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YouTube says it will crack down on bizarre videos targeting children (theverge.com)
486 points by artsandsci 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 435 comments

We used to let our 3 y/o watch youtube. She learned lots of things from there which was amazing. Colors, Numbers, the alphabet; all by the time she was 2. I'm not a teacher by any means so it was awesome to see this happen.

Then these weird videos started showing up. We took youtube away for exactly these videos that are mentioned in this link.

These are targeting children and it's sick.

> We used to let our 3 y/o watch youtube. She learned lots of things from there which was amazing. Colors, Numbers, the alphabet; all by the time she was 2. I'm not a teacher by any means so it was awesome to see this happen.

It's entirely possible the videos made this happen, or at least helped, but some kids just develop that stuff crazy-early. My daughter saw little video content before age two, and very little Youtube, but achieved all the same in the same timeframe with only basic work on our part. It was natural for her—she broke a 200-word working vocabulary by 14 months, could already count sets of things under ten, could name most letters of the alphabet, and so on. By age 2 she sounded like your average 4-year-old. Youtube had nothing to do with it, and we barely had anything to do with it. That was just her.

My son, on the other hand...

I recall some research that showed that very young children did not pick up language from watching TV. It required an adult to closely interact with the child to learn language.

That's complete bunk. I was fluent in English by the age of 7-8 entirely from having watched a ton of TCC (a British kids channel) on my own. I'm sure adult aid helps, but it is in no way necessary.

I'm from Sweden btw

I think the original comment applies to one’s first language, as opposed to later languages

That's right, and also to very young children, like 2-4. 7-8 year olds are very different.

Many Europeans told me they learned English from watching TV as children.

Complete bunk is brandishing one's own anectodal evidence to try to invalidate scientific consensus based on a few decades of countless studies.

Seconded. In my case it was The Secret of Monkey Island, Dune II and an insatiable appetite for more digital worlds to escape into - PC Format, Pc Gamer magazines...

Years ago, a friend of mine was thrilled with Sesame Street, because after watching it for a year his daughter learned most of her letters and could count to 10.

I replied that sounded like the most inefficient method of teaching ever devised. Not what he wanted to hear :-)

IINM there are several of these.

Yeah. It's pretty amazing the speeds at which kids learn but seem to "even" up as they get older. My son is doing this completely different than my daughter. At 3, I can barely get my daughter to eat and my son at 7 months flips out if we don't feed him real food when we're eating now.

I know your children are younger, but there is definitely something about school that brings out the lowest-common-denominator in all of us

IIRC, one tidbit broughr up in "The genius factory" was that while preschooling seems to result in accelerated development, any such differences are erased after a few years if school. The conclusion made in that book seemed to be that specialized teaching programmes don't provide long-term benefits, but maybe it's just that a one-size-fits-all schooling system will force more advanced kids to conform to a lower standard...

It's almost as if genetics are king.

This is true although nobody likes to admit this. Intelligence, including specific subfields of intelligence, is highly heritable, explaining about 70% of variance.

It's worth pointing out that heritability only looks at relative contributions within the population under study. If the population under study has a terrible education system, it can be simultaneously true that IQ is highly heritable, and also that the education system could be vastly improved, and also that in a different education system IQ. would not be as heritable.

I find 70% oddly specific. Citation?

0.75 is usual estimate of heritability of IQ. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritability_of_IQ

Same thing happened to us. My daughter learned a lot from YouTube. Then one day I saw her watching this video of My Little Pony (badly drawn) cutting each other with machetes. The recommendations started including lots of these things. SpongeBob committing suicide and stuff.

She has no access to YouTube anymore, which is a bit sad because again there's a lot of good stuff there.

Same situation here. My daughter sought out phonics and sign language videos, and could count in three languages because of YouTube. It's disappointing and saddening to see it take such a quick turn to a harmful, dangerous place for kids.

Harmful and dangerous?

You don't think small toddlers easily stumbling across disturbing videos of grown men in thongs and Spiderman masks is potentially harmful and dangerous?

Why would it be?

Honestly - the image of grown men in thongs and Spider Man masks is disturbing to adults only in a certain context, you could just as well be describing modern wrestlers, whose content is targeted to slightly older children. But how would a toddler be damaged by it?

Have you seen these videos? Spiderman peeing on Elsa? Come on.

I have seen some of them, but I'm not a toddler.

How would seeing this content actually be harmful to a toddler (1 - ~3 years old?)

I'm not a child psychologist so I may be wrong but I think you need a certain awareness of cultural norms to be disturbed by deviations from those norms, and toddlers might not even recognize what they're looking at, much less know that it's wrong, or why. I suspect these particular videos are more meant to disturb parents than kids.

Having had kids that age a few years back, the idea that a 1-3 year old is ignorant of cultural norms is pretty laughable.

It also concerns me that exposure to this sort of thing might help them form the impression that the behaviors depicted are within the normal range of interaction.

They recognize that they are seeing spiderman pee on elsa. Toddlers and babies are not just pupal stages waiting for hormonal signals to transform into adults.

There is a reason why parent-child interaction is so important in early life. Children imitate adults. They are incredibly impressionable, their brains grow extremely quickly. Yes, you must talk slow and in simple terms to very young children, but they are not just confused idiots who will forget everything they saw when they are older. If you speak with a larger vocabulary, contextually, to a child, they will pick up your vocabulary and they will eventually come to recognize it as having a specific meaning in a specific context.

If a child sees spiderman peeing on elsa, he is either going to be upset and confused, or he is going to take this behavior as normal. This is how socialization works. He is learning from everything he sees.

Agreed and YouTube could do a lot better, my child does not need a library of 30 million videos, I would rather have a well curated whitelist of 10000.

> YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children

They’ll use the computing power of a small nation to train their Go-Bot and can instantly identify anything that might belong to Big Content ... but when it comes to basic decency Google throw up their hands.

Yeah, they could solve this problem in a heartbeat by having a mode where you can only look at your subscribed content.

This can even be done without google. In fact, this would require minimal work. For example, Kodi's youtube plugin, which lacks the recommendations and autoplay features (which is a feature in this case), could be easily restricted to only show the "Subscriptions" folder.

On the other hand, a user-maintained curated list of channels for children is not something that unthinkable (think of GitHub model, with pull requests and that sort of thing).

Join both things and you get a better alternative to Youtube Kids for concerned parents. I'm even surprised nobody has done something like this, it would be a nice project.

However, as krapp pointed out, the main argument against limiting to subscribed content would be that it undermines youtube's business model. If such project got a lot of users youtube might start to work against it.

That's one of my favourite ideas to submit whenever people ask for startup ideas :)

I absolutely believe there's a need for curated content for online video.

I'd love a tv-channel-like browsing experience, with seamless switching (maybe some clever caching behind the scenes).

This would not help their business.

This is not about your child, this is about making the most profit through collecting personal data and advertising while keeping the target engaged. you know, google.

I don't get why they can't just implement a way to just show content that you have subscribed to. That way you can exactly control what you let your kid look at.

That would undermine their revenue model. Youtube isn't intended to be a walled garden for children, it's intended to be a viral social platform that targets consumers with advertising (or offers to upgrade to the paid tier) through the lure of content discovery.

I find it difficult to believe Google never knew these videos existed, since they appear to be an entire industry based on copyright infringement and gaming their algorithms, one would expect Google to want to kill them with fire. That they are allowed to proliferate can only mean they serve Google's interest for the site - they drive clicks and views.

Whatever other motives there may be for them (personally, I think they're nothing more sinister than monetizing clickbait) I think it's important to remember that Youtube is a business driven by clickbait, and the design of the site reinforces this everywhere it can.

> That would undermine their revenue model

That makes sense of course. In my mind I thought that doing this wouldn't stop them from running advertisements. But I guess it would undermine recruitment of new content creators.

The safest solution would be to download a list of videos from Youtube and run them locally as a playlist. Of course, that's not a solution that would work for most parents, or Youtube, or content owners, or probably the law. Second best solution would be curating a personal playlist of videos and to make certain children are always watching under supervision. Third best solution would be, ironically, preferring children's television over the internet.

As I understand it, Youtube isn't profitable for Google, and a lot of their decisions wrt their algorithms seem focused on increasingly desperate attempts at wringing some semblance of solvency out of the platform, so I wouldn't expect them to be very willing to work against their interests right now.

Well, there’s also the dodgy adverts that occasionally interrupt the video..

I saw how at my local primary school, kids were happily jumping up and down to a song and suddenly there’s a chocolate advert.

Imo the safest way to let kids browse is walled gardens like Netflix Kids. But that would also be unleashing an entire new addiction.

The ideal scenario is parent supervision, but most parents don’t have enough time/patience to sit with their kids everyday. In fact the iPad is meant to be the new babysitter!

It’s quite a problem, this one is.

They can but they won't. Simply because it goes against their business model.

Besides it is not that hard to download local copies of the videos you want and now you do not even need to be online.

Scientific consensus has been reached for quite a while saying that exposing a 3 y/o child to screens actually impairs his/her personal development and has long term consequences.

Getting your kid off of youtube is probably a good thing.

We've had good luck with Netflix for Kids.

For really young ages, I don't really see letting my kids watch something I haven't previewed, or at least something that I am watching with them and I am able to stop it at a moment's notice.

Even for slightly older kids, a curated platform is always going to be a safer bet than a moderated platform. It seems fairly easy to find good sources of curated content.

And of course there's just making sure they don't spend too much time consuming media in general. It's hard, but the less they watch the easier it is to be picky about introducing new things.

Thanks. It already seemed as if there are not many people left who see it as irresponsible to place kids in front of all YouTube. Even the "good" examples in the article are cheaply produced crap. Also very telling about parenting that they could optimize towards long videos. I remember intense discussions about whether it is ok to let two-year-olds watch the Teletubbies. This nursery rhyme in the article is way below this.

Maybe our overall perception of quality has changed due to being exposed to crap on the internet, and now new parents believe the stuff on YouTube is fine. And they don't remember the whole world of Sesame Street and alike out there anymore.

Exactly this ! Do not let young children unsupervised when online or watching tv or videos.

Yeah. She's only allowed on Netflix now. I've seen Sofia 10,000 times.

I never understood how it was possible for little girls to watch the same movie literally hundreds of times, sometimes twice in one day. Some day science will get around to the real mysteries like this. I think I've tried to erase the memories of torture I survived, hearing Horton Hears a Who played most days for almost a year.

I've heard some plausible theories.

For a young kid, the world is a strange and unpredictable place. Which means "scary" in some sense.

Watching a video (that the kid has seen many times before) is actually comforting. The kid can predict what's going to happen next, and is happy when expectations match reality.

There's possibly something similar going on with people on the autistic end of the spectrum, which may explain why they tend to get upset when taken out of their routine.

Speaking as an adult, the videos that will captivate me to the point of repeatedly rewatching them are specifically the videos that are unfamiliar and weird. Like say Kitty City [1]. My brain can't comprehend the unfamiliar world logic behind the video in just one go; it crave rewatches to better understand what the heck is happening in that scary world.

So my pet theory is that actually the opposite of the above theory is true. Kids rewatch movies that push the boundaries of their reality, in order to gain a better understanding of them. When the novelty wears off they'll move on.

Probably the truth is some combination of both. I wouldn't be surprised if certain times of day, developmental needs kick in and kids want to rewatch movies they don't understand; while other times of day, comfort needs kick in and they just want to see Elsa sing for the 100th time.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jX3iLfcMDCw

Oh yeah. Cyriak, and Blu.


I remember re-reading / looking at things more often than I would do today. That is, a few books I liked a lot. Other than that, new and wild was always appreciated, just not so wild to be scary. But still, protection from overstimulation (and danger) is a really important job of parents, especially for infants, predictability to a degree is important. Vital, even. Too much lack of it puts the baby into survival mode so to speak. This is cobbled together from armchair psychology but I'll just say it anyway, I think a roaring sea of non-sequitur events is just about the worst that could happen to a developing brain, it will have to develop shells instead of being able blossom and keep the ability to be sensitive (while developing the ability to, when needed, protect one's own attention oneself). So I agree, it's probably a combination of both. New input, come to terms with it, integrate it, get comfortable, get hungry, get new input :)

Looks like some pro-Zerg propoganda.

I find rewatching things I still remember the plots of intolerable... when I'm fully awake.

When I'm trying to fall asleep, I will almost always put on an episode of a podcast I've heard 500 times. It's more soothing than one of those ambient-noise apps.

Try the Shipping Forecast. Different every night, but just the same each time.

There's a lot of articles on this, the belief is that children crave predictability so they re-watch movies to the point that they can predict everything that will happen.


Adults crave predictability too; they've just seen enough stuff to be able to predict most of the things one encounters out in society.

But watch a YouTube video of a magic trick, and you'll likely click back and re-watch the critical moment a few times before you've even realized what you're doing. Even if you don't end up understanding what happens, your brain inherently wants to make sure you are entirely clear on what you saw, so it can learn the raw fact that "this is a thing that can happen" and then attempt to reconstruct your mental models and schemas to take that evidence into account.

Kids just need to do that for, well, everything.

Teacher here. Even most teenagers crave predictability (and structure) though they would never admit it or even be aware of it. I imagine it’s much easier to push and test boundaries when you know exactly when and where they are. Easier to “rebel” when you know the time to rebel is from 11:15 to 12 and then you can take a break and go get lunch.

This is both hilarious and enlightening.

Thank you.

> Adults crave predictability too ...

That alone explains pop music success.

I've read somewhere (forget where) that the key to successful pop music is the slight unpredictability of new songs. That new hit song is mostly familiar… but just unfamiliar enough that you need to re-listen to it 100 times to really wrap your head around it.

This question comes up very often on Reddit. Here's a good answer I read recently: https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/6d22mv/e...

> Young children love repetition, whether it's watching a video or listening to song lyrics, because it's the best way for them to acquire and master new skills. In order to learn something well, children this age practice it until they get it right, hence the repeated watching.

I remember watching Dumbo (with the Lambert The Sheepish Lion Pre-Show) off a broken cassette repeatedly. I have a very distinct memory of somehow hoping this time things would turn out differently. Like thinking OK, the mother elephant could just trample the guys this time. Nowadays I do not enjoy watching things a second time until I've really forgotten them, and only then if I'm introducing someone new to something great.

Centuries ago this was how oral histories were learned, repetition by the speaker and the listener.

Oral tradition must provide some survival benefits to be supported by instinct and genetics. My guess is today people only talk about oral history WRT obscure history or religion whereas when it was current technology, oral history was probably used mostly to store hunting and gathering data.

I don't remember where I read this anymore, but it seemed as plausible as any other explanation: as adults, most things are familiar, so we seek out novelty. To children, almost everything is novel, so they seek out familiarity instead.

Little kids have bad memory. That is factor too - it is more interesting to them cause they see something "new" they don't remember each time.

Absolutely, or rather, memory isn’t fully formed. There were movies I watched dozens of times as a kid. At the time I could repeat every word of the dialogue and songs, but I couldn’t tell you what the movie was about, so it was always enjoyable to see it play out.

There was a line at the end of some Muppets movie I would watch over and over, as the credits rolled—some nudge to parents like “I bet you wish you were watching this for the first time!”

Why would someone downvoted this? It is true if you know children and it is apolitical.

Simply enough: dopamine.

This is an enjoyable experience for them, it is actually designed to be. This is how you sell tie-ins and make profit, the younger you get them the deeper they're caught in.

The side effect is that it is destroying their attention and impairs their self-development and cognition.

Also the human brain is a sucker for a good story, before screens and videos, kids were addicted to bedtime storytelling and could ask being told the same story a lot of times.

We can listen to the same music hundreds of times. If you go for a bar for over an hour you'll likely hear the same hit songs on repeat. Lots of parallels.

I find that annoying too though

What does the child's gender have to do with it?

Parent probably has a little girl (or girls) and is innocently describing their direct experience. I wouldn't read much into that.

I was thinking about the same, but then realized I'm doing the same. I have watched some comedy clips on YouTube over and over (think Fast Show, Monty Python) and still enjoy them even though I know exactly what to expect.

The PBS kids website/app is also a good option. The kids can only watch a limited range of PBS shoes that are child friendly (everything from Sesame Street to SciGirls).

My 3 year old loves excavator and robot videos. Suddenly all this strange videos were recommended. Search "bad baby" to see what I mean. They also pop up in youtube for kids and they have thousands of views, unbelievable!

I did a search for "mickey mouse" and found a bunch. Two of them, Super Mickey TV and Kids Toon TV, have been up since 2009 and gotten over 350M views combined.



I don't know about 3 year olds but parking infants in front of "educational" videos does the opposite: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1650352,0...

incidentally, I have a similar opinion on school.

There's a difference between "opinions" and "facts."

you have a similar opinion on the specific broken school system you have in mind. Not all school systems are broken by design and aim at shoehorning kids in a mental mould to have them integrate the system society wants them to be a part of.


Those color learning videos were also targeting children, no?

I presume there's something bad about the new videos but it's not obvious for the rest of us.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if this wound up being some ML grad student's channel who was playing around with generating audiovisual content. If it started getting picked up by big algorithms and making money...

Although actually, huh. Maybe it's a little more organized and is just a general memetic malware scam; con youtube's algorithms into putting your junk which was generated in 0.4 seconds onto a few million screens and pocket the ad revenue.

The point is, it might not be any more malicious than anything else that advertisers do on a daily basis, if they were just auto-tweaking the videos to optimize for revenue and hey, presto, colorful crap topped the list. After all, it's just an impartial algorithm.

Kinda makes you think about all the other stuff we happily let advertisers get away with, huh?

Correct. I don't see this as different than content farms that generate low-quality webpages to monetize with ads.

I think the real issue is that online advertising platforms are allowing this to happen and charging advertisers for it (even though these views/clicks are often not valid – whether they're people who click a fake 'Download' by mistake or kids under 13).

I suspect that, at this point, it's a number of overlapping phenomena.

I remember some time ago watching a video discussing weird flash games and videos with the same sort of pain-and-comfort themes that some of these videos have, also including Disney and other licensed characters, and also the oddly repetitious and low quality "children's videos" related to (and possibly spun off of) toys (lacking violent or otherwise disturbing content,) likely just attempts at clickbait. These would pop up in compilations of "weird Youtube channels" from time to time, no doubt driving traffic to their channels, and making them aware of their potential virality.

So it may be impossible to know, at this point, what the reality is behind this content because a lot of it may well be attempts to cash in on a meme.

There's a subreddit about this called /r/ElsaGate. Some of them feel there's a more sinister meaning to some of the content of these strange videos, like here: https://www.reddit.com/r/ElsaGate/comments/6t754b/thank_you/

Wow, sheesh. That's terrifying, but it makes a whole lot more sense than my pet theory, was that the videos were screening tools for state actors. They would seed YouTube with videos of beloved characters undergoing suffering and violence, and then use analytics to determine who kept watching. The kids who got squicked out would be collateral damage, but the ones who kept watching would be identified as potentially useful psychopaths, and approached to be recruited into black-ops assassination programs from an early age.

To be honest I'm not sure what's worse -- that or the child molester angle.

It sounds to me like your perspective may be skewed by having watched too many Hollywood action movies.

Or read too many HN stories about Russian agents of influence.

That subreddit seems more heavily focussed on 'bible code' style inference of hidden messages and conspiracies than the actual market forces driving these videos, and hence ignoring the real problem, youtubes perverse incentive structure.

In a world with private key encryption, sending a message on a weird video on youtube via antiquated cyphers seems less plausible than bot generated comments from a lexicon that increase a videos profitability.

If I was to infer a conspiracy, it would be that the some people are putting easily deciphered insidious messages on the videos purely for their own entertainment. The videos themselves are a simple cash grab, some of which are very weird and those are the ones we end up discussing.

holy shit, as a father of young children this made me extemely uncomfortable.

Do what I do: if you can't watch it with them, download known safe videos via youtube-DL and only let them watch local copies.

This works until they should be old enough to know about strange and stupid content.

What I find interesting is when you have parental controls on, and your playing a kids video, the advertisements are not something a kid should be shown.


My kid was watching an official kids channel inside the YouTube Kids app (I honestly don't remember which, but it was affiliated with a local TV channel). I have the parental control settings configured - and I had to snatch it off him when I saw a red band title card come up in the ad break. Turned out it was for the IT remake.

Couldn't believe it, but lesson learned. This needs serious work.

My kids get to learn about living with HIV almost every time we watch Peppa Pig with a 3+ minute long commercial of monologues with people suffering from HIV. Also one time we got an American conservative extremist group video ad railing against transgender rights. And violent video game ads all the time.

I signed up for YouTube Red for a free month of no commercials and it was great. I'm wondering if maybe YouTube is doing this to nudge parents into signing up for their premium service to avoids disturbing ads during kid viewing time. $10/month really isn't that bad and I'm considering just having it part my monthly digital fee schedule.

Maybe get a VPN to a small country.

As an English speaker in Denmark, half the adverts I see on YouTube are from the same company, offering English writing review. Others are either luxury cars or in Danish (broadband, holidays). I don't think it would be Denmark's style to have an HIV thing on YouTube.

We can be pretty aggressive with that kind of thing too. Remember "ulandskalenderen" on TV?

For those who don't know, it was a TV documentary series that would air everyday between the 1st and 24th of december, and would typically follow a child worker in the 3rd world. Boys working in mines. It was shown during the kids programming on national TV. I distinctly remember the story of a young girl who weaved carpets for a living and was about to loose her job because her boss thought her new born baby took too much of her time - a baby he was the father of!

I too feel like their violent ads (Australian WorkSafe ads are the stuff of nightmares for a child) are a way to force me to subscribe to Red. And that's even with YouTube for kids.

How on earth can parents willingly expose their children to any kind of advertisement is beyond me. Adblocking is a must. Especially at such young age, you should know and control all manipulative media your kid consumes.

In my jurisdiction, any and all advertisement aimed at children is illegal, full stop. It continuously amazes me that this is not the norm in the rest of the world.

Whereas in my jurisdiction (USA), corporate media conglomerates employ PhD trained child psychologists who research the exact pattern and timing of flashes and other stimuli to catch an iron grip on a child's attention.

Our children do not stand a chance.


>Our children do not stand a chance.

They do but it requires the parents ban any and all media with advertising.

I second that, and would like to bold caps scream IT REQUIRES PARENTS!

Sometimes I think that if speach was truly, literally unlimited and free (beer & otherwise) the problem wouldn’t be Nazis, hate speech, or trolling, but advertising and spam overwhelming everything else.

Imagine grey market viagra emails stomping on human cukture, forever.

Nor our adults, now.

I find myself uncomfortably watching the threshold of will power and competence to use the internet safely creeping up slowly, but very steadily over time.

Sometimes I use a browser in a context where I have my ad-blocking shields down (someone else's system, a browser after an upgrade briefly trashes my config), and it's disturbing to me that despite being fully armed with HN-grade world-weary cynicism and the fact that I've been online for coming up on 25-ish years now (starting with BBSes before I could get on the Internet proper), that Taboola crap still sometimes takes conscious effort to not click on it, because it's that good. Goodness help me if they were any good at delivering what those articles promised, because what usually saves me is remembering that it's just straight up a lie. To be clear, this is still a sub-second process in my head, but it still disturbs me that they can get even that far.

I have two children, 9 and 6. I find myself wondering how long it's going to be before I can trust them on the Internet at all; is the necessary competence receding at a rate greater than one year per year? Ten years ago I would have confidently said "no", and my primary threat model would have been "don't do stupid things that get you computer viruses". Now it's ads, and this sort of crap.

By HN-comment standards this my reply is probably useless. But as a human being to another (who also has kids), well put. And creepy - I wonder the same.

Nor our adults, in 15-20 years

Where is your jurisdiction?

Sweden, but on closer inspection it seems I was mistaken. There are, however, very strict rules:

• No junk mail addressed to anyone under 16 years of age.

• No TV advertisements directed towards, or meant to catch the attention of, anyone under 12 years of age. Additionally, in TV shows aimed at children below 12, there can be:

1. No commercials preceding or following the program, nor any commercial breaks in the program itself.

2. No product placements of any kind.

• People or characters from TV shows aimed at children below 12 are not allowed to do any product endorsements, in any context.

• All the above rules for TV shows also apply to the internet.

• Commercials aimed at anyone under 18 are not allowed to directly instruct the child to buy, or to ask anyone else to buy, the product.

• Commercials aimed at anyone under 18 can not be disguised as anything else; it must be clear that it is a commercial and nothing else. This includes in-app advertisements, which are therefore not allowed.

Source: https://www.konsumentverket.se/for-foretag/marknadsforing/re...

Out of curiosity, when no commercialization of childrens' shows is allowed, what is the financial incentive for the creators? Are the channels purchased and/or part of a subscription? Is there government funding? Do children shows suffer from lower quality of effort than adult shows since they are likely to make less money for the creators? All of that is probably fine, I am just curious as an outsider.

Creators are not paid by advertisements, they're paid by the channel that broadcasts. Either the channel will be subscription based, publicly funded, or are doing something like placing the children's content directly before adult content such as a news program.

In the case of Sweden there's a TV license funded broadcaster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sveriges_Television

>> People or characters from TV shows aimed at children below 12 are not allowed to do any product endorsements, in any context.

I wonder how this is handled when the ad context is implicit. Isn't Spiderman's image, for example, always an implied advertisement for Marvel, his movies, action figures, and whatever cereal box he is appearing on this month.

I'm from The Netherlands, and I can't say for certain, but I can't remember a product being sold at a grocery store that had characters from a children's TV show/movie on the label to try and sell it.

Cereal is less of an issue in the first place (that's a very US thing, didn't even know it existed till I moved to the US when I was 10), but you just don't find brands associating themselves with characters from movies/tv shows.

The closes you get it Sinterklaas/Zwarte Piet on seasonal items and Santa Claus.

Action figures are something you have to get at a specific toy store. Large "super store" like WalMart/Target/others don't really exist. I can't go buy a couch at Albert Heijn. I don't go buy a TV at Aldi. In the US however going to Walmart for electronics is as normal as going to get groceries.

"I'm from The Netherlands, and I can't say for certain, but I can't remember a product being sold at a grocery store that had characters from a children's TV show/movie on the label to try and sell it"

What? You mustn't have any children. There is cereal of Frozen and Moana here, Paw Patrol sprinkles, k3 stuff (forgot which), there's various franchise stuff in the dairy section, ... That's not even counting the non-food section in supermarkets. Next time you're at albert heijn, take a good look around.

Here's the cereal shelf of one of the larger supermarkets in the city centre of Copenhagen (still a fairly small supermarket).

Kellogs' products are on the bottom, only two boxes have child-appealing designs.

There was nothing worth photographing in the dairy section. One product was designed for children (cheese stick thing). A chocolate milkshake had a cartoon logo, but it has probably had that logo since 1950.


Wasn't that way when I was a kid...

>Large "super store" like WalMart/Target/others don't really exist. I can't go buy a couch at Albert Heijn. I don't go buy a TV at Aldi. In the US however going to Walmart for electronics is as normal as going to get grocerie

You don’t get a TV at Aldi in the US either, and many (most?) Walmart stores don’t sell groceries

It's not implicit, cobranding just usually doesn't use words.

Does "No product placements of any kind" apply to animated shows that are themselves placing a product? Do they not have shows like Pokemon, Bionicle or Transformers in Sweden?

It's funny that the TV ad part has the "meant to catch the attention of" clause, but the junk mail part doesn't. So you could likely send a house flyers, or catalogues addressed to "homeowner" or whatever, of exclusively kids' toys, and that'd be fine.

How about sugary foods in the supermarket, advertised with e.g. superheroes or idols on the packaging?

I’m guessing that those characters then are not deemed to be from media aimed at children younger than 12.

Sweden ?

RIGHT. People complaining about these bizarre violent videos but they'll sit their kids in front of mind control all day.

Don't know why you got downvoted, have an upvote

Probably because the people complaining are not the same ones who are leaving their kids unattended with these videos. This thread is full of parents saying that they banned youtube for their child because these algorithmic videos have began to fill all youtube searches for kids.

I think it's more of a "why did bots and inattentive parents fuck it up for the rest of us."

>I think it's more of a "why did bots and inattentive parents fuck it up for the rest of us."

The main complaint is that Youtube Kids (an explicitly kid-friendly subset of youtube, with its own app and parental controls) is being targeted in this way. I assume "the rest of us" are not generally using this version of youtube.

"The rest of us" parents, not "the rest of us" people.

Enough with the victim blaming. I think this is a serious problem and I don't have any children to leave unattended.

I'm pretty convinced the victim here is the children and the perpertrators are the parents.

Think about it: scientific consensus is pretty clear that the content makes no difference there should be no exposure to any kind of screen for kids under 6, then maybe a tiny bit until 10-12.

I assume that comment got down-voted for making a broad generalization about a huge numbers of strangers without any supporting evidence. And also for just sounding kind of like an asshole.

I'm guessing your assumptions get you riled up fairly often?


I don't remember seeing "whomever" before, so I hope you don't mind me trying to understand where it is used.

I see that it is used for the object of a verb, and whoever for the subject of a verb, but I am a bit confused here, because here it is the object of "downvote", but the subject of "doubts", so I am confused.

In the sentence "I will look at whomever Bob greets.", I think I understand why it is "whomever", and in the sentence "Whoever enters the room next, they will encounter a surprise.", I think I understand why it is "whoever" and not "whomever", but in the case of your sentence, I don't know what the rule is.

Could you (or anyone else) please explain it to me?

It's an interesting corner case. I believe it's "I will look at whomever Bob greets." (as you note) and "I will look at whoever greets Bob." The object of the preposition is the phrase "whoever greets Bob," so subject-to-a-verb wins.

Thank you!

According to [0], it seems that "whoever" would be correct here.

> Rule 1. The presence of whoever or whomever indicates a dependent clause. Use whoever or whomever to agree with the verb in that dependent clause, regardless of the rest of the sentence.

> Examples:

> Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first.

> He asks for it first. Therefore, whoever is correct.

[0]: http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/whoever.asp

Try substituting him for whom and he for who. That'll see you through most of the time.

I'll go out on a limb and guess you don't have kids, right?

It's more "I haven't been able to do laundry/dishes in days and 30 minutes of Sesame Street videos won't hurt".

Unfortunately, decent adblock on Android requires root, which most can't have, and most of those who can would still need to unlock the bootloader, flash recovery, flash supersu, install fdroid, and install adblock. That leaves us with a very small subset of users that can use adblock.

This problem is exasperated by the fact that phones/tablets are particularly well-suited to, and popular with, young children. Children like to carry things around.

I have no idea what you are talking about.

I have installed a ublock origins on a few dozens of android devices of all kind and it always works like a charm.

uBlock Origin seems to work fine on Android Firefox.

I forgot about that. You can, in fact, use firefox with adblock on android, so long as adblock is distributed with the app itself.

Unfortunately though, it does not work globally.

You can setup a DNS proxy with the android sdk (no root), I thought.

You mean like TV ads, billboards, bumper stickers, magazines, newspapers, NPR sponsors, ....

Just because it is ubiquitous doesn't mean that it shouldn't be railed against.

Yes, indeed. Like in São Paulo.

Now we have ads on bus stops and digital clocks.

Which seems really ironic with "adgate" going on where YouTube demonetizes videos with the message "not suitable for all advertisers". Seems like all advertisers aren't suitable for all videos...

It reminds me of the surprisingly-high proportion of content available without subtitles/captions. It's 2017 and plenty of people are deaf, and yet the BBC, Netflix, Amazon, etc. regularly pretend this section of their audience doesn't exist.

My guess is that is an instance of poor diversity within the team that set the early direction for YouTube. Maybe a team with a higher proportion of parents respresented might have made different decisions.

I'm not sure what you mean? Netflix got sued for not following the ADA over that exact issue, and it looks like they came into compliance years ago after settling and landing on a captioning framework with the National Association for the Deaf.


I regularly find stuff on Netflix that is only subtitled in a language not spoken in the movie. It's very frustrating. Combined with Netflix's increasingly shitty catalog and I'm sure I should cancel.

I can't comment on BBC, but I can't remember the last time I watched something on netflix or amazon that had missing subtitles.

BBC Live Subtitles are available on all channels apart from BBC Parliament, BBC Alba and S4C. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/help/using_subtitles

Most of the programmes on BBC iPlayer now have the option to turn subtitles on. I think a very rare, old, program that does not have it. As the standards state MUST http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/guides/subtitles/

The standards are clear. 4.1. Full-length scheduled programmes and their associated broadcast subtitles MUST be made available online through iPlayer.


Not sure where you get the information about the BBC, but all of the shows on its main channels are available with subtitles.

Channels... I remember those.

I'm sure it's just more hours to them; on something they're trying to get out the door yesterday.

I take your point that they're time constrained, but I dispute the implication that a differently proportioned team may make different decisions. That's an assumption that goes against the balance of evidence.

Actually advertisements are not something kids should be exposed to at all. At least if you have the sake and health of the kid in minf.

If what you have in mind is to target kids while they have not yet developed their mind to the point of dealing with advertising then this is something they should be exposed to.

I tend to be of the first mindset.

Google's adfilters are broken or can be gamed: I keep getting advertising for a subject I've explicitly banned.

I was searching for UV diodes another day and now I see on mobile ads (Google Adwords) for "Bank notes that pass UV pen tests", so either scam or they sell fake money. I have screenshotted it and I get these ads on reputable sites. I live in poorer country so I guess the bidding fe is not that expensive.

Agree with this. It makes me very angry.

Also, in case you glazed over the link to the recent Medium article, here it is:


I read it last night after the wife recommended it ... and wow.

Thanks for posting this article and it is indeed disturbing. It looks like there is just an insane amount of mind scrambling content that nobody should let themselves or their children experience. Given the Medium author's informal but useful initial analysis, this seems like a ripe topic for a formal psychological and technological analysis by some poor dissertation student or group of students who could survive the content and uncover much more about the origins, intent, extent, and consequences of this type of media.

I'm reading the article and trying to figure out exactly where the horrible "mind scrambling" is happening.

The article seems to say "back when I was a kid, my parent entertained me with contentless saccharine trip from sources we trusted (Disney et al) but now contentless saccharine trip is autogenerated (duh duh duh) and who knows what effect that is going to have on 'developing brains'"

And would suspect, contrawise, that if there's a problem, it began at the point when the TV became the primary babysitter for modern children and things escalating to youtube is a step but a less significant step than this.

Edit: OK, the complaint is video moving from simplistic saccharine junk to the same thing with violence. I get that this is the step that disturbs parents lazy/busy enough to consign child rearing to video but controlling enough to think kids will parrot whatever they see. I would still see consigning kid-hood activity to video as where the damage comes. But maybe "that's just me"

Disney movies generally makes sense and have some logic rooted in the real world. Yes there are talking animals and magic but the stories ultimately relate to the human experience.

I think the problem with the crap the author finds is that – it is nonsensical. These videos addict kids by triggering their innate desire to seek out novel/scary situations and explore them. This instinct exists so kids learn about the real world around them, as quickly as possible. But when kids watch videos with no sense, no logic, and no relation to the real world, their brains learn and reinforce nonsense. It delays their development while reducing their attention for more wholesome – and more boring – exploration of the real world.

Kids' brains are amazingly plastic, they have amazing memories, and they ruminate sometimes for months on novel/strange concepts. Watching, say, Peppa the Pig eat her own father even once can have a profoundly negative effect on a young child.

Absolutely parents should not let YouTube babysit their children. But a child watching, say, Sesame Street, will tell you about how Oscar helped Elmo do such-and-such, or Grover had a bad day and Big Bird comforted him, and they'll apply that to their own life. A child watching Marvel character heads buried in sand will prattle on about random creatures' heads buried in things, and will fail to apply that lesson to anything in their real-life experience.

EDIT: Not to imply e.g. Disney is flawless – remember Dumbo's pink elephants?

Sounds like the same complaints that were made about the greatest children's book of all time -- Alice in Wonderland. A book entirely based on illogical nonsense.

A book entirely based on illogical nonsense.

Not so.

Alice in Wonderland is a book set in illogical nonsense. The world is illogical, the characters are illogical, but the story is cohesive. That is what makes Alice in Wonderland so wonderful.

To contrast, what we are talking about are generated associations between familiar things. Instead of Alice in Wonderland's illogical nouns and cohesive story, we have familiar nouns and illogical story.

Alice in Wonderland took us on an unfamiliar trip, and made its strange self relatable. These videos are the reverse: they take relatable things, and shove them together in incohesive, unrelatable, and sometimes frightening ways.

Actually I was thinking of the Disney film adaptation of that as an example of the kind of nonsensical visual stuff that can linger in a kid's head forever. I still distinctly remember the scene with the cards marching angrily. Why were they cards? Why were they angry? Why were they scary? Didn't matter then, doesn't matter now, but to my 3-year-old brain it was really important to try to answer those questions.

I haven't read the book, but given that it's based much more on wordplay as a means of humor (and therefore the exploration of what is, and isn't, sensical in the real world -- the core of humor) than on... algorithmic garbage..., and that it's intended for 8-13 year olds (the ages of its first audience) rather than 2-6 year olds (the target audience of nursery rhymes etc. that the videos in the article are based on), it's somewhat tangential to the point that I and the article are trying to make.

The nonsense in Alice in Wonderland is quite logical - a lot of it is allegory based on math, linguistics and theology.

I had to Google the Peppa Pig eating her own father video, and I can say without a doubt I would rather have my child watch that than Peppa Pig.

What's more, it is hilarious how this was shown as an example of the videos targeting kids. As a native spanish speaker, it seems overhwelmingly obvious to me that this is just a standard parody animation targeted for teens and young adults. Equivalent in tone to SpeedoSausage and much of the Newgrounds crowd.

Great explanation!

Human beings begin learning to speak by babbling - producing nonsensical language gradually begin to make sense.

It seem illogical that a sense stream of images would innately dangerous by itself. Indeed, most of the things that a child sees at a young age are senseless to the child even if they have a logic to them. Moroever, a child is going observe a senseless stream of images whenever an adult begins channel surfing in a determined manner.

> Human beings begin learning to speak by babbling - producing nonsensical language gradually begin to make sense.

That analogy is flawed. Children don't learn to speak by listening to each other babble. They learn by listening to adults speak in cohesive, logical sentences.

> It seem illogical that a sense stream of images would innately dangerous by itself.

If it causes the child to ruminate on a nonsensical topic, it is. Children have very limited time to learn about social norms and human behavior.

> Moroever, a child is going observe a senseless stream of images whenever an adult begins channel surfing in a determined manner.

You seem to misunderstand the amount of time children spend watching adults change television channels, versus say, literally anything else that occurs in their life.

You seriously claim that streams of nonsense is by itself damaging to the brain of a child? Just on it's face it seems unlikely.

I'm surprised no-one in this entire thread has even mentioned the possibility that autism, OCD, ADHD, etc. might be, in part, caused by such streams of nonsense.

Human sociality needs to be boostrapped. Kids watching this all-day-every-day are /definitely/ gonna grow up funny. Why do you think daycare costs more than a mortage?

What makes you think that that's unlikely? I find it completely absurd that a child can adopt our culture and language in such a short time. Kids learn and adapt at an extreme pace. why wouldn't you think throwing nonsense in there would affect development?

The author is British. I don't know about the US, but our children's television represents the highest aspirations of broadcasting. Cbeebies and CBBC consistently produce programmes with the utmost of thought and care.

If kids TV in the US is genuinely no better than the pap on YouTube, then you guys need to picket the FCC until something radical happens.



It is not just you, but my youngest is 27. I am not currently raising small kids. So I try to respect the fact that if parents are complaining, then it must be an issue for them.

My bigger concern is that we are happy to let automation take jobs while talking about UBI as the solution. Does no one but me see a connection here? This is a way for people to make money using automation in the face of fewer regular jobs being available due to automation. If people need money and can't make it some other way, duh, they turn to doing this stuff.

Are you even trying to compare a Disney film or similar "saccharnine contentless" media to the sheer acid trip nightmare fuel that is videos like these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXjJdv5fj5k

I don't get what is so bad? If you watch the video it has a story, it is just really poorly animated.

You seriously don’t see what is wrong with a five year old watching that? Did you even watch it?

Perhaps you could explain it rather than making an argument to incredulity?

I don't think it does have a story. Things happen in it, sure, but not for a reason. In one skit, the bad guys bring a tiny shark, then enlarge it with a magic wand. At first, it chases them in a pool, but after they get out, the shark flies after them. The shark eats punch and turns red. The Narrator says, "Red." They run into a room, and the shark phases through the wall. They run out of the room. They run outside, and the good guys shoot at the shark with guns. The shark changes color again. Finally, they shoot the shark with a wand, which changes it back again. This last part is the only part within the skit where something is stipulated, and then becomes relevant again. Every other time, something happens for no reason, and then that thing doesn't happen again.

In another skit, a girl want to play with all of the other kids. She tries to take away one child's toy, but he gets angry, and pushes her to the ground. She runs away, and finds her magic wand. The magic wand turns a red toy into an evil red ghost. The kids shoot at with guns until it pops. The magic wand creates a green ghost. The kids shoot it. Wand creates a pink ghost. The kids shoot it. Wand creates a yellow ghost. The kids shoot it. The girl runs away.

There's also no continuity or story between the skits. In one skit, the Joker sneaks into someone's house and kidnaps them. In another, he's a good guy, changing all of the watermelon into rainbow watermelon.

TL;DR: Shell out for PBS. Don't let your children watch this.

So it's nonsensical? I can understand that. But how do we go from nonsensical to harmful?

Watching that is tantamount to reading Act II from The King in Yellow.

Watching that was worse than August Underground's Mordum.

The main different between this and say the "Road Runner" series is Road Runner is somewhat better quality. But either way you've a series of exploding cartoon figures - what age wasn't Road Runner appropriate for?


Isn't it possible that autogenerated saccharine trips might be even sweeter than anything a human mind might generate?

You know how machine translation is often hilarious when it produces word combinations that wouldn't even _occur_ to a normal humanmind? We think it's funny because we're _aware_ of the difference between normal word sequences and word salad. Small children are not aware of the ways in which these algorithmically-generated videos are, well, weird. Who knows how children's minds react to these supernormal stimuli?

Isn't it possible that autogenerated saccharine trips might be even sweeter than anything a human mind might generate?

It seems unlikely.

Autogeneration is done for quality but for quantity. Humans have been crafting "high" and "low" brow content for a while and while I might call low brow content trash, I recognize very specific talents and strategies go into things like horrible jingles, it seems unlikely the marketeer could make something with more of qualities they're after just by accident.

When I was young, quite a long time ago, guns and military toys were huge - obviously that implied violence and it all went into my brain.

I would expect that the extreme flexibility of a child's brain would tend to allow them to select between the huge variety of things they're exposed to. And thus I'd suspect the worst part of modern child rearing is the things children aren't allowed to do, such as play outside in the part by themselves (insert horror stories here).

I think the reason you're so sour is because you didn't see enough Disney films growing up.

Jesus Christ, I just read that article and... wow, that is some Black Mirror shit. AI nightmares delivered at massive scale directly to the minds of infants, at a rate of tens of thousands (?) of views per second. I had no idea we were living in a dystopia already.

Well said. I find your last sentence hard to believe though.

My 5 y/o has found all of these videos, I guess they're linked by recommendation. And even weirder ones in the past month. One positive might be that I haven't noticed violent or sexual content aimed at children, it's just very strange. Not sure what to make of it.

If you watch long enough (I left it running on the side while at work, muted, out of curiosity) and some of that stuff will come up eventually.

It gets weirder when you have the live action stuff with kids' favourite characters murdering and raping each other. Somebody put in actual effort to put some of that stuff together. Other animated pieces are just a bad accident.

It seems kind of circular. Somebody writes an algorithm to try and take advantage of kids' love for popular cartoons. It grabs keywords, phrases, characters, tones, sound clips, etc. It puts them together into a short (or too long) animated video. The YouTube algorithms pick up on some common tropes and then those autofab end up in kids' watching queues, they end up getting enough views because they keep kids numbly watching (not knowing what it is their taking in), other groups start noticing and decide exploit the algorithms in the same way. At least that's how it appears to me...

Purely algorithmic generation seems less likely to me than Southeast Asian video factories that use cheap labor to churn out a bajillion variations of the same thing with different keywords and characters slotted in.

You are probably right ATM, but the technology is improving rapidly. At any rate, it is entirely plausible that the story themes are autogeneratrd (using a neural net to identify hot topics, then curating what it can produce on its own).

The kind of people pushing content like this are not using neural nets. They’re probably using Markov chains and PHP YouTube uploaders from 2012.

There’s a very distinct internet marketing subculture, and for some reason it’s always had a lot of cross over with script kiddies and semi technical Wordpress marketers.

You'd probably do a cheaper and better job just spending 15 minutes browsing youtube, then calling your buddy in Macedonia.

Sure, if many of your competitors aren’t already doing that.

This is just the latest iteration of how any website is only 7 Kevin Bacon clicks away from rotten.com.

The net is vast and infinite and funnels the human id.

Autotegenerated content will never be a clean feed until machine learning evolves.

Or to put it another way, teach your kids to talk with you if they see or experience something icky.

And also don't allow access to an internet-enabled device without direct supervision until they are fairly mature.

Good luck with that one.

My niece's dad bought her a phone. She's 3. What the fuck. My sister is not happy with it, but I don't think she feels like she has much power over the situation.

"Uh-oh honey, looks like little Alice dropped her phone in the toilet again. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

so sneaky. that's just the kind of sneaky thing a benevolently manipulative, savvy mother might do.

You're not going to be able to convince people who benefited greatly from unfettered internet access in their youth to do that.

I too benefited from relatively unfettered access to the internet as child, but as a 14-year old, not a 4-year old.


No! This is not about degrees of separation. It is about systematic abuse for profit.

> systematic abuse for profit

Autogenerating content targeted at kids is "systematic abuse for profit" in the same way that Disney holding focus groups is "abuse". The content is clearly entertaining to kids, or else there would be no economic incentive to create it.

The algorithm occasionally picks up some nasty troll content by accident (hence degrees of separation). It is clearly unintentional as it goes against the financial interests of the channels.

This is a long way from "zomg illuminati bot conspiracy subliminal evil content child abuse".

I wonder how much of this is kids not realizing they can skip videos. I'd like to do an experiment to see how quickly kids change the video for different categories of videos. Maybe they just like videos, and clicking randomly on child's links at the end of videos will eventually drop you into this maze.

They 100% know they can. I've watched a 2-year-old with a phone skip through dozens of videos until they found a channel just saccharine enough to hold their attention for minutes until the phone was taken away.

But you could use this to change the human id over time, not just reflect it.

The article seems to never get to the point. What was the disturbing thing?

Three main things:

- Surrealist gibberish videos made with cheap render assets that feature whatever will show up in kids’ content search (thus a predominance of Marvel and Disney characters)

- Gross-out and violent troll videos that imitate the surrealist gibberish videos well enough for the algorithms to think they’re kids’ content

- Live-action content that tends to include borderline child abuse in the name of “funny” content (for example, children vomiting or visibly in pain)

I work for an online reading platform. Our number one kids books are mostly about bugs, poop, and bugs that eat poop, followed closely by murder investigation.

Kids love things that make them slightly uncomfortable. A feeling they get a lot more often than adults. A feeling most adults avoid.

These videos are not that. Some quotes from https://www.reddit.com/r/ElsaGate/ which fit what I saw so far:

> Adult themes repeat themselves throughout these videos. They're subtle, and require interpretation which makes our analysis vague, but they are too pervasive amongst videos of different channels, countries of origin, and even advertised content that I cannot help but suspect a correlation. :Imagery of fear and life-threatening circumstances. :Medical play, roleplay or real, involving pregnancy and needles. :Ideas of dominance and power, submission. :Magic, wands, spells being used negatively on others. :Acting on an unconscious party, non-consent. :Visual innuendos and gags and even inappropriate touching. :Naughtiness and misbehavior conducted in secret. :Showers and bathroom imagery. :Colored plastic balls! In every video, regardless of content. :Kids eating inordinate amounts of things for no reason.


> I am 20 with no children but am definitely a scared soccer mom at this point. Having first hand experience with being a Kid On Youtube and now being an Adult With Trauma, I think a lot of people aren't thinking about the severity of the effects of these videos on children, and I'm thinking that's probably because a lot of people in this sub are older and didn't get to experience being a kid on youtube w little/no parental supervision.

> Tons of people are saying "well, I saw porn as a kid, and im fine." That isn't the point! The point is /all of this is already kid targeted/. Seeing porn as a kid on my own accord/exploration did nothing bad to me for the most part. Seeing screamers on kids videos, as a kid? Totally fucked me up. Seeing early-stage elsagate-esque videos as a kid? Not so much, but that's only my experience, and the technology to make videos like this wasn't really available yet. The long term effects are serious and traumatizing and there's more to do w the issue than just "well, its BAD PARENTING" (or, alternatively, people saying the kids watching these videos are "just bad kids". also, not all parents care about being bad parents. just throwing that out there.) Youtube provides a direct service of "you want to hurt kids? well, heres your platform." and it's always been like that. even when youtube wasnt that big. people have been reporting kid-targeted screamers for yearssssssssss and nothing gets taken down. and there are people that want to make this content. that is /incredibly scary/ and exploitable, even if these videos are just a case of "AI gone rogue".


> I watched those Elsa, Spider-Man, The Joker and Maleficent videos for over 4 hours and I lost count how many had steady themes of kidnapping there were, normalizing being tied up and injected with REAL SYRINGES. One especially disturbing video showed a live girl no older than 6 being held down against physical discomfort while a blurred out syringe seemingly penetrated her butt while she lay on her stomach. Mind you all of this is taking place while cheery music is being played couple with laughter and the actual live screaming of the child present in many of the videos.

Spend one hour watching skipping around in videos (it's not like you would be able to refrain from skipping anyway, and if you can go one hour you can stomach a lot more than I can, and that's from someone who saw people getting sliced up on stileproject in 2000). Then do some very superficial math. Then see if you just want to shrug it off.

And animated sequences of popular kids show characters murdering and raping each other... or so I've heard (and seen commented on up thread).

I wouldn't watch it myself so just hearsay.

Also a strange fascination with giving crying children injections. (some with live children and actual needles)

    > What was the disturbing thing?
That we as humans work under the assumptions that the things we consume have at least a basic level of curation involved in them. This assumption is now no longer true.

Sitting a child in front of YouTube is now essentially equivalent to running a fuzzer / AFL on an infant mind. Who the hell knows how the human brain will react?

We know how the human brain will react. We already know how the human brain reacts to lack of good parenting and social environment, and how beyond a certain degree it reacts to it like it does to more active abuse. It's not like this isn't being studied for ages by people who genuinely care, but we as "non-professionals" just refuse to seriously understand and tackle the spectrum of psychopathology without also risking all the relationships and the houses of cards ultimately built on it respectively (i.e., a more than fragmentary understanding would require us to reorder our own lives and relationships, and tackling it in earnest would endanger financial interests), so once again we try to make this a special case and see where it gets us. Spoiler: it will get us nowhere.

There isn't anything actually disturbing in this article, the author and everyone here are freaking out over nothing. And it's odd too, because you can literally go to any child's vlog on Youtube and find tons of pedophiles making lewd comments. Are people not aware of that? That's disturbing, not this algorithmically-generated clickbait stuff.

As far as I can tell the first specific thing that the author calls out as something that should disturb all humans is that the Aladdin characters are joined by a character from a different IP. Truly terrifying to any company or copyright holder.

Algorithmic reward system within YouTube results in infinitely many nonsensical and non kid appropriate videos targeted at kid viewers.

Discussed a few days ago at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15637504.

What I found especially interesting in the Medium post that (it seems) spurred this is the suggestion that algorithmically-generated content seems very easily to become nightmarish without any malicious intent.

It makes sense to me that systems which randomly throw things out and react to clicks of kids with not much superego quickly fall into dream-logic. Isn't this roughly the canonical explanation for how dreams work anyway?

I did this intentionally recently by only listening to spotify’s discovery playlist for a few weeks in a row. I started out with some r&b and electronic music, and ended up weeks later with a playlist of bland, uninspired rock music, apparently the fixed point of my discover playlist adventures.

I wonder if the result would be different had I started out with different preferences, or if The Algorithm pushes everyone to the same place (cheap music for Spotify)

It would be different if you started out with different preferences (note: all new rock music is uninspired rock music, and Discover Weekly pushes newer music).

I don't believe in this kind of censorship and that medium article just reads like a bunch of alarmist nonsense to me.

I was exposed to tons of super-weird stuff on TV an the internet (adult swim, fat-pie, etc) and so were most of my friends growing up. I don't think it was problematic for any of us.

When you're a kid and something feels disturbing, you turn it off. Our society really doesn't give kids any credit for being autonomous and resilient.

Most of all, I don't like that one corporation has the power to "crack down" on a whim about what's appropriate for kids to watch on a global scale.

> I don't believe in this kind of censorship and that medium article just reads like a bunch of alarmist nonsense to me.

Agreed, to some extent.

> When you're a kid and something feels disturbing, you turn it off

One of the arguments made in the original Verge article on this from February is that young children don't actually behave this way. In fact, if they did, this wouldn't be an issue, since the videos wouldn't be watched, and the motivation for making them would be gone.

I love mildly disturbing, uncomfortable and awkward entertainment. Salad Fingers and others were some of my favorite things when I was 12 or so. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all. But the children this article mentions are much younger than that.

just as an anecdote, when my 3yo saw some videos she didn't like (i.e. she came across me watching something violent on TV) she asked me to turn it off, or backed in a corner where she couldn't see them, or walked away.

She also saw some odd nursery rhymes on youtube, but those didn't seem to annoy her.

Not all kids are the same, but I agree with the OP that we should maybe give the kids more credit.

These are some of the "most popular" child videos on YouTube. While I'd love to give the kids more credit, data shows otherwise.

the point was more that maybe most are not as disturbing to kids as we assume they are, not that kids will stop watching all of them.

My little brother watched "fist of the north star" with me when he was 5, where people literally explode and evil guys routinely lick blood off their blades, and he still grew up to be a balanced person, as far as I can tell.

Whether the videos are disturbing to kids is not the point, at all. Tons of things are not disturbing but harmful.

Your little brother grew up just fine doesn't mean my (hypothetical) kids will grow up fine.

Is it at all possible that these "weird" videos are not disturbing to children?

When you're a toddler, your brain is strongly updating all the weights and biases encoded inside the lump of goo behind your eyes. It's literally a years-long neural network training exercise, with all sorts of back-propagation and pruning. I can imagine very strong feedback loops between algorithmically-generated content and neural development with weird side effects.

I don't care that the content is violent per se. Whatever. We're robust against that. What I do care about is how the content is inhuman and engagement-optimized. We, as humans, are as defenseless against that sort of thing as the Dodo was to hunters.

It's one thing when you discovered porn in the 90's at the age of 12, versus being 5 years old and watching Spiderman rape & murder Elsa.

My guess though is that a lot of the kids watching that searched for just that because kids are a lot weirder than we like to believe.

I'm sorry, but how is that difference?

Unless I take you wrong, do you claim that a child that watch cartonish spiderman forcing himself on Elsa, will end up child molesters or murderers themselves, then I would love to see some statistics, other that the fact your argument sounds reasonable on its face.

I don't know about rapists and murderers, but very young kids have started to rub against each other and according to my kindergarten teacher, it has exploded and happens a lot more than before. Anecdotal evidence, but if you believe her it doesn't only happen in that specific place. Spiderman shagging Elsa or playing with her tits certainly doesn't make the problem letter.

>When you're a kid and something feels disturbing, you turn it off.

Do you realize these are the "most popular" child videos on YouTube? Gosh, the fact that these people are making money off of it is proof that "kids" are watching these videos, and are apparently not capable of "just turning them off". Yeah right, maybe that happened to you. I'm not confident my (hypothetical) kid watching these videos can turn them off, at all.

Can you please not claim "censorship", "evil corporation", "global scale", "alarmist", and look at this issue directly? GOSH, these are objectively bad issues, and why can't you just not let children see them? Not everyone out there is trying to "brainwash" your kids. The world is a better place without these videos.

These are bad videos. Children should not be shown these videos. I applaud YouTube for "censoring" these things.

If you're the kind of parent that feels "this is censorship", "no one should tell my kid not to watch these videos", and "my kids are totally okay with watching these videos", then I really think you need some serious help.

The kids are choosing what they want to watch and it doesn’t fit societies made up ideal for what children should want to watch. It’s scary just like rock and roll was scary 50 years ago.

I am only hearing the exact same moral panic arguments given about Elvis’s hips.

Just because you don’t like something and can’t understand why someone else would, doesn’t make it bad.

You are just too old to see the value in things your child likes. It’s a tale as old as time.

You’re very insistent these are bad but I don’t really see why. I would consider many of these absurdist works of art, yet we don’t cover children’s eyes from the likes of Pollock.

Yes, these videos are bad. The reasons are clearly listed in the article and the video in it.

"5 years old and watching Spiderman rape & murder Elsa" is never something you should let a child watch. I'm sorry, but this is not something Pollock would ever cover. This is child pornography level of stuff. Or, are you saying that is also something perfectly fine for any audience?

I'm really amazed by the mental gymnastics one has to perform to compare these videos to Pollock and Rock and Roll.

Explain the actual harm. Enumerate it. I get that you don’t personally like it, and thus don’t want your child to watch it, but do you think it’s going to make your child a rapist?

I'll cite a fellow HN user: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15674870

Or this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15674305

Or how about this medium article? https://medium.com/@jamesbridle/something-is-wrong-on-the-in...

Many people have presented their case on this issue. In this thread or elsewhere. Please don't pretend they don't exist by saying "Explain the actual harm. Enumerate it." Where's your proof that these videos are harmless or even beneficial to children?

Again, you are only proving the Elvis moral panic argument. Other commentators agreeing with you doesn’t make a case.

I'm sorry, but this is not just "Other commentators agreeing with you". Those arguments are, in fact, sufficient for me to believe that these videos are harmful to children.

When you're a kid and something feels disturbing, you turn it off.

[citation needed]

Common-sensical dismissals of something are often just a way of declingin to address an actual problem. I find it really easy to think of contexts in which kids keep watching this stuff even though they don't like it an its scaring them. You might not have done it, but you might not have any experience of autistic spectrum disorders, for example.

It's like saying people should just ignore trolls on the internet or any of many other nominally helpful cliches that actually dismiss the concerns of people who are dealing with problems.

I appreciate that they crack down on content that is obviously designed to hurt and traumatise.

Not one of the cited videos in the article was a example of something that is 'designed to hurt and traumatise'

I agree. They are designed to get as many views from kids. Them being traumatic may be a side effect, but not the goal.

'traumatic' is way overstating it.

no, sorry, you've lost touch with reality or don't have kids you care about or both. if i read this stuff and my mind goes "holy crap this is just sick, the !@#$ who created that content has to be executed" - it is enough of an indication for me that no kid should ever be exposed to that.

not only creators of such content should get jailtime, youtube has to pay fines for each child-minute streamed even if it drives alphabet into bankruptcy.

No. You lost touch with reality. None of the cited videos were traumatizing. It's an insane statement to make. Kids live through wars and horrific abuse or neglect. Those things are 'traumatic'. You're freaking out over YouTube videos that are kind of weird.

TIL if kid's not injured by a grenade or raped - he's fine, nothing to worry about.

How do you know you and your friends turned out fine?

I don’t mean to be accusatory, but I wonder what scale we’re using when we’re saying that this sort of content is “harmful”. I doubt people are implying that watching these videos will turn kids into psychopaths.

Well, violence is a pretty good metric. And that has not budged one bit since the introduction of the internet or violent games for that matter.

A lot of claims, both in the original Medium article and in this thread, are made on the effects disturbing content has on humans.

I am not saying that these videos are something we should allow, but let's get our facts straight on its effects first.

> Most of all, I don't like that one corporation has the power to "crack down" on a whim about what's appropriate for kids to watch on a global scale.

This is the real problem. We need to break the platform monopoly ASAP.

But how do we know you're not some maladjusted weirdo?

I agree with this. When I first started browsing the Web I'd occasionally see weird and disturbing things. I'd then try to avoid them, recognize the signs of things that looked "off". I think this might have lead me to develop more careful browsing habits that make me a safer user today.

How can you possibly avoid it if the only thing you know is the home screen and sb always filled it with those pretty .. fuck.

Thats the problem with somebody else filling the homescreen. I never saw it that way.

So what kind of homescreen would be best for a kid?

I agree. When I read the original I expected violence and gore videos put together by trolls to freak out kids. And I thought the article was a total waste of time. We live in the age the mob.

Videos where peppa the pig gets tortured by a dentist and turns into a robot don't count as violence?

Yeah, and it's tamer than pretty much any episode of Ren & Stimpy.

If I had a kid, I would not want them watching Ren & Stimpy until they were mentally prepared for it.

I remember the show being a wonderful subversive work of art. I also remember it being nightmare fuel when I was as old as 11. If a young child ends up watching a Ren & Stimpy equivalent just because YouTube recommended it, or more likely, watching something just as edgy but without the quality -- that too is a problem.

>I also remember it being nightmare fuel when I was as old as 11.

You were a sheltered, sensitive child.

Jesus. When you write it like that I have visions of a horror film full of gore. It's an intellectually dishonest statement because the video is so tame - at best, slightly weird.


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