YouTube made a bold play for young eyes when they launched their YouTube Kids App. The goal was to deliver a version of the video sharing site appropriate for kids and families, without any of the questionable content that tends to make its way onto the unfiltered version of the site.
Unfortunately things haven’t gone quite to plan and that app has been dinged repeatedly for deceptive practices and for serving up inappropriate content. Now two consumer groups, The Center For Digtial Democracy and the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, are taking YouTube to task for allowing adult content to sneak into their kid-friendly app.
In a video complaint filed to the FTC (and hosted on Vimeo we notice), both organizations cite instances in which videos delivered by the YouTube kids app reference sex, alcohol and drug use, child abuse and even pedophilia. The collection of clips, culled from children’s cartoons, talk show appearances, and even commercials include instances of inappropriate language, jokes about sex, and references to drug use. That these references occur in classic Warner Brothers cartoons, or interviews with the President of the United States does not seem to carry much weight with either group.
Regardless of the histrionic nature of the complaint, it’s another major bump in the already rocky roll-out of YouTube Kids. Last month, in a separate incident, these two groups along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry filed a complaint with the FTC over advertising on the app. While it’s a common practice for YouTubers to shill for brands and products in their videos, the group claimed that this type of undisclosed advertising violates children’s programming rules when it’s delivered on a service aimed directly at kids.
When it first launched, content for the app was supposed to be carefully curated so that no inappropriate or offensive material made its way onto the app. These videos were organized into categories like Shows, Music, Learning and Explore all of which are regarded as “safe.” However, the app also includes a search feature that allows children to locate videos not specifically curated for the app as long as they haven’t been flagged as inappropriate by other users. YouTube has suggested that parents disable this feature if they have concerns, but parents groups feel this isn’t going far enough.
Despite being targeted by watchdog groups, YouTube has seen dramatic growth in children and family programming, a fact that inspired the creation of a dedicated app. While the app is still imperfect, it’s far safer for children than the unfiltered version of YouTube. If you’re planning to let a website babysit your children, YouTube Kids is probably still your best bet.
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