"Kids are generating billions of video views on the online video service, but it’s raising some talking points for parents" By Stuart Dredge
From Minecraft builds to YouTube videos – not to mention YouTube videos of Minecraft builds – children in 2016 have plenty of options for digital entertainment.
YouTube, in particular, has emerged as an alternative to traditional children’s TV – although it’s probably more accurate to say that the two are merging: plenty of popular children’s TV shows are now on YouTube in some form, while to young viewers – many on tablets – it’s all just “video”.
With the launch of its YouTube Kids app in the UK and Ireland, the company is hoping to capitalise, but this being YouTube – owned by Google – it’s also kicking up a debate about its motivations, as well as familiar arguments about children and screen time.
Is YouTube in the driving seat, or its young viewers?For critics of YouTube, it’s tempting to see YouTube Kids as an example of the company identifying children as the next group it wants to target. In truth, the app is more about YouTube catching up to the behaviour of the children who’ve flocked to its service.
The 20 top children’s channels had more than 5.2bn views in October alone, from Little Baby Bum’s 428.5m to Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs’ 164.7m
YouTube is reacting to the fact that tens of millions of children are already watching. It is a necessary move to avoid children seeing inappropriate videos and ads, as well as being exposed to its frequently toxic comments section.
YouTube Kids bars non-child-friendly ads; uses algorithms to filter out inappropriate videos – with a flagging system for parents to warn it about any that slip through the net – and strips out the comments.
Should parents use YouTube as a ‘digital babysitter’?The phrase “digital babysitter” crops up regularly in comments about children and YouTube. It’s often framed as a criticism of parents: leaving their children in the corner of a room with an iPad doing the parenting.
In some ways, this argument doesn’t ring true. First, even an hour spent watching YouTube leaves plenty of hours in the day for reading books, riding bikes, drawing and generally getting the kind of face-to-face parental attention that’s so important for children.
Second, because YouTube doesn’t have to be something a child does alone: co-viewing can be a fun activity for them to share with their parent. And thirdly: sometimes parents just need to get stuff done. YouTube, like television, can buy the short bursts of time that a parent or carer needs to keep things running. But also like television, it needs boundaries. Fresh air and sunshine any one?