“YouTube Kids provides a more contained environment for kids to explore YouTube and makes it easier for parents and caregivers to guide their journey.”
This is how the app sells itself. It claims to be a safe space for children that hides content not suited for their age.
Youtube Kids allows parents to control what kind of content their children can see while using the app. One parent can create up to eight kids’ accounts. This feature lets them filter content differently for each of their children. They can choose between 3 age-based content settings: Preschool for children ages 4 & under, Younger for children ages 5 – 7, or Older for children ages 8 – 12.
Parents can utilize another parental control setting is the “Approve Content Yourself” – this tool prevents the child from using the search function on Youtube. They would only be able to view the videos displayed on the Youtube Kids’ homepage once they open the app or what is on the recommended tab.
It is the perfect choice for parents who are working from home due to the current pandemic to keep their children busy. It also allows an ethical, real, and safe outlet for companies to buy YouTube views from kids.
On paper, this looks very promising. In practice, however, lawmakers have found many holes in the system that lead to children’s exploitation instead of protecting them from harm.
A House Subcommittee has claimed that contrary to what they say, Youtube Kids is being used as a channel to feed children inappropriate content. They said that the app is “a wasteland of vapid, consumerist content” and serves as an avenue for advertisements to reach innocent children.
Unlike Youtube’s main service, Youtube Kids shows ads based on the kids’ watching instead of their viewer’s interests. This kind of activity is personal data collection on children without parental consent, which they are protected against by a 1998 federal law. Google has agreed to pay $170 million to settle allegations.
Despite this, Youtube Kids has continued showing ads to children, saying they are doing nothing wrong. They also clarified that the 2019 settlement was for the main Youtube service, not on the Kids platform.
The exploitation of this loophole has made Youtube Kids a popular outlet for advertisements. To pass the filter, some companies would even use children to advertise their products or service.
This case is very evident from how the video streaming site brought in $20 billion in ad revenue last year – a very large increase in sum since it is more than double what they brought in 2017. This is how Youtube Kids became the source of its parent company, Google’s 13% total ad sales.
In defense, Youtube has stated that they are doing their best to make the site safe for children and to prove that they care about them. The platform claims to be working with experts and parents to seek out more educational content that will help with the personal growth and development of the kids.
For further investigations, lawmakers are asking for Youtube’s cooperation. They are asking for the following information to be handed to them: YouTube Kids’ most viewed videos, channels- and their revenue information, the average time spent on the site by each user, and the number of videos they have watched.
In summary, we can say that the video site has become a tool for a company to use children as their money-making machine.
The House Subcommittee has presented several actions the company could take to set things straight.
First of all, lawmakers asked for the complete removal of ads for kids ages seven and below since it seems to be the main problem.
Second, the House is requesting for Youtube to give the parents the ability to turn off the autoplay feature. This tool will grant them better parental control.
Third, they want the service to closely monitor the kind of content that is being uploaded on the site. Lawmakers claim that Youtube Kids is not trying enough to deliver what they have promised.
Youtube has admitted this problem in their “Important information for grownups about Youtube Kids” page. They have said that they cannot manually review all videos. Their reason for it was that no automated system is perfect.
This happens because Youtube Kids do not filter the contents on their own. Instead, they let the creators self-regulate. They are the ones to decide if the content they are producing is safe for children to view or not. The solution Youtube Kids presented is that a person should report such content when they see one. The questions are, how can a child know about this, and would they be smart enough to know how and what to report? The House claims that this way of operation is lazy and should not be the case.
Creating a safe space for children is a very sensitive topic and an intricate task. When doing so, lots of factors are needed to be considered.
As the African proverb goes – “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is also safe to say that it takes more than artificial intelligence to save them from harm. When offering a service that claims to do this, a company should have the manpower to do the job. A whole team should be formed. They would be responsible for personally monitoring the content and activities being put on the platform. This will help filter age-inappropriate content more precisely.
It is also of most importance that they review and follow the laws regarding what is considered the exploitation of children as this will make sure the company is clean.
The Youtube Kids mishap has been enough proof of that. Their alleged abuse of the innocents might have given them money, but they also lost it rightfully. This unethical activity has also caused damage to their company’s reputation. As an effect, people will be wary when using their service and will deem them untrustworthy, affecting their future revenues. That is just karma working at its finest.
Now all eyes are on them, waiting for their next step. After all, what they are offering is very desirable, so we all hope that they can fix things and resolve the issue.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has received a letter from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The contents of the letter claim that the platform is exploiting children to gain more ad revenue.
With their community guidelines and the Youtube Kids, Youtube has claimed that the site cares about the well-being of children. Youtube Kids, released back in 2015, aims to provide a more child-friendly environment for kids to enjoy Youtube. The goal is to feed them with educational and enriching content while hiding the mature content not suited for their age.
Of course, for parents, such an environment is most welcome. With Youtube Kids’ different parental controls, they can keep their children busy while they are working. They do not need to closely monitor what they watch since the platform already does it for them.
The House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy begs to differ.
Youtube Kids’ purpose is to nurture the kids through educational videos, and they claim to be doing that exactly. In a statement they released, they even said that they had made significant investments to provide more educational content for the kids. This investment pertains to them working with experts to look for more content that should aid in children’s personal development.
The House Subcommittee does not believe this. Contrary to what they say they are, Rep. Krishnamoorthi described Youtube Kids as a “wasteland of vapid, consumerist content.”
They promised to serve quality educational content. But that is not what the subcommittee had seen when they reviewed the platform. The subcommittee saw toy unboxings, video game playthroughs, and other materials that were far from educational. Instead, they labeled them as advertisements targeted towards the young audience.
Aside from this “non-stop stream of low-quality, commercial content,” as Krishnamoorthi called them, ads are also shown to children. What is shocking is that the system identifies what ads to show to them through what they are watching. The law prohibits this kind of activity. The collection of personal information on children without parental consent has been made illegal by a 1998 federal law. It can be remembered that in 2019, Google paid 170 Million dollars to settle these allegations. However, Youtube later clarified that that was for the general Youtube service and not for the Kids platform. Regardless, this is just proof that something shady is going on.
Youtube and its parent company, Google, have made much money from this alleged exploitation of children. The numbers show, and they do not lie.
A study concerning Youtube Kids was conducted at the University of Michigan. The purpose is to identify how much of the content is of high educational value. The finding is an alarmingly low number of four percent. The rest of the 96% are advertisements.
Financial reports show that for 2020, the site has brought in $20 billion in ad revenue. In comparison to what they brought in 2017, it clearly got a huge increase. In addition to that, the site now accounts for 13% of its parent company’s total ad sales. This total is 5% more than the site’s contribution in 2017.
The House subcommittee believes that there are enough shreds of evidence to prove their point, and Youtube should take responsibility.
The House Panel says that Youtube profits from abusing the loopholes on their system. Hence, they went on their way to identify these problems. Then, they proposed changes that Youtube should make. These solutions should prevent Youtube from enjoying the exploitations they have been doing.
The panel asked for ads to be removed for kids ages seven and below. Kids from this group do not know much about money and consumerism yet and so are easily tricked. Displaying ads for them is predatory behavior towards the innocents.
Lawmakers say that in terms of content regulation, Youtube is not doing enough. Instead of reviewing the content uploaded on the site, the Youtube team lets artificial intelligence do the job. They also allow the content creators to decide if their videos are safe for children to view or not. This makes it easy for age-inappropriate content to pass through and appear on the Youtube Kids platform. The defendant has fully admitted to this on their “Important information for grownups about Youtube Kids” page.
In response to this, lawmakers demand the creation of a review team on Youtube. They will be tasked with monitoring and reviewing content labeled as “for kids” before they become available for viewing. This should help filter age-inappropriate content more effectively.
Some great parental controls already exist in Youtube Kids.
For example, parents can restrict what videos appear on their kids’ accounts depending on their age group. They can select Preschool for children ages 4 & under, Younger for children ages 5 – 7, or Older for children ages 8 – 12.
Parents can also disable Youtube’s search function. This tool allows their kids to view only those that appear on their home page. It is useful when it comes to protecting children from falling prey to targeted advertisements and personal information collection.
However, disabling the autoplay function is currently undoable.
As the name implies, the autoplay feature automatically plays another video after watching a video. The system bases it on the next video’s relatability to the first one and on the viewer’s watching history. As you can see, this is another form of personal data collection. The lawmakers are asking for Youtube to give parents the ability to turn this feature off.
Investigations are still going on. The letter sent to Youtube asks for information that could help advance the case. This list includes Youtube Kids’ top 200 channels and their revenue information. The panel also asks for the most viewed videos on the platform. Aside from that, information on the average time spent on the site by each user and the number of videos they have watched are also inquired.
Youtube has still not released a statement, and they have until April 20 only to respond to the inquiry.
Date: October 15, 2021 / Categories: YouTube, / Author: Joy P