YouTube KIDS - Not Parent Approved

Disclaimer:  I'm a parent writing this for other parents simply because I care about our kids. That is it. I don't get advertising money, I'm not sponsored, and the only motivation I have is to help other parents be informed about how technology is impacting our kids. Maybe someday I'll look into how to get paid to write; but today isn't that day. For now -- I simply just want to help other parents be better educated about some of the risks involved in letting your kids have unfettered access to technology -- specifically to YouTube Kids.

When I first saw the app YouTube KIDS, I thought it was great. Content that I could trust was only showing my kids appropriate and kid-friendly stuff? Yes please! It took years to find out that I was wrong to trust an app -- and if you haven't realized that yet, maybe this will help you understand why you should.

The following are some examples of what I found (all within two hours) by using the search term "Minnie and Mickey Mouse" within the YouTube Kids app. I didn't search for anything sketchy -- I literally just clicked on the videos that pulled up with that search, or from the "recommended" feature.
  1. A very pregnant Minnie Mouse in stilettos drinking wine and then going into labor. She's taken to the hospital and is lying on a delivery table, and then is given a huge injection shot into her stomach (without her knowing it was going to happen). She then delivers the baby (yes, it shows the doctor with his hands up under her dress) and then her new baby afterward laughing at Minnie because she is in so much pain.
                
              

        Two Baby Minnie's pole dancing in front of a cheering crowd (you guys - I couldn't even make this stuff up!)

                      

      A Minnie Mouse housewife happily putting poison into a drink and then angrily making Mickey Mouse drink it and he passes out.
                    

                    
              Baby Minnie taking candy from a stranger, then licking the lollipop and getting drugged. The kidnapper carries her off over his shoulder.
                        
                             
              Elsa laying in bed playing with Joker and then sleeping next to each other
                        
                One of the other images had an issue loading, but here's a quick description about the video that it came from:
                Baby Mickey is shown swallowing a bunch of pills because he doesn't want to take a pop quiz in class. The pills kick in, and then he overdoses and dies. Good news though -- the Genie from Alladin happens to come along at just the right time to bring him back to life, and poof -- he is alive and well again. Awesome message for our kids right?
              IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR AN APP WHOSE LITERAL PURPOSE IS TO BE SAFE FOR KIDS TO ACTUALLY BE SAFE FOR KIDS?! I DON'T THINK IT IS!

              IT IS TIME TO STOP TRUSTING TECH TO TAKE CARE OF OUR CHILDREN. PEOPLE DESIGN APPS AND WEBSITES LIKE YOUTUBE KIDS TO MAKE MONEY -- NOT BECAUSE THEY CARE ABOUT PROTECTING OR LOOKING OUT FOR OUR KIDS. 

              THINK OF IT THIS WAY. HANDING YOUR KID A TYPICAL PHONE IS LIKE HANDING YOUR KID OFF TO BE BABYSAT BY THE FIRST PERSON YOU SAW ON THE STREET. YOU WOULD HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING WHERE THEY WERE TAKING YOUR CHILD, WHAT THEY WERE SEEING, AND WHO THEY WOULD BE WITH. THE INTERNET IS LITERALLY NO DIFFERENT.

              So if your children have spent time any amount of time watching Youtube Kids, they have seen these videos or ones that are similar. And what makes it even worse for me is that even if you were in the same room or glanced at the screen as you walked by -- you wouldn't have had any reason to think that what they were watching was weird or inappropriate

              But why is that?

              #1 - Why would you think anything is off if you just saw a second or two of Minnie Mouse, Elsa, or Spider Man on the screen?  The music and sounds that are played during these videos all seem completely normal for a kids cartoon. So unless you literally sat down and watched every video with your kids, you would have no reason to think they were seeing anything weird!

              #2 - You know your child is watching YouTube Kids for heaven's sake!  So you're predisposed to believe that you can trust the content. That is the entire point of there being a Kids version of the normal YouTube app...right? Yeah, one would think. 

              #3 - If you did see something that looked a little bizarre, maybe you've just assumed that it's a funny sketch from one of those family vlogs that has millions of subscribers. I mean YES, sometimes the stuff on those channels is kinda whacky, but obviously you can trust the content if literally MILLIONS of other people subscribe to the channel, right?  

              (insert brief tangent:) So YEAH, that's what most parents thought as well about an incredibly popular YouTuber named PewDiePie who was a social media partner with Disney. PewDiePie liked to make random jokes about Hitler and would sometimes quickly insert comments or images of Hitler into his videos. Then one time he thought it was super funny to pay a couple of guys from across the world to make a video holding up a sign that said "DEATH TO ALL JEWS" (which you can see in the screenshot below). Ironically, that definitely wasn't the first or only anti-semitic thing from PewDiePie -- but it did happen to be the straw that broke the camel's back and Disney finally stopped working with him.


              PewDiePie isn't on YouTube KIDS (as far as I know), but he is a very well known YouTuber who is extremely popular among all ages of kids. Are you okay with your kids consuming the same rhetoric that resulted in over 6 million Jewish people being murdered during the Holocaust? I definitely am not. No part of that is even a little bit funny to me, nor would I ever want my kids to think it is either. (tangent over).

              YOU GUYS -- FOR THE LOVE. We don't need our kids seeing this kind of stuff -- AND THIS IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG!

              If you have the time to watch a 9 minute video that will show you examples of the types of content that I'm referring to, you can see it here:  https://youtu.be/32X45J-MRUE

              If not, here are a few final screenshots I took from YouTube Kids. See them and decide for yourself what you think.

              I don't even know what is happening with the joker, spiderman, and Elsa in this -- but there's just something about them telling the person watching to "open your mouth" over and over that just feels creepy and wrong.

              Mickey and Minnie literally playing with fire.

              Paw Patrol guy with a rope tied around his neck and the girl shutting the door the rope is tied to.

              I could keep posting screenshots for days, but hopefully by now you can understand that there is some seriously weird crap that is on YouTube Kids (and on other kids apps as well!). 

              So here's the bottom line -- even the most "kid-friendly" apps can have content that is inappropriate for kids, and we can't just assume something is fine or harmless without looking into it more. As parents we all REALLY need to get more educated & do our research into what we are letting our kids are be exposed to. Technology can be amazing for so many reasons, but it can also definitely not be as well -- especially when it comes to our kids.

              If there is an app or a website that you would like to help other parents to avoid, please feel free to comment below and share with all of us. I personally keep a running list of blocked websites that I have enabled within the parental controls setting for my kids devices, and I will always appreciate being aware of more that I should add. 

              It's always better to be safe than sorry -- especially when it comes to our babies. THAT is something that I think we will never regret.

              --Sara


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