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YouTube Kids a “vapid wasteland” say US lawmakers (bbc.com)
229 points by mimixco 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 252 comments

Can confirm.

There is a strain of video (below) on there that is just like perceptual candy to kids. And there are LOADS of these videos in slightly different versions.

My own anecdote:

Our 2 year old found these videos (3 years ago): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7IsNFDtG4U&list=PLHZrFxrJbt...

At first we were like "seems fine, colors and shapes...keeps him engaged". After a month or two he could just stare slack jawed at these videos for hours, it was like he was being lobotomized, and begged for them constantly. It was clear that they didn't actually teach him anything, and he couldn't even remember anything salient from watching them. We turned them off and haven't let him watch since. Even things like watching looney toons is infinitely better because there is some base narrative, characters, problems etc.

The people at Google/Youtube really make it hard for quality content to succeed most of the time and their beloved algorithms mostly just boil down to "If a person clicks X, bombard them with as much things as close to X as possible from now on". (Also their obsession with "engagement" which translates to outrage, but I hope this is less relevant in Youtube Kids...)

The danger for kids also stems from this in my opinion, if the wrong kind of video creeps into autoplay everything goes down the drain FAST with almost no chance to recover for the better by itself. Cheap and almost copied content gets rewarded the most.

All "customized for you"/"things youll like" algorithms are more about trapping you in a frozen past than expanding your horizons. Everyone together trains the algo what "more of the same looks like" and thats what it regurgitates. Every time I read a marketing copy about AI, that's what I think of first, is that someone literally designed a new mouse trap.


"But taken together the cumulative effect is that of a giant refrigerator that freezes us, and those who govern us, into a state of immobility, perpetually repeating the past and terrified of change and the future."

That article makes the same argument about index funds and hedge funds, the Blackrocks and Vanguards of the world. Minimizing risk means trapping the world in a way that it never has a chance to gamble on changing.

"It has within its memory a vast history of the past 50 years - not just financial - but all kinds of events. What it does is constantly take things that happen in the present day and compares them to events in the past. Out of the millions and millions of correlations - Aladdin then spots possible disasters - possible futures - and moves the investments to avoid that future happening.

I can't over-emphasise how powerful Blackrock's system is in shaping the world - it's more powerful in some respects than traditional politics.

And it raises really important questions. Because its aim is to not change the world - but to keep it stable. Preventing any development thats too risky. And when you are moving $11 trillion around to do that -it is a really important new force."

Personalized tailored experiences prevent the future by making us relive the past.

It's not though. For example I used to be in hobby X, so I watched a lot of X based videos. As I fell out of the hobby I stopped watching X videos, so Youtube stopped recommending them to me unless it thinks there is a REALLY good X based video it thinks I would like.

YouTube also lets you easily add to your interests by directly searching for and watching videos about them. There is also the slow way where you have interest X and YouTube recommends you a video about Y since it noticed that it preformed well for other people interested in X.

I would never consider YouTube as trapping me as a frozen past as what kinds of videos it recommends are constantly changing as my interests in real life change.

To thaw the freeze you almost have to be constantly fighting the suggestions true nature, constantly scolding it for getting stuck into too tight of loops. It only really works if you feed it lots of negative feedback.

That said, I don’t personally use auto play often. I don’t let YouTube just pick random things for me over and over, unless it’s music in a background. Even on a tv I browse suggestions and pick one vs letting it choose.

For me YouTube is almost always able to recommend me a video I want to watch. I don't even use the negative feedback. I don't ever feel like it's frozen because it's matching my interests. If my interests stay the same it makes sense for YouTube to recommend videos about things I like and from creators I like.

I've noticed that its basically impossible for Youtube to recommend me anything outside the bubble it has assigned me. I end up using guest accounts to find new content but even that doesn't work too well (the guest account also ends up in its own bubble) and generally only recommends the most popular videos in a region so I even switch regions sometimes.

And lord help you if you accidentally click on some drivel that's suggested. It'll take years of ignoring it before it and similar videos are no longer suggested.

I liberally use the "Not interested" and "Don't recommend channel" options in the menu. Works okay for me.

These options are literally the only way for me to even get new recommendations. YouTube "helpfully" fills my recommendations with videos I've already watched, videos from channels I'm already subscribed to and watched, its own "mix" playlists of songs I listen to, and totally random "topics" it thinks I'm interested in. I have to "Don't recommend" every channel I subscribe to and "Not interested" every video I click on but don't watch fully, or they completely fill several pages of recommendations.

I don't know what happened or when, but it's impossible to discover new content there anymore.

There's also the option of going into your Youtube history and deleting things from it. More than once I've clicked on something out of curiosity and regretted it, only to have youtube recommend more of the same, but removing the original videos that caused it from my history seemed to do the trick. My theory is that some video categories have a highly addictive nature to certain groups of people. Youtube's algorithm picks up on this, and notes that people who watch x are likely to want to watch y and z etc. It could be conspiracy videos, pickup artist things, young women, or something feeding off of an insecurity. The algorithm doesn't care, but it can pick up on these patterns of viewership and entices you with more.

This started a couple of years ago. I remember quite distinctly when suddenly the suggestions were injected with things I already watched instead of actual on-topic suggestions. Tried disabling the watch history with mild success.

This was also around the time I just turned off the entire thing via DF YouTube :)

I now view YT like a dumb video hosting service; can't be bothered to fight with its stupid UI or inexplicable ML background fuckery.

Maybe some day they'll equip users with the tools that are appropriate to browse the biggest video platform of all time. They could take a hint from Steam on how to do that (or just use common sense)

Where is don't recommend channel? I saw a video about this when searching how to block specific channels but it doesn't appear in the UI of my YT android app...

In the browser it's in the "..." menu to the right of the recommended video's title. I don't know about the app.

I keep using them on this one set of day trading ads and they keep showing the exact same ad to me.

Don't resist it, they are right. You need it.

So true... I don’t do as you do with guest accounts etc i have premium because the only thing i hate more than my bubble is the adverts!

I tend to unsubscribe, or tell youtube to stop showing me this.

Is this YouTube specific? I often feel stuck in a bubble

It's uncanny how bad the major players are at this.

You can click here [1] to see your supposed 'interests'.

It's uncannily bad.

'Combat Sports' , 'Boating', 'Construction and Power Tools' and 'Cricket' (!) apparently among interests they think I haven though they are subjects which don't cross my mind.

I don't think I've even thought about 'Cricket' other than for them to tell me it's 'an interest'.

[1] https://adssettings.google.com/u/0/authenticated

Hah. For a job I had for a while I had to routinely search for movie names to make sure I got the spelling correct. Now google thinks I enjoy all the genres known.

I recently looked up car tires because mine were old and leaking air. It was a single day, but now it says I'm interested in "cars" and "car tires". No wonder why Seat started insistingly showing ads on my phone.

It also deduced correctly that I'm married with no kids, while my work account is married with teenage kids, probably from watching videos linked here in HN.

I have :

  Parental Status : Not A Parent
And then :

  Nursery & Playroom
  Babies & Toddlers
  Baby & Toddler Toys
  Baby Care & Hygiene
  Baby Strollers & Transport 
  Child Care
  Children's Clothing
An interesting algorithm you have there :D

Jeez how many do people usually have? There are just shy of 200 'interests' in my list. I'm not particularly interested in helping them out by editing it though. From what I saw the list is accurate in that it doesn't really contain anything I hate, but it's inaccurate since it's only a broken impression of all the things I like with many gaps.

Pet food and pet care supplies. I don't, and never will own a pet.

Maybe too many cat videos?

Kids should only be able to view content vetted by a human. Full stop.

Too bad it's never going to happen.

Historically, that human was called a parent. Parents today have no chance at the on-slaught of content and the delivery mechanisms for it. When I was a kid, there were 3 networks with a handful of UHF channels. Cartoons only ran on Saturday morning, most channels went off the air at midnight, and the TV censors were much more strict with would could be on the air. My parents had it easy. When I became a parent, the internet was still small, and YT wouldn't be a thing for another 10 years. I feel for my kid becoming a parent though, or others dealing with it now.

> Historically, that human was called a parent

Yes and no. From your own example, the censors and rules made it clear to parents what and when their kids could watch without the parents having to expend too much time and effort to double check everything. In theory, something branded 'YouTube Kids' would fit the same purpose and many parents probably assume it is fine based on their experience with offline media. The problem is there is no strictness or quality control like you mention.

There was also a network level curator like PBS, Nickelodeon or Disney. Are there people/teams making vetted youtube playlists of content that surpasses a certain level of quality?

That would be an interesting Kids mode. "Only allow videos from playlists that have been added/sunk to this account." Kind of a middle ground between making Google the content arbitrator and being able to watch every video before your kids do.

>There was also a network level curator like PBS, Nickelodeon or Disney.

That's kind of the point of YT though is to completely bypass the network curation. Nobody has what you want on or won't put your stuff on? Screw 'em! We bring you YouTube. The You was the big deal that bucked the network concept.

So no, there's never going to be a human curator for all of YT. If channels want to curate themselves, then they may or may not be rewarded for that with a larger subscriber base.

>That's kind of the point of YT though is to completely bypass the network curation.

Instead we have algoautoplay.

I'm describing opt in playlist producers. Why couldn't there be a level of "playlist curators" who exist not as channels. "Bob puts together really good playlists, whitelist all Bob approved videos." I subscribe to 10 curators and bobs my uncle. I want to follow bob for the videos he suggests not the ones he makes.

The idea of a channel curating itself is the anthesis of someone picking the best from many channels. Pop radio run by Taylor Swift would turn into her playing her album on repeat? How is that more useful than the album itself.

The evolution of the MTV VJ. It could even have an audio reaction track layered over the top of the playlist that can be toggled on off. They could add intro/outro commentary.

I would expect the people that would be good at doing that would not actually be interested in it since they would not really be able to monetize the viewers. The original owners would get the ad sales. Now, if they added ads to view while viewing the channel, maybe they could earn from those ads, or some smaller portion of the ad sales go to the list curator while the main still goes to content creator?

This is actually a brilliant idea and Youtube almost supports it. Channels can have playlists that have any videos, not only their own. All that's missing is to be able to restrict an account to certain playlists.

The other part is how to incentivize the creation of the playlists.

And a way to rank, score, sort, browse playlists. Currently the only way to stumble upon a playlist is to get linked to it from elsewhere or from an authors page?

Might break a little once Bob is popular enough to be offered money (or some other reward) for featuring videos they wouldn't otherwise pick. I do think it's a good idea though.

> Historically, that human was called a parent. Parents today have no chance at the on-slaught of content and the delivery mechanisms for it.

Unless you're letting a tablet, or the television raise your children, it's not because of the onslaught of content. The onslaught of content is nothing new - for the past century, mass media was producing more content than you could ever consume.

The problem is that parents aren't putting in the time and energy to curate the content their children consume. (I'm explicitly not going to go into the social reasons why, it's an interesting topic, but not really pertinent to this thread. Some people in this thread are bringing up technical reasons why, which I feel is more pertinent.)

It was a slippery slope. I'd like to claim that if parents spent less time staring at a screen in front of their children, there would also be less children staring at mind-numbing content online. The fact is, however, that many simply dump their kids in front of Youtube just so that they can spend time on social media themselves.

In other words: If we want to break kids' screen addictions then we need to start with their parents.

As a parent now going through this the whole thing I can't help but think of the "worse is better" essay. The conclusion I've come to is that we dove headlong into the promises of "better" technology and that worked for a long time, but since the rise of social media and smartphones we've crossed this threshold where "better is worse".

I grew up with a handful of channels and I can't really say it was much of a hardship. When I compare to the endless doomscrolling of YouTube for yet another Minecraft video I see my boy doing I can't help but feel like the algorithms have got his mind in a vice already. The technology seems better in every way, but the negatives are also amplified.

Ehh, it's not quite that unidimensional. Kids also used to roam freely around the neighborhood, and find the stash of porn mags in the local hobo camp.

YouTube Kids has a setting for that, at least: https://www.techlicious.com/blog/curated-content-youtube-kid...

I’m unable to find that setting in the YouTube Kids app on my iPhone. Is it on yours?

There are those who would say that that human should be a parental unit.

Those who are a parent would say that those who do have no idea.

That would depend a lot on the parent. I know plenty of parents who would agree.

I watched the decline in phases between my oldest nephew’s birth in 2007, my sons in 2011 and my nieces more recently.

YouTube is measurably worse, especially for children’s content. There was amazing music and educational stuff in there, and it’s still there. But those creators are gone in the sense that there isn’t a lot of new content as the garbage you describe took over.

It’s reflective of the poor leadership of that part of the company. Based on conversations with fellow parents, YouTube is a no-go zone for them. The idiot who got a big bonus for “engagement” targeting kids will be long gone when the brand toxicity kills the growth.

Look at Netflix as a comparison of a company with similar product, but who has self-respect. Netflix has a ruthless focus on engagement, but you don’t see the type of vacuous content. Netflix never auto played by 3 year old to a creepy clown hiding in a kids video. If anything, they elevated television in many ways.

>really make it hard for quality content to succeed

It's the opposite. Quality content goes viral where bad content will stop getting recommended to people.

>Cheap and almost copied content gets rewarded the most

What gets rewarded the most is entertaining videos. YouTube doesn't care if that video took 10 minutes to make or 10 months. It just sees how good the video is at entertaining people.

You said it yourself, it isn’t quality content that gets rewarded, it’s entertaining content or, more specifically, content that gets you engaged. So it isn’t the opposite, it’s their point exactly.

The parent implied that quality content was at a disadvantage by the algorithm when that is just not the case. I believe that quality content is correlated with its entertainment value.

Having never seen any of these videos, that video is weirdly engaging. It has something logical to it, but its way more abstract than a true story. Its actually really fascinating that there is some thread to follow along with and a certain amount of surprise even if it is largely meaningless. It makes me think that once you've memorized all the narrative and visual tropes of western media, your bog standard reality TV is probably as intellectually engaging as videos like these. Which isn't to say its okay for kids, but that you probably shouldn't be watching daytime TV any time soon if you value your own brain as much as you value your kids'.

> It makes me think that once you've memorized all the narrative and visual tropes of western media, your bog standard reality TV is probably as intellectually engaging as videos like these.

As someone who can't help but look for those narrative and visual tropes, I can indeed confirm that the bog standard reality TV show, and the vast majority of non-reality TV shows are about this intellectually un-engaging.

I also wonder if it's somehow specifically engineered to keep your attention. The alternating yellow and black lines specifically seemed like a weird feature, and it made me wonder if the whole thing wasn't somehow calibrated, rather than low-effort and arbitrary.

It's very common for multiple version of these videos to be uploaded with only aesthetic differences, presumably for the next round of engagement optimization.

Content farming at its best. Cheap assets and autogenerated computer voice, someone is churning a dozen of these every day with different subjects.

Then they're posted to dozens of YT channels in different languages with highly algorithm-optimised names and descriptions.

Boom, money.

Who is paying money to target kids that young?

Advertising to kids has traditionally been profitable since the invention of cartoons. But, this is pretty much entirely poorly-managed advertising money being sucked up by content farmers. YouTube makes huge profits directing completely useless ads to tens of millions of rapt toddlers watching reptile-brain videos for hours a day.

Unboxing videos are the big paydays for advertisers.

Kids have parents who are ready to pay to make them "happy"

it's not like 2 year olds have their own google account. It's the parent's account being advertised to

That channel, OKKYDOKY, has 1.2 MILLION views. Who makes that stuff? WHY? It even purports to be from the USA. It's just some weird anonymous garbage. How do the people that make that stuff sleep at night? It's like they're trying to exploit glitches in the brains of toddlers.

I’ve wondered too. I remember looking into the various conspiracies / scandals from a few years back (Elsagate and similar things) and some of it was just extremely bizarre (and likely frightening to some kids) and just had such a mass of content.

There are all sorts of conspiracies from some psyop stuff to AI/ML generated content. I have not ideas what to even begin to think.

The easiest answer I suppose is just some companies found an easy way to mass produce videos towards an demographic that will not mind mindless clicking, and that that will translate to more views and more money. That still doesn’t explain the bizarre and disturbing content some of them put out.

This stuff doesn't require corporate conspiracies. Imagine being a tech-literate person in some very poor country. You discover that if you churn out Flash videos of pregnant Spiderman pulling thorns out of a kitten's paws while spiders crawl down the walls and Elsa is vomiting in the background, you can make a pretty good living for your area without leaving your apartment. You might object to the idea. But, it only takes a few people who say "Fuck it. I need money." to churn out huge quantities of this stuff.

Is this actually a real video?

I could believe it. There was one that went around enough to make the news a few years ago. Peppa Pig goes to the dentist. Starts off as you might expect if it were wholesome. Then it begins. Everything is in constantly shifting perspective. A giant syringe comes out. The shadows grow long. Peppa Pig then has her teeth pulled out. The audio has children crying, but not closely synced to the video.

My take was that it was crafted to be optimally engaging to a child of about four years of age. With no other purpose. Maybe even semi-automatically generated. The subject matter is a common fear of children. The video does not have enough to push it quite over the edge to any horror/revulsion response. Any particular frame would not be too out of place in a children's cartoon. As an adult, it disturbs mostly when you realize what's going on behind it conceptually.

Obviously worked as intended, given how many views it got. https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-39381889


There are thousands of video variations of that theme. Someone else here mentioned people cosplaying the characters in creepy ways. I think it started there and evolved rapidly into automated production of reptile-brain trigger material.

They probably sleep pretty well with the nice new comfy bed and pillows they are able to afford off of the channel.

I mean, 1.2M views for the whole channel is... almost nothing, in terms of $? Surely not enough to affore new comfy bed and pillows?

1.2M views is worth thousands of dollars to the right demographic.

I expect that there are whole networks of channels that put out this stuff. The channel in question hasn't been active in a year. The "content creators" probably don't depend on any one channel to deliver their "creations".

I'd guess between $1k to $5k, and probably on the lower end of that spectrum. Might be worth it in a low cost of living country.

I'd recommend blocking the entire channel each time you see a video like this, and also go through the top hundred recommended videos or so and block all the channels with content you don't like. I've only blocked a few dozen channels, and we barely see any of this stuff now. The UI might be a bit confusing, because you can only block a channel if you're currently viewing a video from it.

I do wish I could just whitelist channels, or get automatic recommendations for channels to block.

Yes. We have noticed these too. And there were videos of silly kids doing silly things (like pretend fighting / chasing). And characters just walking inside video games (like Minecraft). Totally pointless and meaningless videos. Constantly and automatically play one after another.

A single video would appear harmless. But hundreds (maybe thousands) of these? Horrible.

Am I the only one who doesn't see what's so creepy about this? It's a bunch of colors, and cars being dipped into the colors, with dumb music and sfx. Is it really so harmful? Honestly curious as I don't have kids of my own, so not sure.

I thought the same thing when we initially put them on. I thought "hey they're a bit weird, but this is the internet! What isn't weird here!?!?"

But if you put them on continuously in front of a young kid (or at least my kid) and you can almost see their gray matter being systematically obliterated.

I think its childhood equivalent of mindless doomscrolling.

There's nothing on the surface that seems bad, but it's weirdly creepy and unsettling, not to mention low production values. Doubly so when you see a two year old completely zoned out while watching it - staring, hardly breathing, insensate to the rest of the world.

Well, we know that childhood is extremely important to the development of humans, but we don't know what kids turn out to be if all they watch for years is just a bunch of colors that trigger dopamine and serotonin release constantly. Almost all adults in the U.S. today grew up with some form of media as T.V.s have always been pretty cheap one-time purchases (until recently with cable TV), so if you replace TV content (which at least always had a plotline or other educational content) with YT Kids they might turn out to be worse at problem-solving or other daily tasks that you need to perform for most jobs. It's definitely a subject that should be studied.

I'd make a guess that the video in question hijacks the reward system in the brains by showing repetitive, almost identical, but slightly different events: kids still learn to predict the world and when they see their prediction as correct, their brains produces dopamine. It doesn't work on adults because for an adult brain there's nothing to predict there.

This video needs to be taken down immediately. For one, it normalizes a bloated police apparatus. The concept of a Ferrari police car is an abomination. Secondly, it presents a distorted view of fluid dynamics, Newtonian physics, and material science. Why does the paint move like that? Why is the reflective car absorbing paint like a sponge? Why doesn't the car follow a ballistic trajectory? Kids need to be protected from these things.

If you think this concern is overblown, just look at what Wile E. Coyote did to a generation of children. People grow up thinking you can walk off a cliff and not fall to your doom until you look down. We were told it was just a joke, but look at the dire consequences.

Uh, I know you're kidding, but a Lamborghini police car is totally a thing, somewhere: https://www.thedrive.com/news/37625/italian-police-use-lambo...

It’s not content that kids are learning anything from. It’s the same reason why so many parents use a tablet as a pacifier for toddlers - it keeps them quiet, but it’s just adding nothing of value.

As someone said below, even a show like Loony Tunes would be better, but preferably kids should be watching things such as PBS Kids.

Not sure what others feel, but the video feels particularly lifeless to me. Combined with the effects mentioned by the grandparent post. Mentioned it seemed ok for a while.

I don't allow my kid to use youtube at all so it is preaching to the choir here, pinch of salt, etc.

Yup those videos are exactly what caused me to swear of YouTube too... just weird memorizing content.

No YouTube anymore. PBS Kids from there on.

I can’t tell if you’re also saying no to PBS kids or not, but based on my own observations as a parent I have to say PBS kids (and PBS in general) is the best kids programming out there. Full stop.

Valid point, I wrote that poorly. PBS Kids is awesome.

With my 1 year old, we used YT Kids videos in the hospital in place of benzos during central line dressing changes (a relatively painless but annoying and time-consuming procedure that they need to remain very still for).

The slack-jaw lobotomized YT Kids look is honestly scarier than the benzo loopies. I think we’re done with it.

> it was like he was being lobotomized, and begged for them constantly


Thanks to people dismissing ElsaGate as "just weird videos", that issue never got the attention it actually deserved. Aside from the countless rationalizations, part of the blame is on YT in my books; mostly for saying "it's fine, we'll deal with it" instead of collecting data, analyzing it, and making the results public to warn parents.

Folding Ideas has a good video on these specific kind of content farm videos.


My opinion on this isn't popular. One time I was discussing Sesame Street with a friend who said how great it was at teaching kids - his kid knew the alphabet when entering school.

I asked how often his kid watched SS. With a back of envelope calculation, I pointed out that it took SS several hundred hours to teach his kid the alphabet. I.e. it was the most inefficient, time-consuming teaching method ever devised.

(I was taught the alphabet in first grade by singing the alphabet song. This was before SS.)

Do you think your friend might have been using the alphabet as an example of what Sesame Street had taught his kid, and not as a complete catalogue?

He was pretty specific.

Sesame Street doesn't only teach alphabet.

It's completely passive. It's not how people learn. It looks like it should be educational, but let's face it. It's a great way to distract the kids so the parents can take a break. Parents need make no effort, just push a button.

No wonder it's popular.

You don't think he remembers the numbers and colors? He might, he's just not saying it. When my kid first recited their 1-10 or ABC. They didn't recite a few. One day out of the blue they went from beginning to end. You might think they are not learning but they are soaking up and just might take some time before they start expressing their knowledge. That said, I would be annoyed to have that play on repeatedly.

This, a hundred times. YouTube kids has content addiction to a science. My kid still asks for YouTube at age 6. It’s been banned from our house since he was 3.

Whew. I was afraid it was going to link to Super Simple Songs.

For what it's worth, we found https://www.youtube.com/user/SuperSimpleSongs via the Khan Academy Kids app. They have select videos (from what we've seen) from this particular creator that they break up into the app and make responsive.

So for example they may play a bit of 'Do you know the muffin man,' then pause it and ask the child to tap on the ___. Or tap and count the ___.

Given how he's been developing, and that we'll break into random songs that we learned from the series, I've no complaints with a few channels.

We’ve been happy with Super Simple Songs, and they play on Echo, Apple Music, too, for a less visually stimulating experience.

Generally agree and I loathe those (and many educational videos generally) so much that I far prefer that my kids watch Grizzy or Tom & Jerry, that is at least really funny sometimes and contrary to pretend-instructional so far out that it is obviously not real.

(Although what I like most is to sit and watch crazy repair videos together with them: welding of excavator arms, disassembly and restoration of everyday items etc.)

However, credit were credit is due: one of my kid spent some time on those channels around age 4 to 5 and actually surprised me by having learned English numbers, and not superficially: I was totally amazed when that kid could not only count to 20 in English but also instantly translate between the language his mother talks and English. Compared to other kids I know just being able to consistently count to 20 in one language might often be a challenge.

A little more criticism: in addition to pretend-educational videos which I find mightily annoying there were also a number of kids-unboxing-box-after-box-of-expensive-toys which seemed to me to be the worst.

I find that video deeply unsettling.

I feel like those videos could be generated without human intervention, by hooking a neural net up to some video software and pre-made assets and optimizing for views. And, while that's not literally how they're made, the difference feels increasingly academic.

> And, while that's not literally how they're made

You sure? After watching a couple of 'em I ain't sure it's even physically possible for a human to come up with something so absurdly inhuman.

It's like if that "surreal entertainment" channel branched out into actual kids' content instead of parodies thereof.

Same. I particularly found the use of a bong-rip sound effect when the car was in the paint very odd.

It’s steam, not bong rip.

Sorry, but that’s smoke not steam. My pots don’t make that sound when boiling water. I’ve heard other “pots” in pipes that sound exactly like that though.

I thought you were going to link to one of those “egg opening” videos. They’re the reason I don’t turn on youtube. The terrible thing is that one of them made it on to Netflix... now I have to get rid of Netflix because its all she’ll watch if she sees its icon. I wish there was a way to block specific shows on Netflix.

The worst thing is as a parent you are not in control of what is recommended or what kids can watch. I wish they allowed flagging videos through history but yt has other priorities I guess

Oh my god, that is horrid.

Personally, I would say I learned very much when I first watched these videos on YouTube. Not about colors, though.

Before I even clicked the link I guessed which video it was.. Oh man, that's not good.. ;\

our kids also have found things like this which lead to YouTube bans in the house - now, they 1.5 and 4yo both seek content that is far more engaging than the above video.

One helpful thing was raising the age for their YouTube kids.. I don't want them just navigating YouTube alone.

Curated and at least semi-professionally produced content, like PBS kids, is infinitely better in terms of providing consistently good content. I think YouTube is at its heart fundamentally incompatible with providing only high quality enriching content.

Everyone being able to make content means there are gems that would never otherwise get made, and also vast wastelands of garbage to sort through, or get dumped into by the algorithm.

PBS Kids is made by people optimizing for quality content.

YT Kids is made by people optimizing for marketing dollars.

You can thank OPB for that. They have been long time partners with PBS and they curate and provide the pbs kids app and YouTube stream.

Yeah I mix Youtube Kids with PBS with good success, the key I found is to just watch it with them.

Compared to what I grew up on cable with manipulative ads YouTube Kids isn't even close to that level, but then again I make a point to pay attention to the content on there.

I think YouTube has and does provide high quality content, it's the filtering that's the tough part.

YouTube Kids does have a way of turning on curated content only[0]. The main problem is that when you do that the library is tiny (and seemingly stuck in time).

This isn't the default though: Parents have to actively enable it. But it does get rid of most of the toy/McDonald's/etc adverts and "child personalities" that are prominent on the platform.

[0] https://blog.youtube/news-and-events/introducing-new-choices...

> I think YouTube is at its heart fundamentally incompatible with providing only high quality enriching content.

You could say that about any publisher or platform.

PBS Kids was great the last time I saw it. Have they managed to stay neutral and not become politicized like so much of the media in the US?

It is nearly impossible to answer this question because everyone means something totally different by apolitical and neutral these days, but as far as I can see it is simple, positive children’s programs.

We love PBS kids for my 2,4,6 year olds. I don't feel I've seen any content I'd consider politicized on there.

I'm fairly sure PBS Kids contains politics since it has Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is absolutely "political" just like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was.

How was Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood political?

I am still not clear how including black people or autistic people is political?

Did you know the US used to have segregation? Of course showing black people on TV is political.


Admitting that black or autistic people exist is political now. Gotcha.

It certainly is to the people complaining that TV is too political. It’s even worse if they admit gay people exist.

> I think YouTube is at its heart fundamentally incompatible with providing only high quality enriching content.

I think this is in some ways similar to reddit. While there are some great threads from time-to-time, it is a way for people to quickly vent/amuse themselves.

Once I un-subscribed from all the defaults and main stream subs, content got wildly better for me. I still appreciate being able to pick what subreddits I see, instead of a big prediction engine pulling from different subs I may like.

Huge ones like /r/askreddit are like tabloids. Same with any big /r/*advice. Niche subreddits are so good though.

Ex: https://www.reddit.com/r/cyberDeck/

That's a great point, and is in fact something I wanted to touch upon in my previous comment. Being able to choose great subreddits is a big plus, and to be fair there are great YT creators who create great niche content. But a common theme has been that they usually start small in size (hence niche) but the moment they grow big, they start to "look" similar to the large channels/subreddits: for YT, they start getting bombarded with clickbait titles, sponsored videos (not just an ad/video). For reddit, "funny"/"flaming" comments hijack every discussion.

It's basically correct, there's very little of value on YT kids. It's junk food ADHD content, continuously. Just crappy content like ripoff songs and kids playing with toys, a giant toy advert. My little one used to go nuts when I turned it off.

I've had to get rid of it in my house. Standard YT has some interesting channels that you can learn a lot from, but it's worth it for me to PiHole anything youtube anyway. Now I just curate interesting videos and the kids have to watch it with me.

Letting your kid browse algorithmically generated content is not wise :P If I'm vulnerable to stupid clickbait, can't imagine how badly children can be manipulated.

Yes, though they don't have credit cards, so the damage is limited to stunting their psychological development.

Well as long as it's low downside I'm fine with it

It's interesting how fast they find their favorite clips when I give them a phone in Incognito Mode Youtube for 15 minutes. I seed it with a normal kids clip like a Peppa Pig or something but somehow she used to find this weird car slowly crushing colorful objects channel every time.

> Now I just curate interesting videos and the kids have to watch it with me.

I also curate content to watch with my daughter. It started long before she had access to a computer, because it made for a nice pocket of time to share fun moments in the evenings.

We call them "Watch With XXX" (where XXX is my daughter's nickname). When I find something I think she'll like, I email it to myself with the subject "wwXXX". An email filter shuffles them off to a separate mailbox. She regularly asks if I have any new WWXXX's, or if we can watch an old favorite again.

>It's junk food ADHD content

ADHD isn't an adjective.

I've never let my kid watch youtube(or kids) but I will sit with him and watch mark rober squirrel video or smarter everyday or letsdig18. But it's less than 1 video a week. I think that's the only way to parent appropriately with YouTube...

My kid had a great experience with YouTube kids. He learned so much from it, it shocked me. At one point he memorized all the presidents and very detailed minutiae about the dwarf planets, most I had never heard of.

My friends had a worse experience. Their daughter started watching cosplay videos where actors would dress up like Elsa and the Joker, and the Joker would kidnap Elsa and tie her up. Borderline porn and pretty inappropriate. Then she got fixated on makeup videos and they couldn’t stop her from watching those.

It sort of proves the point that Google’s search and suggestion algorithms take your interests and magnify them instead of giving breadth.

> Then she got fixated on makeup videos and they couldn’t stop her from watching those.

If the kid has the last word on what she watches, the parents have their own problems. A family is more like a monarchy than a democracy, children can't outvote parents.

Many if not most people aren’t sitting over their kids as they watch YouTube. And it’s hard to get a 4/5 year old to comply to anything.

YT Kids doesn't have great browsing abilities, unless you're old enough to search. You're watching a video, and there's a carousel of related videos below it. It's very easy to get stuck in a loop.

I mean, sure they can. They just make the parents miserable until the parents comply.

My 5 yo niece watched an automatic playlist of a show and in between there was a "top 5 stolen kisses from $SHOW" and a fan cut video "$PROTAGONIST killed" of a villain turning a protagonist into a lifeless marble.

I swore off Youtube Kids a while ago due to the inability to whitelist / black list effectively (I hear it is better now).

There really was a strange amount of 'empty' what seems like almost procedural generated type content that is just sound and noise and nothing happening.

It's like hypnotoad with slightly more action, but only slightly more action.

I go with PBS Video (https://pbskids.org/) if I need a quick go to type video for the kids. I trust PBS a hell of a lot more.

I confirm that you can blacklist in YT kids now. You need to be logged in as a parent. You can block individual creators from the main YTK page then.

One unintended consequence of the FTC settlement mentioned in the article is that almost no-one wants to create high quality kid-friendly content anymore, because doing so forces them to accept huge restrictions on how everyone interacts with it - now no-one can add those videos to playlists or leave comments on them, by FTC decree, even if they're adults on the main version of YouTube. So anyone producing content that isn't vapid trash and could actually attract a wide audience is incentivised to aggressively exclude kids from that audience.

This is infuriating as a parent. My daughter likes certain videos, and I have to write down the titles of her favorite videos to search for them every time she asks for them. (We watch YouTube on an nvidia shield).

I honestly don't understand how this restriction makes sense, it all seems punitive.

At least on the web version, funnily enough you can do add them to a playlist. If you do it from the search results list, not the video permalink.

You could also try if an alternative YouTube client like NewPipe works on the Shield, and brings more useful bookmarking features? (Another option would be downloading them, again with NewPipe or on a PC, and keeping the files somewhere)

I was not aware of Newpipe, I will look into that. Thank you.

Your advice is eminently practical. I already have a PLEX server, I could just youtube-dl the videos/channels she likes.

That's exactly what I did. My kid loves live music like NPR tiny desk concerts. It also allows me to censor the few that had some bad words.

I'd still prefer if I could whitelist regular YouTube videos I explicitly approve of...

Ah, if you have a plex server that makes that part easier. But really depends on how you use it, e.g. if you explore YT together an app that can browse is obviously better than just downloaded backups.

My uninformed answer is that one of the things that promoted YouTube into implementing this stuff was a YT peadophile ring was discovered to be sharing 'questionable moments' with playlists, comments and timestamps. Creepy as fuck.

Oh, that's... unpleasant. I remember Tosh.0 talking about some channel which mostly had young to very young girls doing gymnastics or having pool parties, etc.

I could see the need to end that, but, why can't I make a private playlist with my kiddo's videos?

I struggle to understand how personal playlists need a user to work. And comments... well, YT Kids audience is not the most commenting one...

I recall that YouTube had a problem with pedophiles using YouTube's standard features to discover and recommend each other otherwise innocuous videos. If I'm not mistaken, it's one of the reasons why they crippled their sidebar recommendations.

What's so stupid is trying to avoid having humans in the loop. Paying an educator to find 100 hours of decent content per age level couldn't cost much. It isn't youtube, it doesn't have to be endless. But it needs to be good and appropriate. Human curation is the right thing to do.

That seems to be antithetical to Alphabet's core strategy: automate everything.

Or sometimes just pay a ton of contractors to do something, and then tech media reports it as automating things.

What you're describing is Netflix.

My kids HATE YouTube kids. It's utterly devoid of actual content, and I suspect it's sole reason for existence is to force parents to help their children lie about their age so they can access actual content on real YouTube. Google's family features really are quite terrible... For example, with Google Family, kids can't log into Google Play Games which blocks most games on Android, once again giving parents the choice to lie about the kids age, shut off all parental controls or basically tell your kids, "no games until you are 14". Likewise with YouTube Music, kids under 14 cannot even use it. So if you buy a family subscription, your kids can't use it unless you tell Google your kids are 14. The whole experience is shabby, and I think they could do a lot better. It is almost as if they design family features to suck so completely and utterly that you have to bypass them... Also, for kids over 14, there's no way to block them from making purchases with the family payment method...

The trouble is that due to COPPA and probably similar laws in other countries, there are huge legal headaches involved in offering any kind of online account to under-13s - especially one which is shared with a whole bunch of third parties like Google Play Games is every time you log into a game. So I can't imagine Google changing that any time soon. Even just offering content that under-13s might plausibly set up adult accounts to access exposes them to fairly substantial legal risk.

I don't think you are understanding the issue:

1. Kid can't login to google play games and can't play some games and can't save progress in other games.

2. Kid gets parent to change their age or kid registers an adult google account outside of family controls.

3. Kid can now play games and save progress, etc. In all cases, parents lose controls and kid can spend money with impunity on family account (if you change their age).

And parents point is that if congress or the federal government comes knocking, Google can point and say "we offer a compliant kids account, the customer choose to break the ToS and lie to us! we can't do much against that!". Whereas if they allow something deemed "bad" on the official kids accounts, Google gets the blame. So it's easier for them to just do a safe-as-possible kids version, picking "safety" over usability.

At some point, this behavior will lead to lawsuits. Forcing kids to lie to get access to a game does not even begin to absolve you from your responsibility under the law. It does establish a pattern where you are not making a paid-for feature available. I thought when I paid for my family account that my kids would be able to actually use YouTube, games from the play store and unlimited YouTube Music. They could not do any of that unless I changed their ages. This is fraud, no matter how cutely you try to dress it up. This crap needs to stop.

My daughter (9) got a phone recently and we're kinda managing it through Google's Family Link and it absolutely sucks in pretty much all regards. We're only interested in absolutely minimal control just to make sure she doesn't install something stupid/dangerous, other than that we trust her to use YouTube and the likes responsibly, but that's not The Google Way.

YouTube Kids was the first thing that bothered me. Google wouldn't let me allow her to install regular YouTube, so she was stuck with that horrible, insufferable crap that makes Teletubbies seem like Kieslowski. It's still beyond me why she should be barred from listening to stuff like Kraftwerk's The Robots, Bananarama's Na Na Hey Hey or Hit 'Em High from Space Jam, all of which she's much more into than whatever YouTube Kids thinks 9-year-olds are all about. Fortunately I stumbled upon a toggle in the Family Link settings that would let me let her install and use regular YouTube.

And forget about the YouTube Music family plan, that's just straight-up impossible on a sub-13 account. Then there's Spotify Kids (which is pretty much just as bad as YouTube Kids) but Spotify at least lets you lie about her age and install the regular app. (We've all heard the horror stories of Google completely shutting people out from Photos, Drive, etc. for lying about a kid's age, I'm not about to risk that just yet.)

Oh, and you're also not going to be gaming with your kid on her new phone. Google Play Games won't let sub-13s sign in with their Google account. So this PEGI-3 rated disc golf game with multiplayer but no player interaction is a total no-go.

I find it absolutely baffling how little control I have of these things as a parent. Why on earth can't I let my kid use YouTube Music? Why is she allowed to install a PEGI-3 rated multiplayer game but not play it? And why can't "sign in with my Google account" work like when she's asking permission to install an app? Seems like a pretty obvious way to go about it.


The problem you have is that you created a Family Link account and thereby told google that your child was under 13.

This is intended to meet legal liabilities, and the most egregious helicopter parents needs. And due to the Childs Online Privacy Protection Act, pretty much any app that uses advertising has terms of service that prevent children from using it.

You want Family Link to be less restrictive, but apparently the lawmakers in question won't be satisfied until the only thing your child can do is watch PBS reruns.

Not to jump to conclusions, but I think you are conflating a couple issues here, COPA exists and seeks to among other things prevent data collection of/on minors.

Googles implementation of family link is a ridiculously ham handed implementation of a walled garden type approach which is so bad it’s hard to imagine it is not purposefully designed to push folks to just lie about their children’s age.

This is not a conflation. Think it through: Google Play, YouTube, Google Music... these all perform advertising.

And then look at the actual parent article that we're talking about. It's all about how YouTube Kids includes too many videos that feature advertising. I think the connection is very clear.

Once you've accepted that the link is there, then it almost becomes impossible to imagine that it would work any other way. If they didn't hide the install button for YT, then lawmakers would probably say that Google intentionally is trying to get parents to install the real app (and the advertising that comes along with it). If the product does anything right, it'll be said it's making money from children.

If it was me: yes, I'd just lie about my kids age and move on with my life. Maybe that's just my anti-nanny-ware belief system, but I don't think it's appropriate to monitor children like that. I think either you trust them to be responsible online, or you don't. In your case, you do, so my suggestion is to just let them use the fully unlocked device. If they install malware, then wipe the phone. That's just part of life.

For what it's worth, having tried both on two kids ages 8 and 10, I found iOS's parental controls through Screen Time infinitely better. The Apple walled garden definitely has its down sides, but the ability to fluidly manage the content my kids can access on their iPads is actually terrific. You can't control YouTube, but we haven't let our kids access YouTube at all yet without requesting access to individual pages (usually assigned by their teachers).

I would agree with the assessment, but isn't your typical kids TV channel just as vapid? Are US lawmakers worried about the ads and commercialism we bombard our children with on conventional television?

Depends on the channel.

We have a dedicated public television channel where I am and the content is significantly better than YouTube: https://pbskids.org/

My kids will tell me about history and science that they pick up from those shows.

I don't think I've ever heard anything from them that I liked when it came to YouTube content.

PBS and similar publicly funded channels seems to be the exception rather than the rule here. Apparently taking market forces out of the equations is a good way to make better content for kids

I agree so much that I'd argue in a very general sense that PBS is also better content for adults... everyone ;)

Everyone on here seems to be blowing the trumpet for PBS Kids. Is it really that good? I haven't checked it.

Yes. It is the only “channel” that seems to focus on quality programming instead of marketing/engagement. And the shows are just straight-up excellent.

It really is that good.

Folks behind their content are motivated by creating good content for the kids rather than commerical interests.

YLE in Finland has amazing content (I think it's pretty much the NPR/PBS equivalent).

People in there are actually educated about kids' development, with actual entertainers and scientists.

It's less prominent now that the internet is a thing, but they do still speak about that topic occasionally, and it wasn't so long ago that it was a top political issue: https://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/30/us/tv-broadcasters-agree-...

Nrk in Norway has an amazing kids channel with no ads. Also on demand option with apps that can age restrict content.

I think some of the best purchases I've made for my kids' development is Apple TV and YouTube Premium ($13/month for no ads is a great deal).

My 4yo got into math heavily for a while, and shows like NumberBlocks were a big part of that.

He got into drumming this last year, and there's so much great content from kids not much older than him showing how to play pretty much any song you like. That really motivated him.

Any time we have a question pop-up that is best visualized to explain, like "Where does the poop go when we flush?", or "How does the wheat for bread grow?" - we just pick up the remote, ask the question with voice, and there's usually a couple of good quality clips to choose from.

Yes, there's a ton of junk. Don't let kids mindless watching YouTube (or yourself - I'm often guilty when the insomnia kicks in). But its also a total game-changer for the breadth of on-demand quality educational content if you use it right.

Bigger problem is the parents who let their children watch youtube or whatever way too much.

I'm curious of the long term effects.

Like you, I also think it's a disgrace. I had a friend who to me basically seemed like they didn't like dealing with kids, so just gave her daughter a tablet she was glued to at all times. I mean, young, I don't remember the age now but less than 2? She never made eye contact or any noise, just messing with the tablet. I can't help but think there's going to be a whole generation of socially broken kids. But, here's hoping I'm wrong.

So I think there are two aspects about this. They said the same about previous generations with music and TV. I really do think they are shared experiences of a specific generation. Referencing the Simpsons is a quick way to bond with new peers.

On the other side, it's an opportunity cost to doing something else. When you start learning anything about child development it gets a bit horrifying. For example, for young kids there are a bunch of stages to learning to talk. Watching video recordings doesn't fulfill much of the development. A lot relies on trial and error of interacting with someone speaking instead of passively watching something flat (or animated) that was prerecorded. For older ages, sitting in front of an iPad means foregoing motor development or peer engagement...or just building bad habits about fitness.

I think we might already be at a few... Though in vastly different ways. I don't think social media has been healthy, but just pure consumers that might be coming up could be worse...

I can't be the only person here who spent their youth glued to a computer, can I?

There are arguments made for and against that as well, but having a toddler glued to a tablet definitely doesn't seem right.

Also (assuming you were born in the 80s/early 90s), the internet of our childhood is VASTLY different from what it is today... Both in good ways and bad, but mostly bad ways.

I suppose, but I'm not sure it was that much more salutary obsessively reading GameFAQs or Something Awful forums.

Sure, blame the parents, and not the society that leaves us all exhausted from working too much and the dopamine-optimized algorithmic engagement furnace that is YouTube.

Yeah just keep blaming parents. That'll make everything better.

Being a parent is about sacrifice, lots and lots of it. That includes working yourself beyond exhaustion to provide for, feed, play with, give attention to, and talk with your kids. It isn't easy, but it's the moral responsibility of everyone who becomes a parent.

I realize a huge percentage of parents fail at this (some more than others), and the amount of work that must be done to make a living and the ease with which things like Youtube make handing off parenting to them doesn't help matters. But the moral responsibility still ultimately resides with the parents themselves.

Sure, being a parent is a massive moral responsibility. But the facts are that many kids have shitty parents through no fault of their own. I see kids who's parents let them go on Youtube/Tiktok for hours with no supervision. The fact is that if we don't do something as a society for these kids now, we'll be paying their therapy bills through our insurance in a couple of decades. So probably more efficient to do something now.

Yeah and the issue here is the marketing claims behind YouTube Kids are straight up false. It's setting up parents for failure by piling onto the already-exhausting burden.

It's just plain wrong.

The problem with society is that we've gotten to a point where everything is always somebody else's fault. No one is ever responsible for anything, it must be the fault of social conditioning, corporations, religions, upbringing, or literally anything else you want to blame. Sure those things play a part, but ultimately people are responsible for what they do. If someone is letting their 3 year old spend hours in front of YouTube every day then that's really their fault, not Google's

Come back to me when you've come home from a long workday to deal with the results of telling a small child "no" yet again. It's not pretty, and you gotta save your "nos" for what matters.

Setting up some parent to believe that letting their kid explore YouTube Kids on their own is a good idea through your marketing and then having the vast majority of the content on the service be low quality dreck with no redeeming value is setting up parents for failure.

YouTube Kids either needs to curate a lot better (as if) or back off on their marketing claims.

I do it everyday man. I had to block a kids channel called FGTV. The dad who runs the channel is super inappropriate and I didn't want my son to learn from him. Do you think my 5 year old understood that?

>It's not pretty, and you gotta save your "nos" for what matters.

Yes, but I'd argue that this matters.

Sure but you don’t even need to use a “no” once you realize that YT Kids is hot garbage and make it not even an option anymore.

This is a perfectly well-reasoned and responsible comment. I have no doubt that's what will make it unsuitable for upvoting.

YouTube is still a great place. And yes, it has a multitude of problems, but personally I don't believe it's YouTube's job to make it a completely safe space for kids. Just like with television, it's a parent/guardian's role to parent their kids and set boundaries.

> I don't believe it's YouTube's job to make it a completely safe space for kids

I would say it is if the product is literally YouTube Kids... [1]

[1] https://www.youtubekids.com

From their website [0]

> YouTube Kids was created to give kids a more contained environment that makes it simpler and more fun for them to explore on their own, and easier for parents and caregivers to guide their journey as they discover new and exciting interests along the way.

And from TFA,

> The letter claimed that one research team, which it did not name, found only about 4% of videos had a high educational value. Much of the rest was low quality content such as toy unboxing and videos of people playing video games.

I don't see how those 2 things are incompatible with each other. Not all children's programming needs to be "highly educational". I'd say toy unboxing and videos of people playing (child friendly, hopefully) video games is totally fine. Parents just need to stop using an iPad as a babysitter and actually limit the amount of time they're watching things.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/kids/

So much of that low quality dreck is really really far from "new and exciting interests" or safe for kids to "explore on their own".

Blaming parents is pretty far off base here. The whole point of the app is to let kids use it on their own, but it's clearly not safe to do so, because they'll rapidly trigger the recommendation algorithm into some dopamine-producing engagement-optimized garbage.

You can direct your kids to only watch stuff you approve of, but as soon as the recommendations start coming up, you're put in the position of saying "no", which with toddlers often leads to disproportionate screaming fits. I'd rather save dealing with that for the times when it's actually important to say "no" rather than trying to screen out some crappy low quality toy videos.

I've deleted the YouTube app and instead given my toddler free reign with the PBS Kids app. Much higher quality content that I'm happy to support with donations to PBS and WGBH.

And they did, it's just that something so "safe" is just completely bland and useless.

It's not bland and useless. It's only safe for a very narrow definition of the word.

It's "safe" in the sense that kids won't see boobies or hear potty words on the videos. But it's unsafe in that they will be constantly inundated with marketing content that is proven to be very effective on kids.

It depends on your definition of "safe". YT Kids might be completely safe from violent sexual content, but it's a "vapid wasteland" of content optimized for the engagement algorithm, which has no values other than watch time.

YT Kids videos (see some examples above) are highly tuned dopamine production displays with little educational content.

There is good content on YouTube, like Cbeebies and BBC Earth, but that's not what tends to bubble up on the recommendation system.

Even trying to watch individual videos or channels that I do like doesn't work well, because my two year old sees the recommendations and starts demanding what one, and now I have to say "no" to something that shouldn't have been offered in the first place.

I've taken to saying "you can watch anything you want on PBS Kids" in response to demands for YouTube videos of various sorts.

And yet it's apparent that many, perhaps the majority, of parents fail to do a decent job of that. If most of society will exercise minimal discernment in media consumption (and in their children's media consumption), at some point we should consider how we can make higher-quality (i.e. more edifying/educational) children's content easier to access than lower-quality content.

The only way I made it work was allowing only hand-picked channels. Otherwise my son was 2 clicks away of auto-generated null-quality videos.

Youtube is a vapid wasteland.

Is there interesting stuff? Sure. But it won't be recommended to you. And that's what the service really is, a recommendation engine. If there was no algorithm, just a video host, youtube would be much better.

It used to be that you could search anything and you would find some related videos plus some random stuff people submitted or related through the description.

Now, no matter what you search: it limits you to the most popular results, you see almost no random video uploads even after using filters, plus extra results unrelated to your search that YouTube will insist you watch even if it is unrelated to your original search.

Truly lacking.

> Is there interesting stuff? Sure. But it won't be recommended to you.

There is a lot of interesting stuff on YouTube that is recommended to me, at least when I am logged in.

When I am browsing in private mode or looking at the "trending" tab, it is less relevant to my interests (to put it gently) but it is not all terrible either.

The comment section is the worst though, and it seems like YouTube is working hard at making is as uninteresting as possible. It looks like they are somewhat successful at preventing it from being toxic, but it looks like it works by killing all form of discussion and instead put forward endlessly copy-pasted memes.

It's been interesting watching the slightly slippery slope of YouTube with our children (now 7 and 10). A lot of good stuff isn't on YouTube Kids - to give an example off the top of my head, the Royal Institution channel with its Christmas lectures and lots of other really good content isn't on there. They also got very much into building things with redstone with Minecraft and many of the videos explaining things related to that are only on the adult version. As a result, we quickly gave up on YouTube Kids.

There isn't any way to turn off recommendations that I could find and it's not realistic to pre-watch every video they watch and it's not easy to come up with good criteria for what it is ok for them to watch or not watch. I guess all you can do is keep half an eye on them while they are watching things. I think we've been lucky in terms of not hitting anything too terrible.

Not sure what the solution is. There's a difference between low-quality content and unsuitable content and every parent will have different options. I'd really like to be able to add and remove particular channels to YouTube Kids and to turn off the recommendations.

Both of my kids watched YouTube kids on their iPad from around 2-4 years old. There is definitely some garbage on there (I'm looking at you surprise egg unboxing videos), but there is also a lot of content on there that I found pretty clever. Anyway - the point in our house was never to be educational, it was to give our kids (and us) 30 minutes to just chill out and relax. And it was extremely good in that capacity.

The worries about commercialism turned out to be unfounded in our case. Yes - there were a few times that they wanted a toy they saw on YouTube, but they soon realized after getting their hands on them that in reality most of that stuff is crap. They pretty quickly grew out of watching/coveting toys they saw there, and in fact, I have found that they seem to be far less interested in toys than I was at their age.

I also always got the feeling that a lot of content on PBS kids was more geared at parents than children. "Little Einsteins" for example isn't a bad show, but feels a little heavy handed to me in the degree to which it moralizes and pushes things like classical music appreciation on small children. Honestly, I really don't see a lot of value in teaching a three year old the theme to Beethoven's 9th symphony vs. Baby Shark. And it never held my kids' attention like YouTube kids could.

A bigger concern for me now is just the addictiveness of the iPad/iPhone in general. They both lost interest in YouTube Kids around 4 years old, but they haven't lost interest in those devices. Our older son in particular could spend a whole day clicking mindlessly around iOS if we didn't limit him. So could I, for that matter.

My kiddo uses YouTube Kids daily and I find it to be a great service with shows like Katie's Classroom which is like video preschool.

There are great channels to be found, but also a ton of weird crap that shows up in the recommendations. The stuff that bubbles to the top of the recommendations often isn't quality content; it's stuff optimized for watch time.

There's a class of videos that seem designed to make kids' brains produce dopamine and want to watch more and more.

If you control the remote or device, then sure, fine, stick to quality content, but I wish there was a way to turn off the recommendations that show up on the big screen at the end of the video or when the app loads but before I've searched for or cast something.

I work in a preschool and we love playing the kids yoga/movement based songs for the kids sometimes. During the winter when its too cold to play outside, we do some kids yoga and the kids love it. There are tons of good channels with this kind of content that are, imo, super beneficial

My kids watch in on weekends and we've found it pretty valuable as well. There's "junk food" crap on there, sure, but what we've seen is pretty innocuous.

Do Google executives allow their children and grandchildren to watch YouTube kids? I'd be surprised if they did without significant parental oversight.

YouTube Kids is so bad, https://youtu.be/oEYUjI3mkB0 ... so nightmarish platform

still same problem as 3 years ago ( https://www.engadget.com/2018-03-23-youtube-still-plagued-di... )

While horrible, that's not YouTube Kids. It's just normal YouTube content by someone who thinks this kind of parody is hilarious.

This cartoon was part of YouTube Kids (maybe this is just a mirror, and if it's a mirror, I don't understand why YouTube doesn't remove it, at least on DMCA grounds).

There is so much weirdness anyway there (see for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFfFMZQyxB0 posted few days ago )

It's clearly possible to see nobody moderated this content


I don't think it's that bad. As with any service, depends what your the user is into. Do the lawmakers prefer television? I don't think that is better. No ads on Youtubekids, aside from the sponsored stuff. That's a plus.

My kid (2) stumbled across this video recommended.



It was not this exact videos, but it was very similar and in the description it said fun for kids, kids shows pepper pig.

They were trying to show todlers horror content. It made me sick to think someone thought this was funny.

These videos are not the problem it was other people reuploading similar content edited optimising for children traffic.

Fortunately my kids grew up with access to high quality fta tv and streaming app from a public broadcaster (ABC Kids in Australia) which draws on educational consultants, great performers, writers, animators etc. I don't understand why anyone would want to put their kids in front of some random crap instead of the Wiggles or Bluey if they have the option.

Kids spend way too much time in front of tv. It is just a fact with our lifestyles. So you might as well invest some money in it as a nation and make sure it is high quality.

The YouTube Kids AppleTV app is also horrible. It freezes and needs to be restarted constantly immediately after opening.

But even worse is that there is no way to quickly rewind or fast forward. You can only use the skip 10 seconds buttons. So if my son watches half of a show and wants to watch it again a week later, the show starts where he left off. I end up having to click the remote about 200 times to get back to the start. I upgraded to get rid of ads, which has made the experience much better, but the UI is really infuriating.

My kids don't like youtube kids and prefer regular youtube so there's that which I don't know what to make of. They watch a lot of young adults doing adventure things and 24 hour challenges, among us in real life.

Then there are roblox and minecraft videos which they watch and then go off and play with their friends while all facetiming together. Now they want to be youtubers.

So it is not all mindless.

People are ignoring by far the worst issue with YouTube Kids - as a parent you have no power to curate anything.

It would be one thing if you as a parent could say "anything from these channels is okay", but your only option is to block videos one at a time. As it is, I have no way to prevent my toddler from spending 4 hours watching random Serbian videos of toys being dipped paint.

Anybody remember when SonicWALL had a Youtube integration to restrict specific videos for schools?

‘YouTube for Schools’


I think they are right, but why is what bureaucrats think about YouTube Kids newsworthy? Politicians will always find results that lead them to being the protectors of children. They are using this to parlay into a bill being passed, as opposed to creating a campaign to inform parents they need to oversee their children better.

Yes, but I'm not sure it's the government's place to decide how much educational content is required for "kids" content.

I agree that there should be some reasonable restrictions on advertising, but deciding what is a waste of time doesn't seem like it's really in the government's authority.


Government nanny pearl-clutching over children's entertainment is a time-honored tradition. They said comic books rotted kids brains in the 50s. They said He-Man was too violent in the 80s. They said video games were training killers in the 90s. They said animated shows had too many advertisements, introduced regulations to limit how much time could be allocated to commercials for animated shows, and ultimately put the final nail in the coffin of the multi-generational tradition of Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Instead of letting parents decide what their kids can and can't watch, the government feels the need to do something about the lack of appropriately wholesome content.

My kids watch Youtube Kids. Some of it is pretty terrible - fast food directly to their brains. Some of it is great - it stretches their imagination and vocabulary and skills.

And because my kids are kids, sometimes they eat actual fast food too. And consuming virtual fast-food or real fast-food is not anyone else's problem.

That's all well and good, but YouTube Kids lacks the TOOLS that parents need to help protect their children from the junk.

The problem is that there's no money to be made from curation and high costs in doing so, therefore Google/YouTube simply does the bare minimum to avoid critique.

You can ban individual videos and even channels, but this "solution" scales poorly with near infinite videos/channels, much of it unsuitable for your parenting goals.

I agree that there is some fantastic content on the platform, but it is like a 5:1 thing between trash:quality. That's a problem.

I have no interest in Youtube (or the government) deciding what is suitable and unsuitable. They've both failed miserably at similar efforts elsewhere.

I can get behind the idea that I'd like better tools to monitor and curate the video content being streamed to my kids. I'd even be willing to pay for it! But I am not compelled at all that government needs to do something.

Let me get this straight -- a commercial ad-driven marketplace supplies a very substantial amount of content consumed by children and markets it as educational (and/or allows such marketing), parents are not educational experts, and you think it's problematic that the government might see a need to step in, starting with some basic fact-finding?

Nobody is shutting the service down, dude. Maybe we find that nothing is really wrong. Maybe we challenge the company to more appropriately rate content that's marketed as educational, or do better ad filtering, so that parents can make informed decisions. Right now there are pretty clearly no requirements and lots of obviously false pedagogical claims, and parents can't afford to pre-vet all the content their kids might watch (and the marketing tells them they shouldn't have to).

I don't see what your problem is. This is a major new phenomenon facing parents, it's super weird that you think some fact-finding is nanny pearl clutching.

This is a major new phenomenon facing parents

No. It's not. That's the whole point.

* 6 years old

* hundreds of millions of videos

* many make fairly strong pedagogical claims

* mixed in advertising and product placement

The third one there is the most important here. This isn't comic books, because comic books largely didn't claim to be educational. Seems like a new phenomenon to me. We have truth in advertising laws for good reasons -- companies making obviously false claims about their products' educational value is one of them.

Here is a nice project that illustrates the present situation, Brain Nursery Egg TV [0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiPXKXg9wP5Rgu2YdAVYWDQ


The problem is, as soon as good content ends you are presented with videos chosen by algorithm. In absolutely no time kids will optimize for this via the suggestion bar. The other content is from the bizarre dystopia of content farmed videos and weird stuff like opening a toybox full of the same kind of toy.

Its incredibly frustrating to filter, channels are whackamole. Also, youtube bypasses dns blocking, making it even more difficult to limit using more technical methods.

> Also, youtube bypasses dns blocking

Care to elaborate more on what you mean by this ?

You have to block all of google to block youtube basically and even then it may still get through.

I don't know what you mean. Youtube won't function if you block youtube.com. I suppose I don't understand what you mean by "block" then.

/etc/hosts is useless since Chrome uses dns over https

That has nothing to do with youtube, but chrome. So your statement is factually incorrect.

PewDiePie did a music video dissing cocomelon one of the biggest producer of this garbage and youtube pulled his video to protect them, so yeah youtube does not care about any quality control on youtube kids.

Almost like good content for kids requires well funded, nationalized broadcasting systems with no corporate interests calling the shots... sigh.

The fact that several of the top grossing YouTubers are all kids channels opening toys should be telling already

What was that one explainer that showed how unsettling youtube videos can be?

I don't see the issue. Our entire society is set up on the premise that American citizens need to consume. My grocery store has little child-sized shopping carts that kids can push around to learn the ropes of consumerism. There's even a little flag on it that says "Customer in training". During the early days of a global pandemic our own government was referring to American citizens as "Consumers" as they communicated information about the disease [1]. That's how they see us. That's all we're good for.

Our entire economy is based on unlimited consumption. People are hired to produce widgets for integration into gadgets that will be consumed. If we suddenly decide that we've had enough gadgets, what happens to the supply chain of gadget and widget producers? There can never be enough gadgets or everything comes crashing down. Not only can there never be enough, there always has to be more gadgets produced compared to the year before, or else the markets in which people have bet their futures become unglued.

There's no concept of fulfillment. There's a vast media empire in place whose sole purpose is to tell us we don't have enough, and that if we don't consume more we will be overtaken by emptiness. Even the HN front page of all places is guilty of pushing this message. Best to instill consumerist ideology in children as early as possible, so they don't start thinking that maybe they don't need the newest, slickest, shiniest gadgets. That maybe there is life and happiness outside of consumption. These are literally society destroying thoughts that must be suppressed at all cost. Western civilization depends on it.

[1]: https://external-preview.redd.it/cloQPFfyR61-VvSdfol941t-AuY...

at least the kids aren't watching television any more

It's interesting how quality has changed over the years for children videos.

This is what I watched when I was growing up (it came out in the late 70s, so it was already around for a while by then though): Schoolhouse Rock, Interplanet Janet [0]. This is really how I knew the planets growing up. "Mars is red, and Jupiter's big, and saturn shows off its riiiiings, uranus is built on a funny tilt, and neptune is its twiiin, and pluto little pluto is the furthest planet from the suuuun, whoo hoooo"

When my brother was growing up (around 2001, so I was 11 at that point), they had this song [1]. Kind of jazzy and relaxing. It went over the planets a few times in the verses, slowly taking the time to walk the children through it, and the way Nick Jr worked back in the day, the same episode would be on 3-4 times in a row every day, so the kid could really take it in. I could recite it from my head to this day.

A couple years later (2005) you start getting songs like this [2], I'm glad I didn't have to rely on this for memorizing the planets? Still, it's only a minute long, I think this is when kids started to hit lower attention spans.

I was trying to see what kids have these days. Since I'm basically seeing children as early as 5-6 months given an iphone/ipad to watch youtube, I figured I'd start there.... 99% of children's programming online is really crappy garbage shovelled out for dirt cheap with usually disturbing imagery subliminally thrown in. For example, this video [3] (I couldn't get through all three minutes, it was too monotone, repetitive, and the mouths on still frame were buttholes)

Jumping away from YouTube (originated content), I did find a shorter video by "Netflix Jr." [4]. It came recommended by reddit parents. Fastpaced rapping, jumping around, but not badly animated but I do wonder if children would grasp all of the concepts from it.

Trying to find the latest one that came out, was this [5] that wasn't hard for me to get through like the second-to-the last one (and hey it mentioned pluto lol)

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGgajx1pGPU

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA8olJuyTyc

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgGbOrz3Bqk

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQrlgH97v94

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHAqT4hXnMw

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCxjuDePdCI

We struggle with this. And as an older, second time around parent, I definitely feel the struggle on both fronts:

Many poor videos, and just general patenting energy required.

Down thread, someone put the watch it with them email queue idea out there. Awesome! I am going to do that.

Overall, our best success is to have activities that are not screen time.

Many parents who may struggle financially, and there are way too many who do, in my view, lack time and potentially resources.

This is a growing pinch for a while now. Tepid wage growth coupled with cost and risk exposure growth mean more labor and or fewer resources, both of which come right out of parenting.

Some of it lands in the schools. The pandemic made that a mess and maybe for the better?

By that I mean a whole lot of us have had to pick up the slack and or are doing more parenting right now. (That may come at a high financial cost due to lack of work, which is not good either)

It is really hard to put costs on all this, but my general take on it all, comparing my childhood, that of my own kids and granddaughter now is:

Opportunity costs are going to be huge!

The squeeze on parenting, coupled with the general complexity of the society our future leaders and caretakers are expected to take part in, Shepard and grow to greater success, looks increasingly grim.

I came out of high school computer literate, could code, but also with a ton of other skills. Fix my car, or many things really, work with wood, metals, and in general could take most work and thrive.

My own kids got a fair amount of that, but I had to provide way more than my parents did.

Today, I see I will have to provide a lot more.

The general idea of so much greater information availability means less work educating has merit. I know what I would have done with that kind of access as a kid.

But does it mean less parenting?

Does it mean less exposure to basic skills?

From my point of view, no. It does not.

And to be clear here, my own parenting goals are to get the kids to a place where they can thrive and that means basic competence on many fronts just like I got.

It may also mean part of the education burden is curating all this stuff and to teach them what to look for and how to make use of it.

Most of us know. My kids mostly know and will ask for help sometimes. Less often as they grow in life.

In my view, emphasis on broad, basic competence is more important bow than ever. If they can relate to things, have some experience, they will seek and be able to make use of the information resource and it will seem achievable too, not foreign, or unattainable.

For now, I am making sure my younger one gets outside and is experiencing a broad set of skills. Just getting a handle on this world and the things in it.

Parents need to be able to do that, and or for the many struggling parents who may not have a base to draw on, even if they do have time, need help, and may well benefit same as their kids do.

Water "wet" say parents

Write strongly worded letters to executives, Tweet clever zingers, hold hearings with CEOs and use clips from them in campaign ads... You know what would be nice? Folks in Congress actually passing laws to start fixing these problems.

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