YouTube Is Finally Cracking Down on Those Inappropriate Kids' Videos

 disturbing kids youtube videos
Hans Padilla/YouTube

When YouTube Kids was originally announced, parents everywhere rejoiced. The "family-friendly" app was a spin-off from the popular platform and was supposed to be completely safe for kids to use with or without close parental supervision. For the most part, the app has been succeeding with that goal, but over the past few months, the rise of extremely disturbing videos masquerading as kid-friendly content has become more and more of an issue. Finally, YouTube is taking steps to do something about it.

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Earlier this year, CafeMom published a piece about a disturbing trend popping up all over YouTube. A large number of kids were being tricked into watching videos that appeared to be innocent television shows like Peppa Pig, but were actually revealed to be twisted variations of the characters doing horrifying things.

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The makers of these videos use kid faves like Thomas the Tank Engine and the characters from Frozen to draw children in for views, then proceed to traumatize them with content that involves the characters being tortured or turning into horrifying monsters. The videos show images that are violent and disturbing to kids, like Peppa Pig having all of her teeth pulled out by a scary dentist, but most don't contain tons of curse words or inappropriate sexual content. Ultimately, this is what keeps them from being immediately flagged as inappropriate.

On Thursday, YouTube announced that it is finally going to take action to put a stop to these kinds of videos from being seen by children. 

With its new policy, YouTube will now place age-restrictions on content that displays "violence and disturbing imagery" and the "portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities." These restrictions will be in addition to restricting videos that use vulgar language and/or sexually suggestive content.  

In a statement, YouTube's director of policy, Juniper Downs, said, "Earlier this year, we updated our policies to make content featuring inappropriate use of family entertainment characters ineligible for monetisation. We're in the process of implementing a new policy that age restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged. Age-restricted content is automatically not allowed in YouTube Kids. The YouTube team is made up of parents who are committed to improving our apps and getting this right."

While YouTube claims it has been working on these policy changes for some time, the Guardian reports that many believe that these changes were a direct result of recent backlash the company faced for allowing these videos to flourish on the "kid-friendly" version of their app. On Monday, James Bridle penned a widely shared Medium essay on the subject. The piece took a deep dive into the sometimes disturbing and often just downright weird videos being circulated to children. He also called on YouTube to do something to stop it. "Right now, right here, YouTube and Google are complicit," he said. "... I believe they have an absolute responsibility to deal with this."

While these changes are definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to the protection of children, still, there are bound to be plenty of bumps along the way -- things that may slip past the filtration system, people that get better at camouflaging their awful content -- and it's obvious that we still have some ways to go before this issue is completely fixed.

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In the meantime, CNet has some fantastic tips for taking steps to make YouTube Kids a little better: things like turning off the search option, setting custom passcodes, and immediately reporting any videos that are against the new policy guidelines. Hopefully these fixes by YouTube will result in a much safer app, but parents should do whatever they feel is necessary to keep kids safe.

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