Science/Tech

Why YouTube And YouTube Kids Are Not Safe For Children

Many parents think that YouTube Kids is an app version oriented for kids — meaning it is safe to let kids watch videos here. But sadly it appears not. A pediatrician mom from Florida found out that videos instructing kids to harm themselves appear on the site.

Free Hess revealed that the clips she found on YouTube and YouTube Kids include tips on how to kill themselves. Hess said that the first time she saw the videos was back in July 2018. A mom alerted her about it, and her son was watching cartoon videos on YouTube Kids. While watching in the middle part of the video, there was a footage of a man in sunglasses telling children how to slit their wrists.

Hess called the attention of other parents and different groups and revealed what she discovered to have it reported and be removed from the site. According to Hess, it took a week for YouTube Kids to pull it down.

The story does not end there. This month, she saw the video again. This time, it’s on YouTube. She and others flagged the video. Just like what happened on YouTube Kids, it took a couple of days before YouTube took down the said video. Hess wrote on her blog about this concern to alert other parents.

“It makes me angry and sad and frustrated,” Hess told CNN. “I'm a pediatrician, and I'm seeing more and more kids coming in with self-harm and suicide attempts. I don't doubt that social media and things such as this is contributing,” she added.

This is not the only video that contains violent content. Hess explored the site and discovered something more. She found more videos not only promoting suicide but also containing sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, human trafficking, gun violence and domestic violence. She also found a video, inspired by the popular “Minecraft” video game, even depicting a school shooting.

Hess is calling out YouTube to do a better job of screening videos intended for YouTube Kids. She said she understands that Google (who  owns YouTube) is a business, and “they might not have the exact goals that I have, but I do want them to respond better when people report offensive videos, and I want offensive things taken down immediately when reported.” In response to Hess’ accusation, in a statement, YouTube said “that it works to make the videos on YouTube Kids family-friendly and takes feedback seriously.”

This is not the only issue on YouTube. As a matter of fact, YouTube is also accused of contributing to the quick spread of vaccine misinformation. In a report of Buzzfeed News, a number of ads from companies selling health-related items have appeared on anti-vaxx videos. Owners of YouTube channels make money on YouTube by showing ads. Many advertisers pay for their ads to play with certain types of videos. However, certain types of videos, including spreading fear of childhood immunizations, are not supposed to be able to show ads and even earn money. 

YouTube released a statement regarding this issue. It said that it has a strict policy and does not allow “ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content have been and remain a violation of our longstanding harmful or dangerous advertising policy.” The videos that promote anti-vaxx have been removed. But sadly, many advertisers are mad because their ads have appeared in anti-vaccine videos.

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