Dylan Tweney

Google’s ‘kid-friendly’ app YouTube Kids shows some very grown-up videos

Successful CMOs achieve growth by leveraging technology. Join us for GrowthBeat Summit on June 1-2 in Boston, where we’ll discuss how to merge creativity with technology to drive growth. Space is limited. Request your personal invitation here! Two consumer groups have found some pretty appallingly a
Dylan Tweney 3 min read
One of the videos found in the YouTube Kids app shows how to light a pile of matches on fire.

Successful CMOs achieve growth by leveraging technology. Join us for GrowthBeat Summit on June 1-2 in Boston, where we’ll discuss how to merge creativity with technology to drive growth. Space is limited. Request your personal invitation here!

Two consumer groups have found some pretty appallingly adult content in Google’s ostensibly child-friendly video app, YouTube Kids.

The two groups allege that “Google is deceiving parents by marketing YouTube Kids as a safe place for children under five to explore when, in reality, the app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone’s definition of ‘family friendly.’”

They’re not kidding. The groups — the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood — assembled a two-minute video of clips they’d found through the YouTube Kids app on a single day.

Examples of inappropriate content included:

  • An Animaniacs episode where cartoon animals sing the words “piss,” “fellatio,” “penis,” and more;
  • a dancer demonstrating how to do the Michael Jackson “crotch grab” move;
  • a Budweiser ad;
  • a TED speaker talking about his first suicide attempt as a teenager;
  • President Obama joking with Jimmy Kimmel about marijuana;
  • a guide to red wine;
  • a demonstration of how to light a match and use it to set a pile of matches on fire;
  • Sarah Jessica Parker in a puffy white dress, kicking in a shop window and setting off the alarm;
  • a person onstage talking about how “several children will die today from physical abuse at the hands of their own parents.”

Here’s the video montage (warning: adult content, of course):

Google describes its Android app, which debuted February 23, as being “kid-friendly” and “for curious little minds,” but doesn’t say exactly what age it’s aiming for. It’s safe to say the designers probably had children under 5 in mind: The app’s home screen includes such kid favorites as Peppa Pig, Wallace and Gromit, Sesame Street, Caillou, and Teletubbies. There’s a “music” tab with kid-appropriate music, and a “learning” tab where kids can watch videos that teach them about science, how to make things, and more.

Some searches won't work on YouTube Kids.

Above: Some searches won’t work on YouTube Kids.

Image Credit: Screenshot

But there’s a Search button, and that is how kids can find their way to non-sanctioned content. I was able to find the red wine and match videos in just a few minutes. A few search terms are blocked: You can’t search for “sex,” for instance.

Note: Parents can turn off the search capability in the app’s password-protected settings screen, but it is turned on by default.

Also, you can report videos as inappropriate: Just tap on the video to remove it from fullscreen mode, tap on the three vertical dots in the upper right of the screen, and then press the “report” button. The videos remain accessible within the app after being reported, however.

Other unsavory stuff the groups found, according to their press release:

  • Videos that model unsafe behaviors such as playing with lit matches, shooting a nail gun, juggling knives, tasting battery acid, and making a noose
  • A profanity-laced parody of the film Casino featuring Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street
  • Graphic adult discussions about family violence, pornography, and child suicide
  • Jokes about pedophilia and drug use
  • Advertising for alcohol products

The groups announced their findings today, and are updating a complaint they made to the Federal Trade Commission on April 7. That complaint (.pdf) alleged that YouTube Kids included advertising and marketing material that was inappropriate for young children, who cannot distinguish between educational content and advertising. For instance, they allege, many videos intermix commercials with other content in confusing ways; or endorse toys, candy, or other products in violation of the FTC’s policies around paid endorsements.

That’s exactly the position taken by GamesBeat managing editor Jason Wilson in February: YouTube Kids doesn’t protect children against the real threat: Ads.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

VentureBeat’s VB Insight team is studying marketing and personalization…
Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Originally published on VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney: http://ift.tt/1FvwQjR

More from Dylan Tweney

Overstock.com could begin first Bitcoin-based stock trades

I’m a stringer for VentureBeat this week at the #Money2020 conference, looking for good stories about blockchain. Here’s one about how Overstock.com is about to offer stock (in itself) via T0, its Bitcoin-based equities trading platform. (Just don’t call it an exchange, even though it is.) Official
Dylan Tweney 3 min read


Subscribe to my newsletter on writing & storytelling

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Dylan Tweney.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.