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Security & Privacy

YouTube ‘looking at’ changes to protect kids — until then, here’s what to do

It’s no secret that YouTube is not a safe place for children. They are often exposed to inappropriate videos. Worse, innocent videos featuring children are being sought out and watched by pedophiles.

Pressure on YouTube to make the site safer is intensifying. Consumer and privacy watchdog groups continue to lobby for YouTube to make it safe for children. Meanwhile, federal regulators are investigating the company’s attempts to protect kids.

YouTube is said to be considering a major change to keep inappropriate content away from children and keep child predators’ eyes off videos featuring kids. Until then, we have tips you can use to keep your child safe on YouTube and other sites online.

YouTube considering a major safety move

After a number of incidents and news reports, YouTube executives reportedly are considering a number of options to protect children on its site.

The Wall Street Journal reports that one option is to migrate all videos featuring children to its existing, stand-alone app, YouTube Kids.

This would be a huge endeavor considering the millions of videos featuring children already on the main site, along with millions more that are uploaded every day. It’s also one that could affect YouTube’s bottom line in a significant way.

Videos of children enjoying innocent play are among the most popular on YouTube’s main site and rake in millions of dollars in advertising. Another suggestion is to turn off the recommendation function on videos featuring children.

Why is this important? Researchers for Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society tracked videos with sexual themes and noticed recommendations for other videos that were “more bizarre or extreme, and placed greater emphasis on youth,” according to the New York Times.

The women in the recommended videos became younger, eventually culminating in adult women dressed as children. Eventually, viewers were steered to actual videos of “partially clothed children.”

The Times suggests that YouTube’s algorithm possibly learned from people who look at children in sexually exploitative ways, leading them to family videos.

Shutting down the recommendation function would stymie that algorithm. The Wall Street Journal reports that some YouTube executives are calling for the recommendation function to be disabled for children’s programming. That would protect kids from accessing inappropriate videos.

However, the recommendation function would still be enabled on the main site, allowing sexual predators to make their way to any videos with children, no matter how innocent. YouTube told the Times it had no plans to implement such a change anytime soon because the recommendation system is the largest driver of traffic, and the move would harm creators.

But with federal regulators now investigating YouTube, that option may be back on the table.

 

Related: 22 pedophile Facebook profiles uncovered

 

FTC investigating YouTube

YouTube’s recent moves to protect children may have been triggered by a U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation.

The Washington Post reports that the FTC is in the late stages of its investigation into whether YouTube failed to protect kids who used the streaming-video service.

It is also being investigated for improperly collecting children’s data in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that forbids tracking and targeting users younger than 13.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, could be slapped with a multimillion-dollar fine.

In a blog post following the Times story, YouTube said it had expanded efforts to protect children earlier this year, but the company’s history shows its efforts always fall short.

Complaints against the company’s inability to protect children date back to 2015.

Protecting your child on YouTube

As part of our efforts to help you protect your children while they are on YouTube or other social media sites, Kim Komando has created the Tech Safety Contract for parents and their children. The contract gives specifics on how kids should behave or what to watch out for while on websites and apps.

We also offer five steps every parent should take to not only keep their children safe but also alive. The steps include limiting screen time, having total control over the child’s device and keeping track of all of the child’s correspondence. You can learn more about all five steps here.

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