Are Youtube Videos Targeting Children to Create the Next Generation of Mindless Consumers?

YouTube Kids was launched on February 23, 2015 as a supposed safe space for children to watch videos online. Parents everywhere rejoiced when they found they could stop paying attention to their kids and just park their eyes in front of an iPad.

I know the popular topic with YouTube Kids is Elsagate where there are videos of Spiderman and Elsa getting into inappropriate situations involving scat, violence, bondage and sexual innuendo. However, I am not interested in researching into that any further. If you search online there are plenty of other people who have discussed it. I am looking beyond that, because eventually that situation should get rectified. But the dangers of YouTube transcend past these obvious problems.

YouTube is raising a new generation of mindless consumers by convincing young impressionable minds that advertisements are fun. Before YouTube rose to its present popularity, the millennial generation was raised on avoiding advertisements. Often through channel flipping and eventually through the DVR. Now kids are being raised where the whole purpose of entertainment is watching advertisements. They typically avoid traditional advertisements like their parents, yet they seem attracted to sponsored content. In response to the ad avoidance of many of these potential consumers, marketing companies have birthed a new demon spawn that is called sponsored content. This is when an article or in this case, a video is published with the intent of promoting a product or service. As distasteful and deceptive as this may be, I see it as acceptable. However, I draw the line when it is directed at children, which YouTube channels have been doing not only for free, but for pay since YouTube pays based on the amount of views a video receives. McDonalds even has their own channel which doesn’t even try to hide their advertisements. They literally have their own commercials on there so YouTube must be getting some sort of incentive to look the other way on such a blatant advert targeted at children. Some parents provide free advertising by showing their own kids eating fast food thus endorsing this unhealthy lifestyle. It is one thing to eat fast food when tight on time, but we don’t need to indoctrinate other kids when childhood obesity is on the rise. In the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark and Belgium legislation has been enacted to restrict advertising to children. It is outright illegal in Norway and Quebec. But here in America, money is our God, so we place the value of corporate profits over the welfare of our children. Never mind the rise of loneliness and mental health problems in this country.

 The Trance Generation

The Trance Generation

You can’t consume much if you sit still and read books. The advertisers know that if you are happy and content, you are less likely to buy whatever junk they are selling. Advertisers don’t sell weight loss pills, or a new car, or a shiny toy. Advertisers sell dreams, fun lifestyles or happiness. Though for the most part it is all just a lie to separate a fool from their money. That is what these videos are doing. They show children being overly happy with McDonalds food or with the latest toys, and young impressionable minds watching the video want to be happy too. So, they bug their parents to go to McDonalds or get the latest toy they see on YouTube. How many kids on there are making slime? I must admit this is a more creative and fun idea though, but it does drive home the point of how impressionable kids are to this type of content.

Children are not mature enough to distinguish advertisements from traditional content. What they see is a bunch of kids having fun and they learn at a young age the false truth that they can buy their way to happiness. Marketing companies are wise to this which is why we see YouTube kids littered with McDonalds, surprise boxes, candy and toys. I keep hearing the argument from parents online that YouTube should be held responsible and remove inappropriate content and offer more educational content, but that is not the business YouTube is in. It is the job of the parents to educate children, not corporations. Why are adults so quick to pass accountability on to the media giants of San Francisco? This is nothing new. When I was growing up parents were angry at the violence in video games like Mortal Kombat and Doom, but many parents were buying these violent video games for their children. Even if the kids managed to buy it when they were underage, as yours truly did often, the parents should be aware of what their children are up to. For the record, my parents thought I was mature enough and I never committed a fatality on my friends. Every kid is different. I just feel the parents, not corporations should decide what is appropriate for their own children. So many focus on what negative content is out there, but I argue that parents should encourage their children to find more meaningful ways to spend their time. Even if on occasion they watch a dumb YouTube video. As Oscar Wilde says, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” We should foster a more constructive environment to help instill values that we want in future members of society. Having children watch advertisements for fun is indoctrinating them into a lifestyle of materialism and jealousy. This won’t lead to a fulfilling life.

I already can hear the comments coming in telling me how I don’t understand how tough it is to raise children, especially since the destruction of the nuclear family. Though it is wonderful that women are having careers, the rise of the two-income household has made it much more challenging to spend time with our kids. I am not recommending we go back to our lifestyle of the 1950s as it was fraught with its own issues. Rather, we should strive for a better work life balance in modern society. Most of us work more hours in a week than is truly necessary to accomplish our tasks at work. Modern society spends way too much time slaving away at work making a small elite class more money than they need. Someday, we may be able to rectify that, but what can we do about this problem today? Set limits on technology for your kids, and take time to look through their history on their iPads. More importantly spend time with them in a constructive manner. If you expect to be able to binge on Netflix and simultaneously tell your children to get off their iPads, they may be reluctant. Lead by example and show them what fun it is to get outside and enjoy nature or read a book. Kids should be using their imagination and spending time outside. They should be learning about nature and social skills, not how to lust after the newest cheap piece of plastic. Share in the comments below what struggles you or your children have had. Let me know what has worked for you.