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YouTube Family Failings

Today while my six year old son was watching a video from his favourite Youtuber DanTDM midway through the video an advert for French beer Kronenbourg 1664 was shown. I was not pleased his viewing was interrupted (when did YouTube start doing ads midway through videos?) as it meant he whined at me, I was even less pleased it was for beer when he is six years old. The UK has very strong regulations around the advertising of alcohol. For a company that is telling everyone it is going to be AI first then I hope they get a hell of a lot smarter before they go fully aware.

Now he was logged in on my account because he can’t have his own account until he is 13 apparently. Either way I don’t think beer advertising is right for Dan’s young audience. My son could/should have been using the awful (one for another post) YouTube Kids app but I do not believe you can access DanTDM through that very poor app. There is so much scope for Google to do far better with this but they seem reluctant / incapable. Clearly their business model is advertising but there are surely ways to advertise to children in far better ways.

I also have a three year old who likes watching YouTube videos too but he has an uncanny side view explore method which means he rapidly gets from watching Super Mario playthroughs to the ten hottest porn star alive. He has obviously been using mummies logon. Visual browsing needs some really smart thinking to stop it getting out of hand.

The boys also watch YouTube through our TV. It can be logged on as me also and safe search can be enabled but still plenty of swearing and violence gets through.

I think the whole aspect of family control over digital services has really not been thought out/done well by many if any companies. I have recently been looking at setting my son a Windows 10 laptop up and they seem to have some good family account controls in place. More on that as I test them. Back to Google though….
What I want from YouTube (and a few other VOD providers and other digital services)

I want a way to allow my children to have their own identities. Why can’t they have logons? They have their own viewing habits and algortimic suggestions then. I want to be able to send video to them. A watch later from Mum & Dad type feature. Why can’t I set my TV to have YouTube levels of access for day time vs night time? or just a kids vs adults feature. Easy to switch between on multiple devices (not easy at all)

I want a multitude of ways to control and analyse those logons. Whitelisted channels. Restricted search terms. Viewing time. Searches. Allow the trust to level up with age or at my decision point e.g. unlock mild violence / swearing as they approach teens. Difficult to design and implement but seemingly just ignoring it is a disgrace.

I want to have sight of what they see. I want to know what adverts they see too. this would be a great feature to add to the Google Dashboard. I would love to be able to whitelist & blacklist advertisers / categories (I am happy for them to see LEGO adverts all day long, Lelly Kelly not so much). How about asking me when I am watching if adverts/advertisers would be suitable for my children. Some people may balk at this but I would prefer them to see adverts transparency over an ability for them to use a service safely.

I have a lot of ideas around this area but this post is a grumpy hot take so I will return to them another day (unless anyone wants to hire me to work on the design of some).
Conclusion

Clearly marketing to children is a very tricky area and there are regulations that make giving children digital identities problematic. I think we need to see services designed to challenge these regulations but also show the potential of services like YouTube as they are used by an ever younger demographic. The challenge of digital identity for adults is complex enough, for children it feels even more challenging.

I don’t want YouTube to do my parenting for me but I want my children to be able to use it as safely as possible without me having to watch through every thing they want to watch first.

There is so much potential in making YouTube an even more amazing service for children. I want them to be suggested new trailers for suitable films, highlight new youtubers who have been approved or recommended by other families as let’s say swearing free. I want them to be able to search for animals or game play throughs or cartoons or NASA videos or whatever rabbit hole they want to tumble down knowing they are going to view something that is appropriate for their age, for their parents and to be advertised to appropriately.

PS I hated Kronenbourg 1664 before this shambles. It tastes like someone has tried to filter piss through a dog blanket.