YouTube and Toddlers: 5 Suggested Video Clicks Away From Age Inappropriate Material
Beware of Unmonitored YouTube Use by Your Toddlers!
I have written a lot of articles that involve my toddler son Isaac and one in particular regarding his love for my (his) Ipad and all of its usefulness. It has been a lifesaver up to this point for sure. But what happens as your child becomes more and more adept at browsing his or her way through the applications and more coordinated in making choices of what he or she wants to watch, in particular on YouTube. We have gotten quite a laugh over the past 3 years from our child by playing the classic “baby laughing” and “Charlie Bit Me” videos not to mention some of his early favorite cartoons of Caillou and Elmo. These were perfect attention grabbers and were good for a short attention span due to the relatively short video lengths ranging from 1 or 2 minutes to 8 minutes. But, what went from simply being able to re-play the same video over and over again has turned into my son being able to actually browse through the “suggested” videos that come along with that which was originally searched. Then, additional suggestions are made for that video and so on and so on. After a few “mishaps” where my son drilled down from the “Gummy Bear Song” to a more ominous movie trailer clips filled with violence and otherwise suggestive material I decided to do some simple, non-scientific, research as to how many levels away from the originally viewed videos does it take for your child to be potentially watching very inappropriate material. I decided to use Elmo, Caillou, Baby Laughing, and Charlie bit me as example starting points for my hypothesis that within 5 clicks from a source YouTube video, your child could be watching inappropriate video without you even knowing.
Charlie Bit Me
Suggested Video Click #1
Suggested Video Click #2: Montage of Babies Getting Hurt, Scared or Startled
Video Search #1: Charlie Bit Me! Indeed He Did!
First, I will start with one of my favorites, the famous “Charlie Bit Me” video. On YouTube’s website, I simply type in the phrase Charlie Bit Me and selected the most popular (by number of views) choice offered. At the time of writing this article, the total number of views for the clip I chose was over 447 million. After watching the video, which still makes me laugh, I decided to click on the side bar suggested video entitled “Top 10 Funny Baby videos”. From here, to speed up the process I go directly to the new “suggestions” and to my surprise, may already have come across a video I wouldn’t want my son to watch, it is entitled “Montage of Babies Getting Hurt, Scared or Startled” Now Some may disagree to what extent this example is inappropriate but to sum up the video, it is a full 7 minutes of babies either being scared to death by household pets, to slipping and hitting their heads off toilets in what appears to be quite painful ways. Now I am not one to not think it can be cute when a baby “messes” up or does something goofy, but many of the clips on this video are really kind of mean and are displaying children not too much younger than my son experiencing pain for others amusement… A bad idea in my book. So in my opinion, example 1 beats my estimate of 5 clicks from original source video to inappropriateness by a full 3 clicks…Just for kicks, I am going to see what else may be “off limits”…And there I found it….a video called “Fat People Falling” Good Start!
Elmo Has Four Ducks
Video Seach #2: Elmo Has Four Ducks!
Next I am going to try everyone’s favorite annoying little red monster, Elmo. There is a lot of Elmo material out there so I am assuming it should test my 5 click thesis. Let’s see: I start off by searching Elmo has Four Ducks, a favorite performance of my child and quite a cute son for your child to learn as he or she is beginning to form words and have interest in expressing them in songs!
So, here we are at the originally selected video that had over 43 million views at the time this article was written. I choose not to watch the video (have seen it at least 5000 at my son’s request) and go straight to the suggestions in the side bar. Hmm, let’s see, more Elmo Sons, check, check, check. Ok, the first set of suggestions all seem like additional, innocent, Elmo Clips from PBS’s Sesame Street. As I continue on, I find that the Elmo example on you tube is fairly safe as I went far beyond 5 suggested video clicks and only came across Sesame Street Clips. Still be careful though because people often “remix” videos on YouTube to try to make them funny or dirty and you won’t know until the changed portion happens.
Suggested Video: Edited "Poop" Version of Caillou Show: Just 2 Clicks from Original Caillou Search
Video Search 3: Caillou
My Next Choice, Caillou, unfortunately begins down the wrong track into danger, danger land from an early stage. I started by searching YouTube simply with the word “Caillou” which apparently means “bald” in Canadian French which is fitting because Caillou is indeed bald! His cartoon is generally considered sweet and educational for children and my son, as well as many others I have heard, is drawn into watching the program very quickly. Beware of unmonitored clicking on YouTube thought. I clicked on “Caillou Cooks” as it is an episode I know my son likes. Right from the get go, the parodies and remixes begin popping up on the suggested video sidebar. None of them seem inherently bad but I decide to click on one, click 1, to see where it takes me . I chose a titled called “Caillou Nerdy Style: featuring a young Korean nerd (self described) singing an altered, nerdy version of the Caillou theme song. Ok, not so bad, but with would be click number 2 is an altered Caillou clip that features the characters making pizza out of poop and bleeping out words that are understood to be profane and suggestive. It is actually kind of funny if you like dirty parody and satire, which I do, but it probably contains things you’d rather not here your child say in front of your friends let alone to you! So a simple search for Caillou video clips for your kids to watch can quite easily, within 2 suggested video clicks, turn into a very inappropriate version.
Suggested Video Click #1: Conjoined Twins and More
Video Search #4: Laughing Baby
For my final example of the dangers of “suggested videos” on YouTube searches your children may make is the classic “Laughing Baby” Clip shown below. It is adorable and makes my son smile and imitates it every time even to this day. Searching on YouTube for “Laughing Baby” and clicking on the one that states it is the original you can easily find it. Right away there is a mixed bag of “suggested video” Some are very cute, different babies laughing, but others look like will easily lead to the inappropriate. I start by clicking on one of these entitled “Conjoined Twins, Abby and Brittany Hensel Turn 16”. These girls have quite an endearing story as they are conjoined twins and have to deal with the staring and question asking from others all of the time. This being said, it will confuse the heck out of a toddler and may even frighten them unfortunately. But that is the least of it as you can teach them a lesson about kindness perseverance from their story. The suggested videos from this point forward start getting sketchy including one clip about a man that “dies and comes back to life”, a clip about someone who is “happy they cut off their legs”, and another about a baby born without a brain that just turned 2 years old as well as a myriad of others stories that are at best chilling, and at worst cruel. Not good things for our children to “happen” upon from an innocent baby laughing video. All of these images are unfortunately within the 5 clicks of original video this articles premise is based on.
In conclusion, although this is a small sample sized non-scientific study on the “dangers” our children face if browsing the internet unmonitored, even if parents start them out with appropriate content, touch screen technology like the Ipad make it all the easier for our kids to get in over their heads. But, these device’s benefits should outweigh these risks and the applications like YouTube are not going to be made less easy to use any time soon. We as parents just need to be aware of the risks and always keep these modern technological marvels with in reach especially if our children are using them. Good luck!