There are entire rating systems dedicated to monitoring inappropriate or intense content in movies and television. That structure isn't in place, however, for online kids videos. It's up to the parents to review content and seek out trusted channels before allowing their children to start watching content. We've dedicated countless hours filtering out inappropriate content in kids videos for our Jellies playlists and know firsthand how difficult it can be.
To make your search for quality kids videos a little easier, we discuss five types of videos we chose to avoid entirely when creating playlists for Jellies. Here's what you may want to steer clear of when selecting what you want your children to watch, and why.
Kids Videos with Intense Language and Imagery
These are the more obvious inappropriate content items to look out for when selecting which kids videos are right for your family. While Common Sense Media's age-range information helps provide a sense for what kinds of content your child's developing mind can handle, these items are largely inappropriate for all child age groups. You'll want to steer your child away from:
- Violence: This can be small incidents like being pushy on the playground to more intense situations like car chases and shootouts. Children tend to mimic behavior and may become more aggressive after watching violent content.
- Addictive or illegal substances: That includes smoking.
- Profanity and intense language: From “Oh my God” and “What the heck” to more obscene word choice.
- Romantic and intimate relationships: Children don't start understanding romantic relationships and some simple affectionate actions like kissing and holding hands until the 5-7 age range. At 8 and 9, children may become interested in learning more. Common Sense Media recommends avoiding content that shows highly sexualized behavior.
We've filtered out a range of questionable scenes while curating content for our Jellies playlists. Here are some of the intense imagery that we encountered, but you may not have considered yet:
- Accident scenes: These are common in police and fire videos. Your child may enjoy watching real fire trucks and police cruisers respond to calls with lights and sirens, but are they prepared or mature enough to see the house on fire or car accident at the end?
- Rebellious actions: Breaking into abandoned or closed parks/stores/other locations to play.
- Intense animal imagery: Animals hunting and mating.
Keep in mind that just because a video is branded for children doesn't mean it's safe. YouTube creators have been known to insert intense language and imagery into popular kids cartoons and icons as a way to fool children into watching content that's not appropriate. This most recently happened with Peppa Pig. In our experience curating kids videos for Jellies, we've encountered a disturbing amount of inappropriate content hidden within kid-friendly videos and playlists. That's why we watch all videos in their entirety to make sure every minute is kid-appropriate and there are no hidden scenes within the videos.
Kids Videos with Child Celebrities
Many popular kids videos feature children who sing, dance, show off sports skills, play with toys, and interact with their families and the world around them in an effort to get likes and subscribes. These videos are different from other videos featuring children in that they actively try to create a brand out of the child and his or her channel. It's not just a young girl demonstrating her finest gymnastics moves on video, it's BeckyHD (a made up username) who begs her audience to like, subscribe, and comment throughout the video.
Some parents are unsure about the messages these types of videos send to their children. This is particularly concerning for children between the ages of 8-9. According to Common Sense Media, children at that age start to assign hierarchies to friendships (it's called “the age of the best friend” after all) and idolize other children. What happens, though, when a child watches enough of a kid celebrity to start judging his or her own worth on whether they have a YouTube channel and an audience?
There's also a moral dilemma. We spend a lot of time thinking about what effect certain types of kids video content has on our children. But what impact will YouTube stardom have on children as they start to become adults? How will they feel about it? And how will it effect their public and professional lives? There's also the concern about the lengths that families will go to make their YouTube channels profitable and successful. YouTube appears to be a very lucrative business for some families. For example, Ryan, of Ryan's Toys Review, brings in an estimated $2.3 million to $37.3 million a year, according to YouTube data analyzer Social Blade. What happens when a child star of a profitable YouTube channel loses interest in being in videos? In May 2017, the parents of the DaddyOFive YouTube channel lost custody of their children after public outcry over the treatment of children in their videos. This begs the question, when does a child's involvement in these homemade videos become exploitation?
Unboxing Videos for Kids
Unboxing videos feature adults or kids eagerly unwrapping or “unboxing” toys and other products from their packaging. It's all done with an attention to detail that zeroes in on every aspect of the product. They review the products as they're unwrapped and play with them once the unboxing is complete.
From our research, there seems to be a disagreement between parents, parenting advocates, and children's media organizations about the consumerism message and overall value of unboxing videos for children. It's not clear to kids that what they are watching is very tightly woven with advertising, if not advertising itself. Some parents and parenting advocates even argue that unboxing videos don't offer a lot of value for kids to begin with.
That said, you don't need to eliminate unboxing videos from your child's screen time. You should, however, play close attention to how many they watch and make sure they see other, possibly more valuable kids videos too. Also monitor their behavior during and after watching the unboxing videos to make sure they aren't developing an unhealthy habit or reacting in a negative manner.
Kids Videos That Feature Toy Play
These types of videos show children and adults playing with toys. This toy play footage is often part of unboxing videos, but can stand alone. There are even toy play videos that feature only a pair of hands that manipulate the toys and no narration. These videos don't necessarily carry the same consumerism concern as their unboxing video counterparts because there's less emphasis on the branded packaging and reviewing the benefits of the toys. Parents still have concerns about them, however.
Playtime is widely considered essential in helping children develop language skills, problem solving, self control, sharing, creativity, and imagination. There are several different types of play like being passive and watching others play, playing solo, playing next to other children who are playing, and playing with other children. Watching videos of other people playing with toys could be considered that first type of play, the passive play. Parenting advocates recommend limiting the amount of passive play and favoring other, more active (and more valuable) types of play.
What's more, some parents are concerned that kids videos with toy play are telling children how they should play with their toys. Young children, particularly children between the ages of 2 and 4, tend to imitate what they see, according to Common Sense Media. While there's nothing inherently wrong with imitating the toy play seen in kids videos, some parents are concerned that these videos are telling children there's an expected way to play with toys, stifling their child's imagination and creativity.
Like unboxing videos, you don't need to completely eliminate toy play videos from your child's screen time. Be sure to take note of how your child reacts to what he or she sees. Is your child mimicking the toy play in the video or building off that toy play with his or her own imaginative scenarios?
Kids Videos with Inappropriate Social Interactions
Be mindful of the behavior demonstrated by characters in kids videos. Stay away from videos that feature characters who demand things of others, don't share, bully, and take part in other negative behaviors and social interactions. As children, especially younger children, tend to mimic what they observe, you may find your child expressing some of those inappropriate social behaviors after watching these types of kids videos.
Children learn the best by watching characters displaying appropriate and kind interactions with others. According to Common Sense Media it's not until age 7 that children start to be able to properly understand a more complex narrative that shows a negative interaction and the consequences of it. For example, a narrative that shows a character pushing another and then later feeling remorseful for the action won't have as clear of a message for children this young. Even then, such narratives need to be very simple and might need some parental guidance to reinforce that the interaction on display is what should NOT be done and why.
Given all this, it's best to stick with kids videos that simply demonstrate the behavior you want your child to use in social situations. You can further reinforce this positive behavior by pointing out parts of the interaction that you especially enjoy, like politely raising a hand while waiting to speak in the classroom or being patient and waiting in line to use the restroom.
What Kids Videos Should My Child Watch?
It's not enough to find kids videos that aren't any of the types of videos listed above. The American Academy of Pediatrics screen usage guidelines say that parents should select “high quality” kids video content for their child's screen time. We look at what qualifies as “high quality” kids video content in What Kids Videos Are Right for My Child?.