YouTube Has a Pedophile Problem That Parents Need to Know About

by | Feb 19, 2019 | Internet Safety Tips, Online Safety

YouTube has become a meeting ground for pedophiles. More than 400 hours of content are uploaded every minute, and much of it comes from people who start their own channels and post homemade videos — including kids.

Kid-run YouTube channels tend to be about things like sports, cooking, makeup, and video games, and running them provides kids an outlet for learning about video production and editing. But as we recently learned, pedophiles are exploiting these channels for sinister purposes.

People are now taking to Twitter with the hashtag #youtubewakeup, demanding that YouTube address this issue, along with the big-name advertisers whose commercials run during these videos. Here’s what parents need to know about this disturbing phenomenon.

What pedophiles do with your child’s videos

Once pedophiles and predators land on a kid’s harmless gymnastics video, for instance, things get dark. In the comments, they post timestamps — like 1:34 — which indicate a point in the video where you can pause to see a potentially suggestive image. Other predators use these timestamps to skip straight to the shot. With the help of timestamps, pedophiles are using videos as a canvas to create sexually suggestive photo stills.

These individuals have also been known to leave sexually suggestive comments. They communicate with each other to discuss other ways to access and share child porn, creating a community resource for pedophiles.

How algorithms enable pedophiles online

The algorithms used by companies like YouTube gather content similar to what you’ve already viewed. This helps keep you on the site longer, and in turn, viewing more ads. If you watch a lot of videos about sports, you’ll see new sports channels. If you’re interested in young girls talking about middle school cheerleaders, you’ll see more of that, as well. Pedophiles take full advantage of this fact.

Lisa Thee, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Bark, has extensive experience working to promote technology solutions for combating child exploitation. “Child safety teams exist at companies like YouTube, and some of them partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to comply with the congressionally mandated reporting of explicit images of children,” she says. “The challenge is that with the amount of user-generated content they receive each day, it is impossible to review it all.” Although technology helps determine what content should be reviewed by humans, it’s far from foolproof. That’s why it’s critical that parents stay engaged in their child’s digital lives.

How to protect your child on YouTube

Don’t allow them to have a YouTube account if they’re under 13

YouTube’s Terms of Service explicitly state that it’s not for kids younger than 13. YouTube Kids is a better option (though still imperfect) for younger children. But we know that it’s hard to keep tweens from some online activities, especially while at a different house or with friends. Talk to them about what’s happening right now and express how important it is for them to stay safe online.

Consider a private YouTube channel for your child

Once your child creates videos, those videos are out in the world forever. People can screenshot and save them for personal use and can manipulate them inappropriately. It’s tragic that harmless videos about makeup can be turned into exploitative content. But it’s a reality today, and for some, the risks of having a public channel may outweigh the benefits.

Lock down their accounts and report inappropriate activity

Fortunately, YouTube has some parental controls in place to help keep kids safer. Our Ultimate Parent Guide to YouTube ebook can walk you through everything you need to help protect them. One thing you can do immediately is remove the commenting ability from their videos. If you choose to leave comments enabled, be vigilant about monitoring them. And if you see abusive/inappropriate language or timestamps, block the offending user right away and report them to YouTube.

Bark monitors the videos your child posts on YouTube, comments made to those videos, and new videos posted to your child’s subscriptions. We can also monitor YouTube views and searches on connected Android or Amazon devices. Sign up for a free, one-week trial of Bark and get started monitoring today.

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