YouTube provides millions of tutorial videos for adults on just about anything we could possibly want to learn. But what kind of things is it teaching our kids?
Unfortunately, YouTube tutorials aren’t always created with good intentions and there are many ‘How to’ videos explaining just how to do things that are not only dangerous, but also illegal.
We sat down with Cyber Expert and Clinical Psychologist Jordan Foster from ySafe to discuss some of the worst things that kids can easily learn on YouTube and how parents can prevent these videos from being available to their kids.
1. How to develop an eating disorder
‘There are a number of fantastic resources on YouTube that can help people experiencing mental health issues. Videos teaching kids how to calm themselves when they are having a panic attack can be very useful during difficult times. However, there is a dark side of YouTube tutorials and mental health, and unfortunately it is heavily populated with our most vulnerable kids.’ Jordan explains that there are many tutorial videos explaining how to self-harm without causing scarring, how to commit suicide ‘properly’, and how to develop disordered-eating behaviours. ‘There is a harrowing eating-disorder culture online, where people can share tips and encouragement on purging and binging. In one ‘motivational’ style video, the YouTuber states that ‘we are heroes of humanity, because we stop the world food shortage problem by voluntarily starving ourselves, out of the kindness of our heart.'
2. How to have sex
‘Sadly, there are even videos on how to have sex on YouTube,’ says Jordan. ‘These videos are soft-core pornography that detail how to perform sexual acts. They’re particularly damaging to young people as they’re often misguided representations and obviously are aimed at adults with an understanding of sex, not young people who may be learning about sex for the first time.'
3. How to make drugs
‘Yes, there are tutorials on YouTube explaining in detail how to commit many illegal acts,’ says Jordan. ‘"How tos" on making drugs are not such a risk for younger children who won’t have easy access to the resources required, but some teenage kids may have access to these resources from other kids at school. This places them at a greater risk of engaging in this kind of illegal behaviour.’
4. How to make fireworks
‘Unfortunately, these videos are not just talking about little sparkler bombs, like some parents made when they were kids – these videos explain how to make actual fireworks, which are not only illegal, but highly dangerous,’ explains Jordan.
5. How to hold your parent's phone to ransom
Jordan says that there are millions of videos online on how to hack into accounts, computers, files, etc. ‘Although people usually require a particular skill level to be able to hack into people’s bank accounts or anything with that level of encryption, there are countless tutorial videos explaining how kids can hack into small time digital property like their parent’s phones.' Jordan went on to say that, ‘many YouTube videos even promote the behaviour. In one video seen by over 1.8 million people, the YouTuber instructs young people to hack into their parent's phone in order to hold the phone ransom, and then use it as leverage to get parents to agree to something.'
How can parents help?
‘The easiest way to prevent your children from seeing any of these harmful tutorial videos is to ensure that young children only have access to YouTube Kids,’ says Jordan. ‘YouTube Kids is a separate website and app that only contains videos appropriate for a younger audience. To prevent them accessing regular YouTube, I suggest blocking the app and website using parental control software such as Family Zone.' Older children may be given the benefit of the doubt, and are able to use regular YouTube, but you can turn on Restrictions to ensure that videos directly relating to sex, drugs, fireworks and so on are filtered out.
How to turn on YouTube Restrictions
1. Scroll to the bottom of any YouTube page and click the Restricted Mode drop-down menu.
2. Select On or Off.
3. Click Save.
At Family Zone, we understand that navigating this journey as a parent is difficult. But you're not in it alone - our team of Cyber Experts, including ySafe, can help you sort out what apps and content are appropriate for your child, and provide you with the tools and resources to help you protect your children online.