YouTube Kids was created as a space that was safe for kids and families to enjoy appropriate, educational, and entertaining videos, including ones from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon. However, it has become apparent that even a website designed for kids is not a guaranteed refuge from inappropriate videos.
The first question is how on earth are these disturbing videos slipping past YouTube’s filters? YouTube Kids’ library of videos supposedly only contains child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But, disturbing videos aimed towards children are nevertheless slipping through the crack either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to trick the YouTube Kids algorithms. Many of the reported videos feature well-known characters and their titles and descriptions feature popular character names and terms like “education” and “learn colors” or account’s descriptions that say, “Video created with the purpose of learning and development of children!” Because a large majority of the videos feature well-known characters and headline seemingly harmless content they are bypassed by YouTube’s automatic screening process and onto unassuming children’s’ screens.
These videos showed real children in vulnerable and exploitive situations that result in physical harm like cuts, Nick Jr.’s “PAW Patrol” characters can be seen in a strip club and one of them visiting a doctor and asks for her cartoon legs to be replaced with long, provocative human legs in stilettos, and a Claymation Spider-Man urinating on Elsa of “Frozen”- an act that is often portrayed in pornography. These are only a few examples of the lewd, violent, and disturbing videos that are slipping onto YouTube Kids for millions of children to see.
Another disturbing part of this story is that thousands of these videos have ads which means that not only are bad content creators profiting off these dangerous videos but so is Google, YouTube’s parent owner.
Over the past few months as these disturbing videos have come to light within the Associated Press and parents going to Facebook and other social platforms to share their disgust and anger about the videos their children were exposed to on YouTube Kids YouTube has buckled down to improve the safety of the site by updating their advertising policy to “clearly indicate that videos depicting family entertainment characters engaged in inappropriate behavior are not eligible or advertising on YouTube.”
While the improvements provide some hope, YouTube Kids is still not 100% free from those preying on young, vulnerable children by exposing them to inappropriate, vulgar videos. Parents should remain vigilant in protecting their children from bad actors and continue to expose those actors and flag inappropriate content on YouTube Kids.