I read an extremely troubling article this morning titled “YouTube Has A Teeny Foot Fetish Problem” at Vocativ, a website that according to them combines the “power of cutting-edge technology with a take-no-prisoners attitude toward newsgathering and storytelling”.
The article takes a look at pedophile fetishists who are targeting tweens on YouTube and having them act out fetishes. The article is troubling not only because of what the perverts are getting away with, but also because of what the author omits – YouTube’s age restrictions, and how lax YouTube is in policing its own policies. According to the article:
“Arlyn McConnell is only 11 years old, but she’s an active and adept user of YouTube. Especially when it comes to fending off the pedophiles who troll the site for child porn…
As [another] example, the [YouTube] flagger points to one 11-year-old girl, Jorja, who says she received 24 pervert messages in under six hours last week”
It doesn’t take long for me, a parent or any one else to find the following in YouTube’s Terms of Service:
“12. Ability to Accept Terms of Service
In any case, you affirm that you are over the age of 13, as the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.”
The YouTube flaggers referenced above are members of the YouTube Deputy Program, an unpaid group of volunteer YouTube users that are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that videos and comments posted comply with community guidelines. If they find content that does not comply, Deputies report it to YouTube. For reported videos such as the ones above, YouTube may be doing something about the pedophiles but it seems to be willing to overlook its own rule that users be over the age of 13.
We have no doubt that many or most tweens view videos on YouTube. It is probably the most frequently visited site by tweens. The difference between viewing a YouTube video and posting your own videos or comments is having a YouTube account. You can’t post videos without an account, and kids under the age of 13 are not supposed to have one.
YouTube needs to take more responsibility here in our opinion. They have stated that they will terminate the accounts of underage users unless a parent is supervising them. Since there is no effective age gate to join the site (there should be one), at a minimum YouTube should be more aggressive terminating the accounts of users known to be under 13, especially in the event that predators are targeting them.
If you are the parent of a tween, we strongly suggest that YouTube viewing by your child be highly supervised, and that tweens not have their own YouTube account under any circumstances.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.