US: Consumer groups and children’s safety advocates have called on the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google’s YouTube Kids app for unfair and deceptive business practices after it was revealed that children could easily access inappropriate content.
The "toddler-friendly" platform was found to provide sexually explicit material, profanity, extreme violence and more, according to San Jose Mercury News.
The video service, launched in February, purports to make the app as family-friendly as possible, and specially created algorithms are designed to filter out inappropriate videos.
According to parents, the filter isn’t working, and they’ve been dumping negative reviews on the app on the various app shops. One parent found several videos for reviewing wine (and also discovered that the app saved his viewing choices in order to recommend more inappropriate content. Apart from alcohol, content including drug references, pornographic cartoons, dangerous stunts and more found its way into the app.
Google's "no search" response
Google has been working behind the scenes to remove any content deemed inappropriate, and released a statement suggesting that parents remove the “search” function. While young children who use the app may not be able to spell, they are still able to use the voice function in order to access content.
Change.org has also started a petition in order to get the app removed.
Parents will likely react with caution to the news, especially since the app was designed to allow their kids to view safe, filtered content.
Here are some tips from Colin Thornton on online safety:
1 Set your default search engine as www.google.co.za and click 'Search Preferences' on the right side of the search bar. Select 'Use strict filtering' under the SafeSearch heading and click on 'Save Preferences'. This will filter out any adult content which may, under normal circumstances, accidentally appear when a child searches for something
2 Discuss and demonstrate the difference between advertising and educational/entertaining content and make sure your child can recognize it. Following an advertising link can sometimes lead to undesirable websites.
4 Check the Internet browsing history often. If you find undesirable pages have been visited, discuss them with your child in an open and understanding way so they don’t feel guilty, yet understand that you are able to see what they’ve viewed. Make sure they know how to click the “Back” button if they ever see content which makes them uncomfortable.
5 Install a product such as McAfee Family Protection and set up all of the features to match your child’s age and the restrictions you think are appropriate.
Do you keep track of your child’s browsing history?