YouTube: Stop Addicting our Kids!

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube

YouTube intentionally addicts children to their platform using manipulative design. They use engineering features to serve children an endless stream of videos and recommendations that often veer into inappropriate and even harmful content. YouTube does this because they want to maximize profits—including from children. Even content aimed at toddlers and preschool children will autoplay for hours.

Combine autoplay with YouTube’s opaque algorithms that never stop recommending new content to kids, and you have a recipe for addiction among the internet’s most vulnerable people, especially kids. Some children even fall down dangerous content rabbit holes, finding extremist, violent, and other inappropriate content.

Parental controls are not working. Most parents don’t know how to manage them or what the risks are to kids’ safety and mental health.

YouTube must:

1. Set autoplay to be off by default for all kids content on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

2. End algorithm-based recommendations for kids’ content entirely.

To: Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube
From: [Your Name]

Ms. Wojcicki,

YouTube’s addictive features and algorithmic manipulation are actively hurting kids. Autoplay and algorithm-driven recommendations on kids’ content are each dangerous on their own, and in combination they are even worse. Kids are being endangered by YouTube’s addictive content rabbit holes and recommendations that can quickly funnel children into inappropriate content.

Autoplay should not be the norm for kids’ content, let alone the default setting for any account, as it currently is. In fact, YouTube even defaults to autoplay for content aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. Parental controls on YouTube are not sufficient, and they are difficult to figure out. Despite being concerned about screen time, most parents—60% according to a recent Pew study—don’t use parental controls to change default settings.

YouTube has a responsibility to keep people safe—especially young people. Please set autoplay to be off by default for all kids content on YouTube and YouTube Kids and end algorithm-based recommendations for kids’ content entirely. Urgent action is needed in order to protect our children.