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Inappropriate content slipping through YouTube Kids' safety filters

Last Updated Nov 14, 2017 at 7:26 pm EST

It seems screen time for kids may need some screening. YouTube Kids, the popular app to filter out unsavoury content for children to watch online, has recently been the subject of heavy scrutiny after parents found inappropriate content for kids filtering through to users.

The bizarre videos include characters that children often search for, like Spiderman or Elsa, but they’re doing some out of character things.

In one video on the app, partly titled “Frozen Full Movie in English!” the Disney film’s main character Elsa marvels at how hungry she is.

 

The exchange with her sister, Anna, continues:

Elsa: I just feel hungry all the time. I don’t get it.
Anna: Hmm, how strange, are you sure you’re not pregnant?
Elsa: Pregnant? What?
Anna: To be honest Elsa, it looks like you’re eating for two.

The characters ultimately decide Elsa should take a pregnancy test. “Eww, I’m not peeing on it!” Elsa exclaims, holding a pregnancy test in hand.

Unusual clips like this aren’t unique, says Today’s Parent Managing Editor Kim Shiffman.

“You might see Peppa pig drinking bleach or Spiderman coming along and ending his life — really horrific things that no child should be exposed to, especially associated with their favourite trusted character.”

A lot of the incentive for users to post inappropriate in the first place is monetary.

“This is a very lucrative career,” says Shiffman. “With millions and millions of hits this is a full-time job for many people.”

The more clicks they get, the more money. That’s why YouTube is taking the first step in mitigating access to this content.

In a statement to CityNews, YouTube’s Director of Policy, Juniper Downs, said: “Earlier this year, we updated our policies to make content featuring inappropriate use of family entertainment characters ineligible for monetization. We’re in the process of implementing a new policy that age restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged. Age-restricted content is automatically not allowed in YouTube Kids. The YouTube team is made up of parents who are committed to improving our apps and getting this right.”

How to protect your kids

Shiffman’s Tips to Ensure Your Kids Are Watching the Right Content:

  • Turn off the “auto play” feature and create playlists with content you’ve screened
  • Enact a “no headphones” policy.  You can’t watch the videos every second, but hearing them can help flag inappropriate content
  • Look for content on official apps or channels from trusted kids shows
  • Consider paid services like Netflix that curate content

 

Wi-Fi tools available

  • Filter and monitor the content your children are watching
  • Work on all devices that are connected to your Wifi network
  • Track internet activity

 

WiFi tools to protect your kids online
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