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YouTube Kids Promoting Harmful Behaviors To Children

By Anna Peel. Originally published at ValueWalk.

YouTube Kids

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report revealing that YouTube Kids—the version of the platform designed to provide age-appropriate content to children—hosts videos that do things like talk positively about cocaine and crystal meth, give instructions on concealing a gun, encourage skin bleaching, and introduce diet culture to children. The findings show that despite YouTube’s reported efforts to clean up its act by adding human reviewers and taking down millions of low-content videos, the Google-owned platform hasn’t succeeded in creating the safe space it promises to families.


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YouTube Kids Promoting Harmful Behaviors

Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “By branding its platform as a place where parents can feel comfortable letting their kids roam freely within the confines of each ‘age-appropriate’ category, YouTube Kids should be leading the industry in effective content moderation. What we’ve found, unfortunately, is the same kinds of harmful content that are rampant on its parent platform.”

TTP created three YouTube Kids accounts, one for each of the site’s age settings: preschoolers aged four and under; kids aged five to eight; and the oldest group aged nine to 12. Using the three different accounts, TTP began searching for terms related to objectionable content, and quickly got some hits.

For example, one video of a guitarist playing Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” is accessible to children as young as five. The song contains lyrics such as, “When you got bad news, you want to kick the blues, cocaine,” and “When you’re feeling is gone, and you wanna ride on, cocaine.”

Another video – designated for children five and up – instructs kids how to build a Minecraft version of the RV from the television show, “Breaking Bad.” In the video, the Minecraft player suggests furnishing the interior of the vehicle with the fictional stone prismarine because it looks “kind of like crystal meth.”

Other videos do little to disguise the promotion of harmful attitudes to children, including one designated for kids aged 9-12 explicitly promoting skin bleaching, a practice well-known to promote colorism around the world. The video’s title begins, “ALL ABOUT FACIAL BLEACH | HOW I BLEACH MY FACE AT HOME,” making no mystery of its contents.

TTP’s investigation also identified a series of weapons-related videos on YouTube Kids. One video, available to children aged five to 12, ranked recoil pads, which protect shooters from the kickback of a firing gun. One model, it says, “can be affixed to myriad rifle and shotgun stocks.” Another video ranked ammunition storage containers, describing products that can “store bullets of all sizes.” Such content could serve to normalize gun culture for children; it comes at a time when gun manufacturers are increasingly using social media to target kids, particularly young boys, with marketing messages.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “The fact that kids have access to such harmful videos on YouTube Kids is deeply concerning. Until YouTube Kids can prove that it has taken active steps to remove and prevent such content, parents should be aware of exactly what they’re signing up for when their kids use the platform.”


About the Campaign for Accountability

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.

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