So I might be a little late to the show, but since I haven’t heard anyone else at District 287 talk about this, I thought I’d share this out…
Apparently YouTube Kids has some weird and disturbing stuff going on. Mainly it centers around adults wearing Superhero costumes and doing all sorts of stuff involving needles and poop and beating up kids and whatnot. But it’s a thing, with bazillions of views, and it infuses itself in the recommendations for very young kids.
The New York Times reported on this recently in an article called On YouTube Kids, Startling Videos Slip Past Filters.
And for a much deeper look at the creepy business model behind the phenomenon, check out this excellent 14-minute video called Weird Kids’ Videos and Gaming the Algorithm.
Wow. Who knew? The video was very interesting, although I must admit I didn’t entirely understand it. I didn’t need another reason not to let my 2 year old on Youtube, but now I REALLY don’t need another one.
Apparently this blogpost is the one that blew the lid on the whole thing and Google is supposedly now trying to actually crack down on the problem.
Something is Wrong on the Internet
It’s a surprising downturn in the app. When it came out mid 2015, it had just 50 or so curated high quality channels available on it.
About a year ago it changed to be more like regular Youtube with “featured” and “popular” videos crowding out the good content, which given that the search feature is disabled by default made the app useless for anyone looking for specific content. It is now also as littered with ads as the regular Youtube.
The solution Google offers is quite pointless, given that their algorithms have added a few hundred thousand videos to the app. “Find a video or channel you don’t want your kid to watch? Block it to automatically remove it from all of your kids’ profiles.”
Lolz. Grate solewshun, Google.
It does sound like they are scrambling to address the issue, which is somewhat encouraging.
Agreed, I just looked at my Youtube Kids app and this is what was presented in the main window:
A horrible quality, repackaged copyrighted material:
A typical social media spam video:
A wildly above the cognitive ability for a young child video:
They might have cleaned out the obviously bad, the violent and disturbing. But it’s still littered with what I’d consider spam and completely pointless videos for kids. To the point of being completely unusable for a younger child.
I let my 4 year old install it on an iPad and there is virtually no redeemable quality there by default and if they watch a video that is worth anything, then it’s just endless recommendations of more of the same. It’s a joke. I try to filter it out for people dressed up as Mario characters, or video game screencasts. It takes some digging to actually find any kids songs or stories. It needs more parental filtering options.