The Perils and Pitfalls of YouTube Kids

To a lot of parents, YouTube Kids can be a lifesaver. Sometimes restaurant meltdowns and road trips mean pulling out the iPad and turning on YouTube Kids for a bit of parental respite. However, I really want to warn parents about the dangers associated with the YouTube Kids channel and app. The “kids” content can be explicit and disturbing, but disguised as children’s programming.

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Generally, my children don’t watch YouTube Kids (as we prefer Netflix), but I’d heard about the questionable content, so I warned Mimi (who has a tendency to spoil her four-year-old, Peppa Pig-loving granddaughter with a few episodes on YouTube Kids) in case Elizabeth asked to watch. Thankfully, Mimi paid attention and one day found my daughter watching a rather disturbing rendition of Peppa going to see a killer dentist. Excuse me, but WHAT?! How can this happen to our sweet children? I was so horrified to think this type of content has likely popped up before when we were not actively monitoring what videos were playing.

Unfortunately, my experience is not uncommon, as the graphic content and nature of these videos has been reported to YouTube by hoards of parents. The graphic videos can be a one-off in the playlist, sandwiched between two videos that are appropriate, making them difficult to catch. The characters often mimic the image of other popular kids cartoons, like Peppa Pig (as our family found out), Doc McStuffins or Thomas the Tank Engine, so children cannot always tell the difference in the imposter content. Further, the sounds and music in the video can seem harmless, while the actual graphics are disturbing, even for mature audiences.

According to today.com, “A spokesperson for YouTube told TODAY Parents that the company works hard to ensure content found on YouTube Kids is family-friendly, adding that they take viewer feedback very seriously. The company also has plans for future updates to the YouTube Kids app, which will allow parents to further customize the types of content they want their kids to watch through the parental control area of the app.”

My takeaway is that we should always know what our kids are watching. I know that is easier said than done, but there are other options for age appropriate viewing. For now, YouTube Kids is deleted from our iPad, which gives me peace of mind. Parents can download the PBS and Disney Jr. apps for alternative safe video options. Also, having movies and shows already downloaded is a safe and sure bet. I know you’ve listened and/or seen Moana and Frozen one too many times, but at least you can rest assured that what your child is watching is appropriate.

This holiday season when the kids are off of school and you’re running the roads, just keep this blog post in mind before you hand over the iPad or tablet. I hate that this is even a topic of conversation, as it saddens me to think of why anyone would want to expose innocent children to this; but unfortunately, this malice does exist. I truly believe it’s our duty as parents to be aware of these internet and media-driven dangers and protect our children from this sinister content when they cannot always protect themselves.