Whether you’re in a fancy restaurant, stuck in a waiting room or on a long car trip, there’s no denying that iPads and tablets keep children well-behaved, entertained and most of all – quiet.
One of the most popular apps used by kids and parents alike is YouTube Kids, which reaches more than 11 million weekly viewers.
Unlike the standard YouTube app, YouTube Kids promises to deliver safe, kid-friendly content, including clips from popular Disney and Nickelodeon TV shows.
From toy unboxings to nursery rhymes and Frozen singalongs, kids have plenty of options for entertaining and educational videos on the app.
But there is a dark, troubling side to YouTube Kids.
Although the majority of YouTube’s children’s content is completely safe, inappropriate videos continue to slip through the cracks, exposing children to videos depicting their favourite characters – like Frozen’s Elsa and Spider-Man – in violent and suggestive situations.
Listen: We discuss the disturbing YouTube videos for kids on Mamamia’s parenting podcast This Glorious Mess. (Post continues after audio.)
Parents and users of the YouTube Kids app have noticed an influx of these inappropriate videos, including one where a claymation Spider-Man is urinating on Elsa, one where Minnie Mouse sits on a toilet seat covered in nails, and another, where Paw Patrol characters commit suicide after being hypnotized by a demon.
An innocent child’s search for ‘Minions’, ‘Frozen’, or ‘Princess Rapunzel’ could lead a child to animations or even live-action performances featuring these popular characters in lewd situations.
Common themes featured in these videos include violence, kidnapping, pregnancy and abortion, simulated sexual acts, alcoholism and a strange emphasis on urination and feces.
The YouTube Kids app filters out most of these videos. But many are missed.
On a digital media platform that relies on an algorithm, rather than humans, to police videos, it’s inevitable that some inappropriate videos will slip through the cracks.