Study: Children just “three clicks away” from inappropriate content

Results of a study released earlier this month by security products vendor Kaspersky Lab finds children can be as little as three clicks away from inappropriate or adult content on YouTube.

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From the report:

Examining YouTube’s ‘suggested’ videos which sit visibly alongside clips or episodes of popular children’s television programs such as Peppa Pig, Rastamouse and Dora the Explorer, researchers found that, on average, users are just three clicks away from content better suited to a more mature audience.

Music videos featuring violence, guns and nudity, clips of post watershed television programs and car crash compilations are some examples of the inappropriate content just a few clicks away on the video sharing website. These results highlight the potential risks such sites pose if parental controls are not activated or children are left unattended while browsing.

I know I’ve experienced this many times when I have allowed my children to spend some time on YouTube.  One minute they are innocently watching an episode of Pajaminals, and the next thing I know they have stumbled upon video with questionable content, including obscene language and violence.

One particular trend I’ve noticed is the “parody” videos that tend to lead good-intentioned children into suddenly viewing things they are too young to see or understand.  For example, my kids like the very popular internet character Fred Figglehorn (created by teen actor, and now Nickelodeon star, Lucas Cruikshank).  The Fred videos are pretty silly and a bit over the top, but generally age appropriate for my children. Unfortunately, there are many “parodies” (people making fun) of the Fred character, too. These tend to be wildly inappropriate for young children. Same goes for many other popular kids shows, like Sponge Bob or even Sesame Street.

It’s best to allow YouTube viewing only when you can be in the room, too, and with the volume loud enough so you can hear what is going on.  Check in frequently and assist younger children with making appropriate choices.

[Related: 4 tips to help your kids stay safe on Facebook]

David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, offers additional suggestions for protecting your children.

Supervision – This may seem obvious, but supervise your child’s Internet use. Encourage them to visit and stay on websites you’re familiar with. If you have any concerns you can look at their browsing history. Be sure to know about any password protected sites they may be accessing and ask them to share their login details with you.

Be open – Encourage your child to be open about what they are doing online and who they are socializing with. Promote a culture of safety within the home and talk about the possible dangers which exist.

Protect your family – Use parental control on sites you don’t want your child looking at as part of your online security product – it’s an easy way to avoid disaster.

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