Children are being tricked into watching manipulative marketing videos on YouTube that show ‘inappropriate’ content – Daily Mail

Children are being conned into watching hours of advertisements disguised as entertainment on YouTube, according to a new study.

Parents have been warned that thousands of videos containing violent and disturbing content is manipulating youngsters without them realising.

Scientists looked at almost 13,000 videos watched by millions of youngsters that use YouTube as an alternative to TV and found many contained ‘inappropriate’ marketing content.

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Parents have been warned thousands of YouTube videos containing violent and disturbing content is manipulating youngsters without them realising (stock image)

Parents have been warned thousands of YouTube videos containing violent and disturbing content is manipulating youngsters without them realising (stock image)

WHAT DID THEY DO? 

Scientists collected data from 12,848 videos from 17 channels in the US and UK as well as 24 channels in Brazil.

In total, these channels had been viewed more than 37 billion times.

They looked at almost 13,000 videos watched by millions of youngsters that use YouTube as an alternative to TV and found many contained ‘inappropriate’ marketing content.

Scientists from Harvard University and the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil found the most popular channels had advertising content that was ‘disguised as other content’.

‘Most of the digital services offered on the internet are advertising funded, which makes advertising ubiquitous in children’s everyday life’, researchers said in their paper ‘Characterising videos, audience and advertising in Youtube channels for kids’.

Scientists collected data from 12,848 videos from 17 channels in the US and UK as well as 24 channels in Brazil.

In total, these channels had been viewed more than 37 billion times.

Although the minimum age for using YouTube is 13, researchers found children younger than this were also using the video sharing site.

‘Millions of children are already watching videos on YouTube, most of them logged in from their parents’ accounts’, researchers found.

Thousands of YouTube videos that contain violent and disturbing content are posing as kids cartoons. This image shows a Peppa Pig fake that depict the character being attacked by zombies

Thousands of YouTube videos that contain violent and disturbing content are posing as kids cartoons. This image shows a Peppa Pig fake that depict the character being attacked by zombies

Thousands of YouTube videos that contain violent and disturbing content are posing as kids cartoons. This image shows a Peppa Pig fake that depict the character being attacked by zombies

‘There are several types of ads’, researchers explained. 

‘For example, advergames are video games created by a company with the intention of promoting the company itself or its products.’

These games are often distributed freely on the site as a marketing tool.

Although YouTube Kids has strict rules on blocking inappropriate content it cannot block adverts that are hidden as entertainment.

‘They use popular Youtubers to pitch products and brands as non-commercial content in videos that are viewed worldwide.

Some of these videos can be watched through YouTube Kids - an automated app that is supposed to filter out inappropriate videos. This image shows a still from a vioent video posing as a Doc McStuffins cartoon

Some of these videos can be watched through YouTube Kids - an automated app that is supposed to filter out inappropriate videos. This image shows a still from a vioent video posing as a Doc McStuffins cartoon

Some of these videos can be watched through YouTube Kids – an automated app that is supposed to filter out inappropriate videos. This image shows a still from a vioent video posing as a Doc McStuffins cartoon

HOW TO FILTER OUT THE VIDEOS

The YouTube Kids app filters out most, but not all, of the disturbing videos.

YouTube recommends changing channel settings to ‘restricted mode’.

This can be found at the bottom of YouTube pages next to the language and content location buttons.

The company also suggests turning off the search feature in the app.

But it says that no filter is 100 per cent accurate.

The NSPCC offers online safety advice for parents with young children. 

‘Characterizing and understanding these strategies and their effectiveness is a key task for making the internet and the web a better place for children’, researchers said.

Children using the platform are ‘exposed to different challenges, as advertising, inappropriate content, privacy issues and crimes in the digital world, which raise concerns about compliance with regulations in several countries’, the study found. 

YouTube has been contacted for comment.  

Earlier this year an investigation found thousands of videos that contain violent and disturbing content are posing as cartoons.

Many of the shocking clips look like normal children’s cartoons on YouTube’s homepage.

One disturbing Peppa Pig fake, found by journalist Laura June, shows a dentist with a huge syringe pulling out the character’s teeth as she screams in distress.

Mrs June only realised the violent nature of the video as her three-year-old daughter watched it beside her.

In July last year, clips showing Peppa Pig characters with knives and guns appeared on the YouTube Kids app. In one, a cig-smoking, knife-toting 'gangster' pig threatens the fairy princess from kids¿ favourite Ben and Holly¿s Little Kingdom (pictured)

In July last year, clips showing Peppa Pig characters with knives and guns appeared on the YouTube Kids app. In one, a cig-smoking, knife-toting 'gangster' pig threatens the fairy princess from kids¿ favourite Ben and Holly¿s Little Kingdom (pictured)

In July last year, clips showing Peppa Pig characters with knives and guns appeared on the YouTube Kids app. In one, a cig-smoking, knife-toting ‘gangster’ pig threatens the fairy princess from kids’ favourite Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom (pictured)

‘Peppa does a lot of screaming and crying and the dentist is just a bit sadistic and it’s just way, way off what a three-year-old should watch,’ she said.

‘But the animation is close enough to looking like Peppa – it’s crude but it’s close enough that my daughter was like ‘This is Peppa Pig.”

Another video depicted Peppa Pig and a friend deliberately burning down a house with someone in it.

All of these videos are easily accessed by children through YouTube’s search results or recommended videos.

 

 


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