Do your children like to watch shows like “Peppa Pig” and “Doc McStuffins”? The shows, geared toward really young children, are produced by Entertainment One UK and Disney, respectively, and are generally age-appropriate. However, a quick search on YouTube for either of these show names can produce very inappropriate content for little ones to see.
Laura June, a staff writer for TheOutline.com and a mom, recently discovered the dark, dark underbelly of YouTube while her 3-year-old was watching videos on an iPad. Not one to plunk her child in front of a device with access to the internet and walk away, June was keeping the occasional eye and ear on the video her daughter was watching while she was getting ready for work one day.
June’s daughter is a Peppa Pig fan, a popular British cartoon series that is pretty innocuous. While the show is mainly accessible through television, there is an official Peppa Pig YouTube channel that features shorts and some episodes of the popular show. If you have ever tried getting ready in the morning with a toddler in tow, you know how handy it can be to hand your child an iPad as he or she sits on the floor of your bathroom and watches a short video featuring a beloved cartoon character.
However, parents have reason to be cautious as they employ YouTube to provide short entertainment options for their kids. A quick search of Peppa Pig on YouTube yields several video results that are not affiliated with the official, Entertainment-One-UK-produced show.
Most of these channels are simply knock-offs of the real thing—a low-quality version of the real cartoon—however, some are far from the real thing. This is what June found out; fortunately, she was standing close enough to her daughter and was able to snatch the iPad from her grasp before she witnessed a very disturbing video of “Peppa” being tortured by a dentist. To her daughter’s young eyes, the crude version of the beloved cartoon character didn’t trigger the realization that this video was not an official Peppa video.
June says she also found similar videos featuring Doc McStuffins, another one of her daughter’s favorite cartoon shows. She has identified two YouTube channels: “Smile Kids TV” and “Baby Funny TV” that take the popular cartoon characters and put them in disturbing situations. “Smile Kids TV”, June reports, has over 10 million views. The BBC has also published an article about June’s discovery, and subsequently identified a couple other channels parents should be wary of: “Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs” and “Candy Family.”
The unfortunate reality is that even if you are careful to start your kid off on an official video, sometimes the suggested content that pops up after a video’s completion can lead kids astray.
With this in mind, the BBC has put together some guidelines for parents seeking to protect their kids from harmful content while on the popular video-sharing site. Their advice (along with a couple pointers we’ve drummed up here at ChurchLeaders) can be summarized as follows:
Use the YouTube Kids app instead of the regular YouTube app
While the YouTube Kids app doesn’t catch everything that is inappropriate for kids, it does have more filters in place and stands a better chance of flagging risque content than the regular YouTube app does.
Turn on “restricted mode”
At the very bottom of any given YouTube page, there is a setting you can employ called “restricted mode.” This setting hides content that has been flagged by other users as “inappropriate” as well as hiding content based on other “signals.” Again, this is not a failsafe, but it will help.
Don’t hand your small child a device and walk away
This is perhaps the best thing you can do. Unfortunately, with the sheer amount of content YouTube puts out, it is nearly impossible to monitor it all. Parents and caregivers have to be very vigilant!
Flag inappropriate content when you find it
To help others, if you do come across a video like the one June found, flag it as inappropriate. This will help YouTube stay on top of inappropriate content aimed at children.
Talk to your little ones about what they’re watching
The beauty of small children is that more often than not, they will tell you if and when they see something disturbing. If you tell them to be on the lookout for such things, they are even more likely to tell you.
It’s unfortunate we live in a world where people maliciously put such videos on the internet—clearly targeting small children. Hopefully, with these safeguards in place, you can reduce the risk of your child seeing something disturbing on YouTube.