Complaints against Youtube's alleged privacy violations stresses importance of cyber-safety
There are many dangers that lurk online, but are the most surprising ones really hiding in seemingly harmless popular sites like Youtube?
YouTube is one of the most popular websites kids just love to visit. My nephew can spend close to an hour just watching his favourite clips thanks to the wealth of kid-friendly content available, especially on the app YouTube Kids. So it surprised me to know that there are indeed YouTube dangers for kids, including recent allegations that YouTube is illegally collecting kids’ information.
But before we get into that, let’s take a closer look at what YouTube Kids offers. This app is curated to provide kid-friendly music, shows, educational clips and user-generated content. Just like its predecessor, YouTube Kids allows you to make user profiles. But a new feature is the timer, which allows mums and dads to set time limits for their kids’ viewing.
Now, onto the YouTube dangers for kids. Though YouTube Kids is tailored for children, some inappropriate content can make it past their child-safe filters. Why? Because technically it’s still linked to YouTube, and “grown-up” stuff — profanity, nudity, deceptive advertising — can find its way there every now and then.
Some users even go out of their way to create disturbing videos under the guise of popular cartoons or seemingly safe tags, tricking Google into tagging it as child-friendly.
On the bright side, parents can still control what their kids see by blocking or reporting undesirable content. And of course, being vigilant when it comes to their child’s YouTube use. One good tip would be to take control of searching for videos and keeping a close eye as kids watch the clips.
But now, another of the unexpected YouTube dangers for kids is coming to light.
YouTube dangers for kids: Are they illegally collecting information from children?
According to the New York Times, more than 20 child protection groups have placed complaints against the popular video-sharing platform for allegedly violating our children’s right to privacy.
“Google has made substantial profits from the collection and use of personal data from children on YouTube. Its illegal collection has been going on for many years and involves tens of millions of US children,” reads the complaint, according to a CNN report.
According to the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), companies have to let the parents of kids under the age of 13 know before collecting information from their children.
Though YouTube’s terms of service clearly states that the site is not intended for those under the age of 13, anyone can access the videos even without logging in. What’s more, young users can easily input any age they choose or even use their parents’ accounts to access content.
YouTube expressed in a statement sent to the New York Times that they will review the complaint thoroughly, saying that they will “evaluate if there are things [they] can do to improve.”
They did emphasise, however, that YouTube is not for kids. “We’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”
How to protect your kids
The internet is a vast repository of content and information for all ages. Though companies like YouTube can take steps to bolstering their protective measures, it’s still up to you, mums and dads to beware of YouTube dangers for kids.
This child-safe interaction goes both ways — controlling what your child sees as well as what your child shares.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Make viewing time bonding time. Sit beside your child and look over their shoulder. In this way, you can quickly intervene once an undesirable clip or ad pops up!
- Engage them. Ask them about the video, how it makes them feel, what they like most about it. Not only will you be able to get a clearer picture of what he’s watching, you can also hone their communication skills.
- Make sure that your home internet is child-friendly. This means ensuring parental controls are in place on your laptop, desktop, as well as your home network.
- Help them process information. If they accidentally watch something disturbing, make sure to take the time to explain things to them. Take, for instance, something violent or profane. Explain that this is not good behaviour and though others are doing it, this doesn’t make it right.
Once your kid reaches school-age, then they are likely be able to better grasp YouTube dangers for kids. Protecting your kids means equipping them with the tools to be internet-savvy as they grow up. They are, after all, growing up in a time where the internet is inescapable. What matters is that they always know how to control it instead of the other way around.