If you have young children at home, have you ever asked them to check out YouTube videos while you finished some errands or entertained friends in the evening? And have you sincerely believed your 10-year-old is only watching appropriate videos? Think again!
Recently I read findings of a study of 10,000 children and found that they are upset with a long list of concerns while online. The diverse responses were a revelation personally for me and would be for you as well especially the fact that children are merely ‘three clicks away from explicit material’. Even though the children were genuinely interested in viewing appropriate content, videos containing violence and nudity were readily available.
Pornography (22% of the children in the study) and violent content (18%) topped their online concerns. Incidentally the study revealed that boys appear more bothered by violence than girls. The top concerns for girls are often contact-related risks by being online.
You may say inappropriate content is omnipresent – in news programs, movies, television programs, sitcoms, advertisements, video games, etc. But the children themselves are worried about watching too much violence, aggression or even gory content that they come across involuntarily while online. They are traumatized and repulsed on seeing such content. What they view shapes who they will become in the future and what behaviors they may embrace as acceptable.
Concerns about content change to concerns about conduct and contact risks with age. Video-sharing websites such as YouTube, social networking sites such as Facebook, other websites and even video games are mentioned as upsetting content associated with violence and pornography.
What Can We Do?
Firstly, we need to engage our children more so that even when they come across inappropriate content, they don’t click.
Secondly, we need to monitor what they are watching.
Thirdly, we need use technology to our advantage to keep our children safe online.
Here’s what YouTube suggests:
- Have your teenagers make playlists of their favorite videos, while you make your own. Then sit down to watch them together. You can see what your teens are watching.
- Take your teens on a stroll through your own TV-watching childhood by compiling a playlist of clips from your favorite shows.
Apps, browsing devices and organizations have made available choices which when used can help us keep our children safe. Google’s “Safety Mode” gives users the option to choose not to see mature or offensive content. Videos with age restricted content do not normally show up in video searches. And if you do find some content that comes through despite the filters flag it to the service provider to identify and hide it in the future. Facebook also has some advise for parents on how to keep children safe online.
Both Facebook and YouTube recommend that their services are used by viewers aged 13 and over. However, in reality it’s not something that any website or app can implement. The onus is on us, the caregivers of children, to ensure that safety features are installed, that the children are fully aware and that we constantly monitor their usage.
At home, I didn’t feel compelled or comfortable to tell my 10-year-old to stay off YouTube videos till he turns 13, but we discussed this, and the fact that I was very concerned about him watching inappropriate content. We came to a mutually agreed “house rule” that he would only watch YouTube videos when either of the parents was present and only in the living room.
Everything was going smoothly till he shared with me that his school allowed students to watch YouTube videos in ICT Sessions. Instead of getting paranoid, I shared the report with the principal of my son’s school and his response was reassuring. He presented the study at the school’s Board meeting and they decided to share it with other parents as well as ensuring a teacher was monitoring the ICT Sessions when children were watching YouTube videos.