Why You Should Keep Your Kids Off Youtube
Warning: Youtube is targeted young children with malicious videos designed to harm them.
The videos are created to look like popular children's cartoons but contain harmful content that only a human with common sense and who is actually paying attention would notice. These videos are automatically played unless one turns off Auto Play.
The proprietary algorithms developed by Google that put the most popular results at the top when one performs an internet search made the company billions of dollars. The company is now doing the same with its automatic process for recommending new videos to watch on Youtube and there is no Kid Safe feature. Children can automatically be shown videos that they and no sane adult should ever have to see.
Google’s approach to recommending what is essential self-referential content in its search algorithms has been a subject of concern for some time. At the very beginning of its existence as a company, Google’s founders created what was a brilliant concept for search. Unlike its competitors, which at the time included long-vanished companies like Lycos and now-acquired ones like Yahoo!, Google did not use a curated approach for search, where recommended sites that might fit a given query had been at least partially-inspected by human beings for their value and relevance. Google’s approach was different. It used computer ‘bots’ to scour the web for potential answers to a given search request, then ranked them based on the number of pages which referenced the specific sites which came up in search. It was called “page rank”. The algorithm has been tweaked and adjusted many times since, to optimize search speed, prevent gaming of its algorithm to artificially push results higher up the search ladder, eliminate duplicate entries, and more. Yet that fundamental concept remains the basic backbone of every Google search even now. And it stands alone as one of the most brilliant innovations of the internet age.
When Google acquired Youtube, the video posting site was perhaps best known as a rapidly-growing place where just about any kind of digital video could be uploaded and “just run” without anyone actually looking at it before it was made available to everyone. It appeared at first Google did not know exactly what
it planned to do with this acquisition. It improved the code behind it and helped the platform scale up to the increasing demands placed on it as smartphone users, corporations, and even amateur digital video makers began to load up more content there. It added search algorithms like what was present on the regular search site, to help users find more of what they wanted to watch. It also added advertising, both in separate elements on the same page as the webbased videos and also embedded at the front of useruploaded videos.
Then it did two other things. One was to share a tiny bit of! its Youtube video ad revenue with some uploaders, which increased the number of videos uploaded. The second was to push recommendations to viewers without them even asking and automatically play those videos by default.
The combination of those last two changes has produced a phenomenon some refer to as “going down the Youtube rabbit hole”. That refers to what happens to a user when he or she opens Youtube, often on a smartphone, and begins viewing. Views can start with something found in a search, or perhaps on the Youtube home page, trending page or perhaps from subscriptions of video makers a user decides they like to watch on a regular basis. The next thing one knows is they’ve been watching content for over an hour and more, often clicking on video after video without even realizing how much time they have wasted watching –!junk.
What Google didn't do was to adequately police videos for harmful or illegal content. Anyone could upload anything and if Google's limited algorithms didn't flag the content it was made available to everyone.
This process has created an industry of carefully crafted video “clickbait”. That term used to be used for links to websites which were often a major waste of time but were things people just couldn’t resist watching. Titles like “10 Things You’re Doing Wrong at Work”, “Why These Celebrities Won’t Ever Get Hired Again”, and “Top 5 Diet Trends for Summer” pulled people in to websites with little value but a lot of page views because of their titles. Video equivalents include compilations of the “10 Greatest Guitar Riffs of All Time”, funny cat and dog compilations, and bloopers from or satires of major movie releases or television shows.
When Google suggests something to you to watch, the offerings are often eerily connected to things you are already interested in. For some reason that is surprising to many that it can do h i id that Google already knows so much about you anyway and is uniquely positioned to put together a suggested Youtube playlist with laser precision. It knows all your search history including the most recent. It knows things you have been looking for that you might buy. It knows how old you are (by analysis), where you live, where you work, and even has a good sense of what your income might be. It also knows what you have read and looked at on the web, as well as what the other videos were that you looked at the past.
For adults, the impact of this is mostly increased watching of videos which are of increasingly less value. For children, the problem is far uglier.
Kids, who have far less discerning ability to know when to switch to something else or to stop watching altogether, are especially vulnerable to Google and Youtube video makers’ ability to target them. That is bad enough. Unlike adults, though, kids often just click on the very next thing in sequence to watch, something that’s ranked high because it for one reason or another attracts the most viewers. More and more often, that content is increasingly violent, disgusting, or even satanic. And yes, this content is targeted directly at young children.
As reported in a frightening article published by the New York Times in November 2017, some of what is getting served up to children is something even an adult would consider horrifying. Examples cited there included:
• “PAW Patrol Babies Pretend to Die Suicide by Annabelle Hypnotized”. This is a rip-off of what is already a popular and acceptable animated series for children, “Paw Patrol”. In the “real” shorts, Paw Patrol is a Nickelodeon series about a group of rescue pups who save their town from minor mishaps in their lives, like lost elephants, missing kittens, or rock slides. It’s fun, it’s funny, maybe only occasionally educational but at least somewhat benign. This alternative short video has the same name in the title, making the regular viewers of the real show susceptible to clicking on it somewhat automatically. Except this one included one scene where several of the main characters were pictured in an out-of-control car which crashed into a pole and exploded in flames. Another scene showed a character who was hypnotized by a doll possessed by a demon. That character ended up walking off a roof and plummeting to the ground.
• Another “Paw Patrol” rip-off courtesy of account Subin TV has scenes with the rescue pups in a strip club. Another part of the same video has one
of he pups having her cartoon legs amputated and replaced with human legs.
• “Mickey Mouse Baby in Trouble”. In this one a fake Mickey Mouse character is shown in a pool of blood in the center of an intersection. Minnie Mouse is watching as he is bleeding out for all to see.
In a separate article on the same topic more recently published by The Guardian, some of the more frightening of the videos noted there include:
• “Minnie Mouse Choked Pizza for Eating too Much”. This one again included the same fake Mickey Mouse-like characters as the other one mentioned above, but with far uglier, deadly, and disgusting adventures.
• “PAW PATROL Babies Pretend to Die MONSTER HANDS From Mirror! Paw Patrol Animation Pups Save for Kids”. This shows the pups putting on a scary clip-art monster mask. Eventually several get lured away and die after a haunted doll gets control of them.
• A parody of the popular children’s cartoon series Peppa Pig, in which the same character goes to the dentist with scary results.
• Elle Mills, an actual live video child star on YouTube, has posted videos of herself in the middle of a real-life anxiety attack.
For this article it was disturbing easy to find videos just like this with little effort. As examples of those:
• “Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Babies BLOODY Hand Funny Story”. This has as its target image a cartoon of Mickey smiling as he pulls off Minnie Mouse’s hand and blood spatters everywhere.
• “Peppa and the Murder Machine”. In this stop-motion film featuring a Peppa Pig lookalike, “Peppa pig meets Cecilia the Murder Machine”. This one had 1.4 million views.
• “Mickey Mouse Vampire Drink the Blood Reserve in the Hospital.” This was starts with a lecherous Goofy and Donald Duck leering at a bikinied Minnie Mouse by a swimming pool and goes downhill from there.
If all this sounds unbelievable, remember that there’s almost no possibility this content would automatically show up on an adult’s automatic Youtube play list. That is both because adults have different interests and because children are increasingly connected to the lucrative and algorithm-driven Youtube Kids channel. That spinoff, which was created by Google in attempt to attract younger viewers while in theory protecting them from more disturbing content, has become very popular. As of last year, it was attracting 11 million weekly viewers. With so many viewers, lots of new content has to be produced and automated approaches to filtering and recommending videos had to be created. The unfortunate result is that many videos which no child should ever see make it through the algorithms.
And the problem is not just the noticeably harmful content. These videos may also contain powerful subliminal messages that can't be detected consciously but do influence the sub-conscious.
One popular way these video makers beat the limited Google algorithms is through naming and even video images which echo the regular and acceptable alternatives. The videos which take advantage of Paw Patrol and Mickey Mouse references, such as were noted above, are typical of that approach. The live videos, which range from the unsettling of Elle Mills’ videos to far more disturbing ones which also somehow made it through the algorithm filters.
Many of these videos are also likely not intended for children at all. Some are even properly marked as “Not for Kids”, which probably gets them automatically rejected from Youtube Kids. Far too many, however, are both disgusting and clearly intended to connect to children. The impressionable minds of the young will begin watching perhaps knowing they’re seeing something they really are not supposed to see. In the end they will end up traumatized and possibly plagued with nightmares for weeks after exposure to this kind of content.
Google may claim that it means no harm but the fact that Google chooses to allow these sinister videos get in front of children at all is a major black mark for the company. Google will protest that it is doing the best it can, tweak the algorithms occasionally, but often will shrug its shoulders that there is not much more it can do. However, it would be very easy to police the limited amount of content for kids. Google just doesn't want to spend even a miniscule portion of its surplus of tens of billions of dollars doing so.
All the while it will pull in even more billions of dollars from those pushing such content, as advertising revenue piles up even higher. If a few children end up seeing the wrong thing, Google will say parents should just monitor more often.
For those who wonder how evil Google really is, consider Google's handling of its Brazilian social
networking site Orkut, which was widely used for distributing child pornography for years. In 2005, the Brazilian government repeatedly asked Google for assistance in clamping down on those using the site for child porn but Google refused and claimed that it would not turn over information on users or remove the content because the data was on U.S. servers and therefore Google was not bound by Brazilian law. It wasn't until 2008 when advertisers started boycotting Orkut and the Brazilian government threatened Google executives in Brazil with arrest and massive fines that Google finally relented and started providing information on pedophiles, removed some of the illegal content and installed filters making it more difficult for people to post illegal content.
Google did not comply because they cared about the children being abused and exploited but only because not doing so was going to cost them a significant amount of money. Google management consciously chose to put meager profit they didn't even need over the welfare of children. That is indeed evil.
The child exploitation agenda of Google continues even today by featuring videos on Youtube with child nudity and sexually explicit material with children. Youtube even recommends more such content to make it easier for pedophiles. However, one must have an account to view some of it, which anyone can easily get.
Parents should not let young children have unsupervised access to the Internet ever and should not lets kids watch Youtube or other streaming video sites unless the videos have first been carefully previewed by a competent adult.
Content on the official channels of production companies and broadcasters can usually be assumed to be safer than content posted by individuals. So, if your kid wants to watch "Paw Patrol" episodes, do so only from the Nick Jr. channel and not the channels that pirate and imitate Nickelodeon's content.
ALWAYS TURN OFF AUTO PLAY.
Parents should also simply do everything they can to pry smartphones, tablets, and mini-computers from their kids’ hands. Lock up the Internet modem when a parent is not home to supervise Internet acces. Get kids outside in nature, connect them with other children to play with, read books to them, and – when they’re old enough – encourage them to read books on their own. And above all, have them stop spending time watching endless hours of Youtube video. It’s a waste of time, potentially psychologically damaging because of the content described here, and a very bad type of experience to rely on for children’s development.