I am a sucker for falling into the dark hole that is YouTube. I will quickly hop onto search ‘market research for dummies’ and six hours later I am somehow watching “I am Poppy” on repeat (if you haven’t seen it, save yourself). Don’t judge. I know you have all been there too. But in all seriousness, YouTube has been growing to the humble platform that it is today since its beginnings in 2005. What started as humble platform for video sharing has turned into a billion dollar platform with unlimited content, with over 300 hours of video being uploaded every minute. The risk of this, however, is that not all of those hours are suitable for all age groups. I am 20 years old and am fully aware of the NSFW (not-safe-for-work) videos that can be found, but if I get sucked down the black hole, then so too would someone younger and more naive. And the truth is there is very little to no classifications or warnings of videos for viewers and this can be extremely scary. Is the attitudes of youth a result of content possibly viewed on YouTube?
I was sitting in the kitchen yesterday talking to my mum when my seven year old cousin walks into the room banging on walls and says, word-for-word, “I’m so dope cause it’s everyday bro”. Now although, yes, this is highly ridiculous and screams future F**K boy, it is not overly bad. That is until we realised it was from a YouTuber he watched called “Jake Paul”. After a little bit of research (finding out he makes more in a month than I probably will in a lifetime), a massive migraine and an astounding loss of faith in society, I realised that, at risk of being too judgmental, Jake Paul is the biggest douche on YouTube.
Some of his videos can include anything from defacing property, public nuisance, privacy infringements and even bullying which is traditionally not great footage for a seven year old boy or a twelve year old girl to watch. Of course there is the age old debate when it comes to creative content is monkey-see-monkey-do, however, I believe just as much as the next person that when it comes to children viewing content, it is under the control and supervision of the parent. But at the same time, with the amount of time kids spend on tech devices, can they monitor everything? Studies show that children aged between 5 and 16 spend on average 6.5 hours in front of a screen. In this new era of digital entertainment, children are contributing billions of views to online content.
So What’s the Problem?
Children using technology is inescapable with today’s technology but professionals explain that although certain apps can be helpful for young kids over saturation can permanently damage their still developing brains. Social perception, lack of focus and vocabulary are just a few traits that are affected by too much time on devices. This along with the monkey-see-monkey-do attitude mentioned before it is important that children need to be monitored not only on what they watch, but how long they watch it.
When we look at television, the platform that I grew attached to as a child and was told would make me antisocial (who’s laughing now), every program is matched with a classification rating. The classification rating system gives viewers and supervisors guidelines to help them determine if the movie is suitable. Every show is determined by a panel of people based on very strict and ingrained rules. For example, in Australia a television show that is rated MA 15+ usually has violence, sexual language and drug use and is restricted to people 15 years and over. Another popular YouTuber, David Dobrik, constantly makes jokes about cocaine and hookers and uses language that would make my grandmother turn over in her grave. Nevertheless, I attended VIDCON Australia recently and watched a no-more-than-ten-year-old cry for two hours straight when he found out that David had to cancel his appearance because of American immigration laws. Don’t get me wrong I was crying along with him, but he is ten and I am an ‘antisocial’ twenty year old. The thought of him watching David’s last vlog that featured somebody smashing an apartment with a stripper pole makes me sad.
So What Do YouTube Do?
It is not as if YouTube are like the Mum on Mean Girls that casually walks in on -you know what -and acts casual and totally fine. They do have rules and do pick up on them occasionally, but at the same time they have no warning to the viewers nor many penalties for the creators of inappropriate content. Youtube’s parent company Google, currently has thousands of employees that are tasked with reviewing questionable content that is either reported or title and description is flagged. If it is the case that the content is really bad it is taken down; in the case that it is ‘kinda’ bad they simply limit creators ads. I am not going to get into the complicated mess that is adsense, but basically the worse the content, the more YouTube will restrict creators from getting ads and in-turn making money. Rather than creating a system of classification, they merely punish creators for creating… just in the wrong way. Like always, when a consequence is put in place a loophole is created and that’s where other methods of income such as merchandise, books and podcasts come into play.
YouTube is obviously aware of the concern of the effects it has on young children because they did bring out “YouTube KIDS” which is, you guessed it, YouTube for toddlers to seven year olds. YTK is great because it doesn’t have click away advertisements so kids rack up a bill for a $10 monthly subscription to Women’s Day or something and parents can restrict watch times. As great as it is, even that faces some concern of its branded content with some videos that need to be reconsidered on whether it is suitable for kids.
Even if this is the case or not YTK still misses out on quite a large age group with almost 10 billion people aged between 10 and 18 falling into the untargeted obis, so they do find themselves watching channels that probably are not right for them.
It is a new era, we watch new things, the big black box in the lounge room is more and more used as a slightly more substantial projector screen for streaming and digital services like YouTube. When we look at the younger generations, they are growing up faster than I could have ever imagined when I was ten years old and as much as I hate to “beat an old horse” or whatever the saying is, I can’t help but link it to the influencers we see on social media. Some might say NSFW but what about not safe for kids.