from this article is intended to make parents aware and to encourage parents to practice vigilance when it comes to YouTube videos and children. For younger children – make sure that it is age-appropriate and monitor it with them. For older children or teenagers – have a conversation with them and educate them about the dangers, so that in the event they DO see something alarming they will know how to respond. The Momo Challenge is questionable – some do claim it exists and others believe it is a hoax. But the content referenced in this post were seen by either the writer or verified sources.
A few days ago while I was on the elliptical at the gym, I tuned into the news. Sometimes this is my only chance to actually focus on national news and I often opt for a news channel that is more lighthearted and less political! One of the lead stories was about YouTube and more specifically kids AND YouTube… and the dangers it now imposes. It started off by saying that many advertisers are pulling their money out (because money talks…) of YouTube and that YouTube is in a big conundrum if they don’t urgently fix their huge problem.
I mean, how many parents out there can relate to handing your child the iPad or iPhone and innocently letting them watch innocent looking people open toys… or play with Playdoh?! It doesn’t happen often in my house – but it has happened. My kids are constantly asking for ‘videos’ on my phone – they think it’s the coolest thing ever (which I still don’t understand… but I’m a child of the early 80’s and this was never a ‘thing’ for me!). I have always closely monitored what they watch, but even in doing so there has been some questionable content and some alarming videos that have filtered through and been tagged as ‘kids’ content despite very clearly NOT being appropriate for kids. Because of this we do try to avoid YouTube – but after learning what I saw on the news and doing my own research, we will NEVER (and yes I mean NEVER) allow our kids to watch YouTube again until YouTube takes drastic measures to fix their problem. Admittedly, I rarely say the word NEVER (there I said it again) – but my palms are sweaty just thinking about what I saw on that news segment and my heart is racing and I am just trying to understand why there are people out there who are intentionally trying to mortify and harm children. These are strangers who are literally preying on young children.
Here a couple examples of what I found in my research:
Videos that seem to be created for children, ie: a puppet show: Starts off innocent; four minutes in, someone else appears on the screen and tells you the proper way to cut your wrists to commit suicide. In another ‘puppet show’ video (and also four minutes in), someone appears and says, “when your parents are asleep, turn on the stove and leave it on.” Apparently the video creators assume that by the point of four minutes in – that most parents have left the room or have stopped watching these videos.
In another instance, a Paw Patrol video which seemed totally fine – UNTIL IT WASN’T. About half way through (or four minutes in), the Paw Patrol character chugged a bottle of pills and passed out on the couch. At that point another character came in and found him and started shaking him and crying hysterically all while a nursery rhyme continued playing in the background. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL WORLD!?!?
These videos get past the ‘kids’ filters because of the characters. These videos show up on YouTube AND on Kids YouTube. The content is unmonitored and the thumbnails change often. So even if you have flagged something, it may show up with a different thumbnail and you may think it’s okay. Basically at this point the only solution in my house is to completely ban YouTube.
It doesn’t just stop with the glamorizing of suicide (by characters our children adore), it continues with pedophilia and imposters who can create seemingly innocent content which is in fact NOT innocent at all. There are some ways to keep Kids YouTube a bit safer (though still not full-proof).
- Click on the lock at the bottom right of the screen
- Click on settings
- Select your child’s YouTube account and follow the log-in page
- Switch OFF ‘allow searching’
- Switch ON ‘approved content only’
- Click ‘manage’
You can then select the channels that you are certain are safe for your child to watch or you can select individual videos. Some channels are already approved by YouTube.
It’s unfortunate because there are some redeeming qualities that YouTube offers – like learning shows, entertainment, YouTube personalities and so on. The fact of the matter is that technology is here to stay and we have to be vigilant.
Read more from our friends at MKE Moms Blog: The Shocking Content My Kid Found on YouTube