Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:23 pm

The world went into a rage when WhatsApp updated its privacy settings

Adults were worried that our details would be misused, and rightly so. But what about our kids?

The growing awareness around the increasing number of ads on social media apps and games has become a big concern for parents.

To protect our kids from YouTube ads, we migrated them to what we thought was a wonderful “child-friendly” platform created for them. YouTube Kids promises parents the surety that their children will consume content meant for them.

According to its parental guide, it was built to be a “fun, family-friendly place for kids and families.”

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On the top 20 list of the richest influencers of 2021 is 9-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World.

Ryan has multiple YouTube Channels with the main page followed by 27 million global subscribers. Ryan’s World is punted as an education series for children that includes toy reviews. Ryan has made his fortune by collaborating with major toy manufacturers and suppliers around the world. So even while your child is ‘learning’ they are also being ‘used’ by marketers.

Ryan and his mom teach children about how tsunamis form and other fascinating subjects. In the video, you can see little caricatures of animals and other toys. Gus the Gummy Gator, for instance, is a good friend of Ryan. Gus also has a YouTube Channel with 1.17 million subscribers. Of course, the brand has soft plush toys for kids.

The clever tricks by marketers never end

I looked at my daughter watching an ad masked as “a play for kids” on YouTube Kids. It was a toy review, and she looked hooked.

This is my biggest challenge with phone consumption for kids. She looks like a zombie when watching a show. Neuroscientists say that TV content creates beta waves in the brain that lead to increased focus.

Have you tried talking to your kid when they are paying attention to a show on the phone or iPad?

When they are paying this much attention to their screen, the last thing they should be watching is an advert programming them to know, remember and want a certain toy.

What’s actually a choice and what’s influenced by clever marketing?

Have you noticed how your kids can identify TV characters that you were not aware they knew? Then they want the water bottle with the character’s name on it or the dress.

Kids have preferences, like us, but they also need the freedom to choose what they want to wear. It is unhealthy for this decision to be “made for them” through an advert on a “family-friendly” platform.

I have blocked a couple of videos on YouTube Kids before, and it allows you to do that.

You can also set-up your child’s account to their age. According to YouTube Kids, the groups are split as per the below:

  • Pre-schooler content: videos promote creativity, playfulness, learning, and exploration
  • Younger content: Songs, cartoons, and crafts
  • Older content: Music videos, gaming, and science

Yesterday, my 3-year-old watched a video she asked me to play for her on YouTube Kids. And before I knew it, she was being shown an advert for cute little toys “for imaginative and curious kids.”

That was a wake-up call to be a lot more attentive to what she is watching for the brief moments where she has my phone. It is my responsibility to make sure she is watching educational content that is not subliminally selling to her as well.

And I get it. we cannot completely safeguard them from the culture of consumerism that exists online. I can be more active in safeguarding her from the obvious trash that we find online.

The trash is there

Even YouTube Kids declared in its policy that “our systems try to exclude content not suitable for young kids. But because we can’t manually review all content, and no automated system is perfect, we may miss some videos.”

They also acknowledge that they struggle to filter out “mature” content from their site for older kids.

We have to pick up where they miss. We can do this by:

  • Tailoring their profile to age-appropriate content
  • Blocking content that you find inappropriate
  • Reporting inappropriate content
  • Turning search off
  • Clearing watch history for a content reboot

We can also subscribe to YouTube Premium if budget allows. It costs around R72 per month or R110 per month for the family plan.

This means that the pop-up ads are all blocked. BUT, according to YouTube, “videos uploaded by our users to YouTube Kids are not Paid Ads and therefore are not blocked from the app with the use of your YouTube Premium membership.” So kids could still be hooked by sneaky ads purporting to be child-friendly content.

At the end of the day, vigilance is key.



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