YouTube and Our Children
So how much time are children spending on YouTube, and what are they seeing?
Social media giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter have been in the news constantly for the last few months regarding their collection of data, political leanings, etc. In 2006 Google purchased YouTube. Business Insider states that YouTube is now pulling in over 1.8 billion users every month — and that's just the people who are logged in. That makes YouTube Google's most popular service, with even more users than Gmail.
So how much time are children spending on YouTube, and what are they seeing? A reading of the “ Ofcom Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2018”, published Jan 19th, 2019 reveals a number of concerning facts. Ofcom is the UK government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom. The study can be found here - https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/media-literacy-research/childrens/children-and-parents-media-use-and-attitudes-report-2018.
Some findings from the study follow:
The study said YouTube was “a near permanent feature” of many young lives, and seven in ten of those aged 12 to 15 took smartphones to bed. Ofcom spoke to a number of children who had given up their hobbies – such as drawing and doing scooter stunts – in order to watch films on YouTube. One child who described herself as “very arty” admitted she rarely tried any crafts, and preferred to watch others being creative online.
Some youngsters said they socialized with friends less, because it was “too much effort” to go out when they could interact with them online instead. “YouTube was a near permanent feature of many children’s lives, used throughout the day,” researchers said.
Many children who go online to watch harmless videos find themselves watching deeply disturbing material. Often, they come across unsuitable content by accident, when they are searching for something else. Sometimes they simply seek out material they are too young to view. They are also led to it by YouTube’s own algorithm which feeds them suggestions based on their tastes.
Children prefer YouTube to old-fashioned television or TV on-demand services because they “could easily access exactly what they wanted to watch and were being served with an endless stream of recommendations tailored exactly to their taste,” the report said.
About the time this study was published in January of this year, one of the Free In 13 founders had a conversation with a longtime friend who was serving as an ecclesiastical leader of a large church congregation. Parents of two children who had both received as Christmas gifts internet capable devices came to him extremely upset. Upon reviewing the search history of the children, a boy age nine, and his sister, age eight, they found that both children, independently, had found and were viewing pornographic cartoons through YouTube.
The question is not whether our children will view pornography, but when. The Ofcom study showed that only 32% of parents were concerned with online content, and a higher percentage were more concerned about companies collecting information about their online habits or being pressured to spend money online, among other things. The mission of Free in 13 is to furnish parents a resource to understand the pornography trap, and should their child become trapped through repeated viewing, provide the parents a solution that is effective and inexpensive, and preempts the need for more intensive professional counseling.