If you're a parent who relies on YouTube as a last resort to keep your child seated quietly in one corner, then you should be gravely concerned. The video hosting website has been under fire for not doing enough to flag inappropriate content geared towards young kids.
It doesn't matter if you use the app, the 'kid-friendly' YouTube Kids, or a desktop. These creepy and disturbing videos can pop up when your kids are watching. You may not catch it in time or even know they're watching it already since they begin harmless and innocent enough. In fact, most, if not all, feature the most popular animated characters from Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and, yes, Frozen.
And that's why it's scary. Suddenly, you're seeing Peppa Pig wielding knives and guns or Paw Patrol dogs committing suicide. These videos that "will traumatize and disturb" kids, according to James Bridle in his article on Medium, were first called to the company's attention reported last year. While some videos and channels have been taken down, so many others remain online that concerned parents and citizens are telling us about it.
The reason why these disturbing videos could easily pop up as your child watches on YouTube is the algorithms that suggest videos based on the search words you or your child enters in the search field. These videos are racking up millions of views because users exploit the algorithm to their advantage and earn from it!
People are calling this controversy ElsaGate because Elsa in Frozen is one of the most popular animated characters kids adore today. The owners of these disturbing videos use the name "Elsa" to drive traffic to their site, which means money. So whether it's an animation of Elsa or a real human being in costume in the video, it could show up in the queue once the word "Elsa" is used in the search box.
Teens and grown-ups know how to search and choose a video or stop and move on to the next video when they watch on YouTube. Children, on the other hand, could be exposed to hours of viewing time without being able to filter what plays after one video and the next.
Since the controversy erupted (again), YouTube has promised to take more definitive actions. One of them is demonetizing the videos, which means the producer wouldn't be able to earn money from their views. Another is introducing kids' profiles on YouTube Kids to help filter age-appropriate videos. There are millions of videos on the site and the most efficient way to tag and take down these videos is by reporting them.
Log-in to YouTube. Don't worry if you don't remember signing up. YouTube is part of Google so you can use your log-in details for Gmail.
Go to the video you'd like to report. Tip: If you don't want to trouble yourself with remembering how you stumbled upon the video, just log-in to YouTube in a different window and then refresh the window where the video you'd like to report is on.
In the drop-down menu (those three little dots) and then click report. If you're using the mobile app, the three tiny dots are in the upper right corner of the video. If you're using the desktop, it's located at the bottom right corner of the video.
Click the reason for reporting the video. The choices presented are sexual content, violent or repulsive content, hateful or abusive content, harmful, dangerous acts, child abuse, promotes terrorism, spam or misleading, infringes my rights, and captions issue. You may provide additional information and when you're done, click submit.
Here's how to report a channel:
Log-in to YouTube.
Go to the channel page you want to report.
Under Stats, you'll find a small flag icon, click it, and it'll show you choices. Choose one among block user, report channel art, report channel icon, report user (owner or manager of the channel).
When you report a video or a user, it calls the attention of the YouTube staff so they can review their content. Parents still have to watch with the kids and check if the videos are appropriate for their age. YouTube had announced that they would add more human oversight to filtering and tagging videos, but it would be hard to clean up the site without the parents' help.