If you’ve ever noticed your kids’ YouTube history filled with bizarre-looking videos of computer-generated characters and knock-off Disney cartoons, you’re not alone. The never-ending rabbit hole of low-effort, bizarre children’s content on the platform is well-documented.
The reason for them is easy enough to track: they’re ubiquitous because they receive huge numbers of views, which translates to big ad bucks for their creators.
YouTube’s algorithms work on a simple premise: maximize the time users spend on the platform so they see the highest number of ads. Those ads, in turn, fuel the site, as well as the creators who put content on the site.
This algorithm causes videos to auto-play, by default, to the next most-similar video in line. This auto-play behavior can lead to a quick spiral from parent-approved educational videos into bizarre CG cartoons involving violence and disturbing imagery.
Of course, YouTube Kids is meant to be a walled garden of sorts, a partition of the site that doesn’t allow non-kid-friendly content to filter through to children. As such, many parents feel as though it’s perfectly safe to allow their kids to use a tablet or other smart device to explore the kid’s section of YouTube unsupervised.
This has led to a lawlessness in the world of Kids’ YouTube, where easily-distracted young ones jab at tablet screens and find the most eye-catching videos.
This is a haven for low-effort content seeking to soak in ad dollars. These bizarre videos are eye-catching, and once a child has seen one, YouTube’s algorithm populates their recommended videos with thousands and thousands of similar videos.
They aren’t so much “allowed” as they are tolerated. They generate money for the platform, and they’re ubiquitous enough that combating all of them is a tough proposition for the platform.
The most surefire way to make sure your kids don’t see bizarre, disturbing content online is to supervise what they do while using smart devices and computers. Depending on the age of the child, the right option might be to simply restrict them from using such devices at all.
Toddlers, for instance, aren’t recommended to even use such technology due to the impact it can have on their mental development.
For young children who are old enough to have their own internet-enabled devices, our recommendation is to simply supervise their time spent on those devices and help offer context for content they see so that it doesn’t cause them any trauma.
If this sounds like it might be too much work, consider simply not giving the child access to such devices.