By Paige Wolf
Whether you have screens banned in your household or a child obsessed with becoming a “YouTube star,” chances are they have come across popular YouTube channels about Roblox, Minecraft, pranks, makeup, or even just other children opening toys.
While we may think it’s weird as parents that our kids are so obsessed with this stuff, it’s become a huge part of the “tween zeitgeist.”
A good chunk of what they are watching is probably fairly innocuous. Mindless? Often. Silly? Probably. But depending on how you control your parental settings, it’s usually no more strange than adults watching people design their homes on HGTV.
However, there is definitely a not-so-hidden underbelly of highly inappropriate content, clickbait, and – at worst – horrifying content designed to radicalize youth.
In terms of the obvious worst, that requires constant conversations with your children and keeping an eye out for red flags. But some of the bad stuff isn’t so apparent at first glance. Here are a few channels and trends parents should be aware of.
Watch Out for Animated “True Stories”
The other day my daughter was watching YouTube on the living room TV, where she favors Disney princesses and the occasional relatively innocent teenage pranksters. I overheard what sounded just like an ordinary animation when it started to get….dark. “Then my mom kicked me out and said she never loved me and then my creepy uncle came in and…” WHAT?
I told her to block this channel and make sure not to watch these anymore because they were inappropriate and she said it “just came on” – as these “recommended videos” do.
Google “My Story Animated” and prepare to be horrified. This is the new YouTube video trend which also goes by similar names like “Share by Story.” Basically, the videos are clickbait sensational stories with names like “I got pregnant from swimming with my friends,” “My step mom’s huge melons ruined my life,” and “How I became a father at ll.”
Seemingly pulled from the worst episodes of Maury Povich, these videos mirror basic animations – but they are absolutely awful. Check out this (good guy) YouTuber’s take on these viral videos to learn more.
You might be familiar with the name Logan Paul, who became infamous when he filmed the deceased corpse of a man who had hanged himself and posted the footage on his YouTube channel. YouTube had suspended all advertising on Paul’s channels due to things like his participation in the Tide Pod challenge and tasering two dead rats. But he continued to grow his podcast, laced with homophobia, racism, and conspiracy theories. Last I checked, his YouTube is still active with more than 20 million subscribers.
While Paul is among the most notorious of the “creepy dude” genre, plenty of other seemingly innocuous gamer have raised red flags within their own communities.
A YouTuber called Keemstar with 205K subscribers who mostly streams video games created enough ire for a change.org petition with 60K subscribers. The petition closed a while ago but points to racist tweets, bullying, accusing other YouTubers of pedophilia.
A Roblox Youtuber called CORL apparently bullied a fan on Twitter and then after pushback, tweeted pictures of himself with assault rifles. His last video was posted over a year ago but he still has more than a million subscribers.
How do I know all this? A bunch of kids tipped me off and I did some internet research to see what’s up. And it’s a very weird rabbit-hole.
Most of the kids I’ve talked to seem to be aware that these YouTubers are problematic and say that the broader “online gamer community” is swift to condemn problematic behavior. But with a boundless Internet and no real way to enforce guidelines, it’s pretty much a lawless land.
What To Do?
I’m not an expert. I can only share my own experience, which is to talk frequently with my kids about what they are watching, what they are enjoying, and making sure they know how to watch for red flags. I talk with their friends and with their friends’ parents. I let them show me their favorite videos (even though some are excruciating) and ask a lot of questions about what the YouTubers are talking about and if they ever exhibit bullying, racism, homophobia, or anything else we should be aware of.
Check out some other online safety tips from our experts:
If you have any tips about sketchy YouTube channels or ways to talk to your children about safer online usage, please feel free to share in the comments or on our social media!