The Safety of Anonymity
This is largely the result of the ability to post content on the internet with complete anonymity. Publishing content from the shadows tends to embolden and exaggerate a person’s message, as there is little to no social, financial, or criminal ramifications for publishing content advocating extremist views and perspectives.
Let’s look at Youtube. We’ll dissect and discuss the topic of extremist content on Youtube and explore whether or not such content has the ability to turn children into extremists or otherwise warp their views on a multitude of subjects.
What Type of Extremist Content on Youtube Can Children Access?
One of the most prolific forms of extremist content available on Youtube that children can access is media advocating religious extremism.
Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalism can come in some extreme forms, with adherents to these faiths advocating violence against non-believers, terrorism, and other socially detrimental viewpoints. Many of the videos that contain this content are presented as educational materials, which usually allow them to slip through Google’s extremist content filters.
Another common type of extremist content on Youtube that often slips through Google’s quality filters is ethnic supremacy, racist, overly ethnocentric, or anti-semitic videos.
Similar to religious extremist videos on Youtube, race-based videos are often in lecture or podcast format, allowing the video authors to skirt Google’s rules by passing off their content as educational. Children can easily access this content and are particularly vulnerable to developing a racist “me vs them” worldview, especially if the child doesn’t have much interaction with whatever race or group of people is being vilified.
Dietary Extremism? Is That a Thing?
An often overlooked form of extremist content that is potentially warping childrens views, is dietary extremism.
Youtube has given rise to a particularly terrifying form of dietary extremism. Many of these diet gurus and pseudo-health experts pass off raw vegan, beverage only, banana-based fruitarianism, and other fad diets without having ever done any clinical research on the diet and its long and short-term effects on the human body.
Children that can readily access this content can easily develop orthorexia, anorexia, and other serious eating disorders and health problems by following these extremist diet fads.
Yet another type of extremism present on Youtube that children can access is content that promotes or advocates violence.
Youtube is very proficient at being able to filter out this category of content, however, a lot of videos promoting violence still slip through the cracks and end up being viewed by children. Children that are overexposed to violent media can develop a desensitized view of it, as well as an attitude that is far less empathetic and sensitive towards the safety and plight of others.
If you catch your child watching violent content, whether it be a Youtube video masked as a dare, prank, or challenge, immediately report it to Youtube and let them know that your child was able to access. Youtube is known for being fairly responsive to content that is miscategorized or inaccurately labeled by accident or deliberately by the author.
A writer for the New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci was researching Trump videos on Youtube, when she noticed that the recommendations for viewing next were white supremacist and holocaust denial videos.
This led her to an interesting experiment. She created a clean account to view Hillary videos. Youtube promptly recommended leftist conspiracy theories and videos showing the the US Government were responsible for 911.
She tried the same on various subjects: Videos about vegetarianism had Youtube recommending articles on veganism, videos about jogging had ultra marathons as next recommendation.
This trend by Google to “up the stakes” would logically always lead to extremism. In fact, given that Youtube has an audience north of a billion, there is no bigger medium in the 21st Century to promote radicalization.
How to Protect Children From Becoming Radicalized By Youtube
The best way to protect children from being radicalized by Youtube or any other website is to closely observe the content that they are accessing and frequently engage them in dialogue about what they are watching. Honest communication is the best medicine to combat extremism.
If your child watches an extremist video, explain to them why such viewpoints are unhealthy and teach your children about the power of influence through overexposure to unhealthy ideas. Through honest and open dialogue, your children will trust you enough to discuss with you what they are watching online and how they feel about such content.
The next way to keep your children from being radicalized is to make sure strong content filters are turned on any time that your child uses the internet. These child-safe filters should be turned on at the ISP level and at the website and browser level. If you discover your child accessing extremist content, immediately report this content to Youtube and make sure that it is blocked from being accessible in the future. You have to stay proactive with setting up child-friendly filters, as content publishers are increasingly clever at finding ways to publish their content without parents being able to filter it out.
A Consensus on Children Being Radicalized By Extremist Content on Youtube
Most experts do not believe that Youtube is hugely detrimental to children. Every month Youtube updates its content filters and child safe controls, giving parents the ability to closely control and monitor exactly what content their children are accessing. If children are being radicalized by content on Youtube, most media experts would agree that it is only a tiny minority of children that are accessing the website either without parental oversight or without parental consent.
Teenagers and adults, individuals with a far better understanding of how to access extremist content are largely the age group most negatively influenced by all forms of extremism present on Youtube.