Does YouTube for Kids Need a Pause Button?

June 10, 2021

YouTube Kids is a child-friendly version of the video streaming platform. Google created YouTube Kids so younger viewers were only exposed to age appropriate content. While YouTube Kids is popular with its intended audiences, parents, child safety advocates, and Congressmen and women dislike its autoplay feature. Vox reports on the issue in “YouTube’s Kids App Has a Rabbit Hole Problem.”

The problem with Youtube Kids’ autoplay feature is that it never stops.  When one video ends another begins in an endless loop.  This would not be a problem if there was a way to disable autoplay, but that is not an option.  Child safety advocates and parents are worried that a constant video stream teaches kids bad video consumption habits and tricks them into making certain choices.

Parents are also upset with the app for several other reasons.  The inability to disable autoplay does not allow them to control their kids’ viewing habits.  YouTube Kids does have a timer feature, but it clocks out at an hour and must be reset each time.  Parents can also limit the app to certain videos or channels and they can disable the search function.

The biggest objections to the autoplay feature is the app’s algorithm that plays recommended videos.  The problem with the algorithm is that it does return inappropriate videos about dieting, suicide, mean pranks, mature cartoons, and suicide ideation.

YouTube apparently wants to protect kids and work with parents, but they are slow to respond:

“For now, YouTube has not said whether YouTube Kids will have autoplay on or off by default. It’s also unclear how easy it will be to turn off autoplay. Still, the autoplay in YouTube Kids is a reminder that design choices made by tech platforms do have an impact on how parents and children interact with technology, and where regulators might step in.”

Google, YouTube’s parent company, does want to protect children, because if they do not it affects their profit margin.

Whitney Grace, June 10, 2021

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