By Anja van den Berg
Most parents feel comfortable letting their children watch YouTube Kids, the child-friendly version of the video platform. But upsetting videos that have recently surfaced illustrate that the social media site may not be safe for children at all.
Free Hess, a mother and paediatrician, said she found clips on YouTube Kids that offered children instructions on harming themselves and committing suicide.
But that’s not all she found. In an interview with CNN, Hess said she started exploring the YouTube Kids platform and was thoroughly shocked. She found videos glorifying sexual exploitation and abuse, human trafficking, gun violence and domestic violence. One video, inspired by the famous “Minecraft” video game, even depicted a school shooting.
Hess says that parents have a lot of control and need to be tech-savvy to protect their children. In addition, they should make it a point to regulate the content to which their children are exposed. Below are three reliable ways to protect your children from harmful viewing:
- Avoid open content and opt for a subscribed streaming service.
Most parents need to give their kids some screen time, at least now and again. With streaming services, like Netflix or Showmax, subscribers can stream an array of films and TV shows on their smartphone, tablet, laptop, smart TV, or games console. Subscribed streaming services offer two essential solutions to parents’ viewing concerns: controlled content and the absence of advertisements. These services offer appropriate viewing for children of all ages, and third parties cannot infiltrate the platform to plant insidious clips. Netflix, for instances, also allows parents to customise the content available to children.
- Keep screens and devices where you can see them.
Monitor your child’s time online, particularly younger children. Keep the screen in a central spot in the home where it’s easy to keep an eye on their viewing. For mobile devices, clear the Wi-Fi passcodes (or set the device to ‘forget this network’), so children cannot go online without your knowledge. Set boundaries about where and how they can access digital content. Download the content that you are comfortable with and disable the internet before they start watching.
- Empower your children with information.
As children grow older, parents’ level of control over their viewing will decrease. According to research, some parents allow kids as young as six to access the internet, and your child might be over for a playdate when her friend pulls out a smart device. The Centre for Cyber Safety and Education has found that 70% of children in grades 4 to 8 have a cell phone, 64% have a tablet, and 48% have a computer in their bedroom. As soon as your children – and especially their friends – starts accessing the internet, talk to them about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ content. Assure them that they can come to you when they see something that confuses or scares them. It’s also a good idea to offer an age-appropriate explanation of the perils of the unfiltered internet and that it’s parents’ job to ensure their kids don’t view content they don’t understand, or that might harm them mentally.
Raising Children: https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/entertainment-technology/digital-life/social-media
The Centre For Cyber Safety and Education: https://iamcybersafe.org/s/
Jacaranda FM: https://www.jacarandafm.com/lifestyle/family/shocking-suicide-tips-surface-youtube-kids-videos/