Youtube kids shows videos promoting drug culture and weapons
Youtube kids was released in 2015 as a safer, more monitored version for children under 13.
A recent analysis of YouTube's "Kids" app has revealed that it proposes videos that encourage skin-bleaching, weight loss, drug culture, and guns to children as young as two.
YouTube Kids, a 2015 app and website, is intended to be a safer, moderated version of the video-sharing website geared at children under the age of 13. It caters to three age groups: "older," "younger," and "preschool," which generally correlate to children aged nine to twelve, four to seven, and under four.
According to the service, it guarantees that the videos on the service are appropriate for children by using "a mix of automated filters built by our engineering teams, human review and feedback from parents to protect our youngest users online." However, it warns viewers that "no system is perfect and inappropriate videos can slip through."
According to research from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a non-profit located in the United States, the system is far from ideal. The investigators identified multiple movies that should not have passed Google's filters by using three distinct accounts, each assigned to one of the app's age categories.
A Breaking Bad-themed cooking show, for example, in which the hosts dress up in respirators and make jokes about the dangers of inhaling the fumes, may be light-hearted viewing for adults or teens, but YouTube has classified it as appropriate for "younger children" – as has a Minecraft project to recreate the RV from the hit show, "where the crystal meth is cooked."
As part of a guitar tutorial series, Eric Clapton's Cocaine-sample lyric is available to children as young as five.
Gun-owner content finds its way to children as well, with younger children being shown a ranking of recoil pads, which protect shooters from the kickback of a firing gun, and older children being shown detailed instructions on how to build a shelf with a hidden compartment to conceal a firearm.
The most concerning information for children was those which might lead to negative body image concerns. For older children, a prominent Indian beauty influencer's article on how to use skin-bleaching products was available, while preschoolers were shown a cartoon on the need of burning calories to lose weight, exhorting them to "wiggle your jiggle."
Katie Paul, director of TTP, says “This is a product that, YouTube claims, does a lot of machine learning to filter out harmful content. It’s very specifically meant to be safe for children, and we didn’t expect to find the variety of inappropriate content that we did find.”
Paul says the most shocking thing to find was the number of drug-related content that was available, detailing that “Of course, these aren’t pushing drugs – but a show like Breaking Bad, which is definitely meant for adults, is being mimicked to push rock candy as though it’s ‘baked meth’ using a lot of drug phrases.”
According to Paul, algorithmically curated content should not be marketed for kids. She believes the US Congress should do its part in regulating services the way the UK and EU have.
She argues that "Ultimately, we are talking about American companies. And it is US Congress that should be leading the way in developing stronger regulations to ensure that these companies are not causing harm to children."