Explainers

YouTube Kids and Your Kids

September 25th, 2019

YouTube doesn’t have a popularity problem—just about everyone everywhere uses it. But it has had problems controlling what videos find their way to the site and who sees them. Your kids have the same access to the videos on YouTube you have. Whether those videos are appropriate for children is immaterial, and that is a problem. YouTube Kids is the company’s solution.

Elsagate

YouTube has literally millions of videos coming in daily and not enough human and software filters to monitor or block every clip that may raise an eyebrow, especially when certain users use deceptive means (like phony labels and keywords) to sneak material through. And so disturbing phenomena like “Elsagate” occur: videos featuring beloved characters (like Disney’s Elsa) that appear to be kid-friendly and are edited to veer into violent, warped territory.

Targeting and protecting kids

Outrage and calls for better protection for children have turned the spotlight to YouTube Kids, an app intended to offer kid-friendly and entertaining material with the hopes that viewers won’t be exposed to anything inappropriate.  Adults can control or adjust security access and bar kids from accessing the main YouTube channel.

YouTube Kids allows parents, guardians or teachers to customize more of the video experience, including limiting how long children can watch, and allowing access to different types of content as the user gets older. Parents can also add their own restrictions or blocks to certain personal topics. Kids, meanwhile, can register their accounts, choose an avatar and comment on other videos.

Regulators step in

It’s some of these identifying features that are receiving upgrades/improvements under a recent settlement (including a $170 million fine) with government regulators. Prior to the settlement, younger users were targeted for certain ads and videos based on what they had previously clicked on. YouTube also shared information about users with advertisers, including toy companies. That may have changed, but the YouTube Kids privacy policy clearly states the company shares some personal data of users (your kids) with “other companies and people who provide services for us, and we make sure they protect it.”

YouTube also reduced the number of approved channels available to be watched through YouTube Kids, hoping to limit the amount of content that can be seen.

Remain vigilant

Many parent groups are excited about the changes but have vowed to keep a close eye on these channels. YouTube Kids does offer valuable, effective protections to you children. But it’s not a force field. Your vigilance is still the best defense.

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