A previously announced series of regulations on YouTube that are designed to protect children from being exposed to predators and dangerous or offensive content is causing uproar among some parents. Now, YouTube is improving its protections for underage users by moving content featuring children to the YouTube Kids app.
Some parents of child YouTube stars worry that moving children’s content off the main site could dramatically decrease the revenue they make on their videos. According to one father of two boys who run a popular YouTube channel with more than 1.7 million subscribers, the majority of their views come from outside the controlled environment of the YouTube Kids app.
“It’s not a viable business model for those of us creating good, family-friendly content,” he told MarketWatch. “The revenue generated currently from views on the YouTube Kids app is very low, a tiny fraction of the main platform.”
This is undoubtedly horrifying if you consider the implications being made here.
There’s an implicit admittance that Capitalism is designed to commodify the entirety of human existence, including childhood, all in service of continuing the cycle of consumption. One can see this trend play out in real-time in a variety of ways. And even if just on YouTube and other social media, the entire model of these platforms is designed to manufacture consumption to generate more wealth through parasocial relationships.
YouTube itself is a system designed to push creators toward excessive monetization and constant awareness of a brand identity, rather than a purely genuine social interaction or creative endeavor. But make no mistake, the system will absolutely ruthlessly exploit these elements to push a product.
Anyone who has spent some time on the platform has noticed the increasing amount of advertising, both in display ads over videos and “baked in” ad reads, but it goes beyond that. The ecosystem of YouTube is one designed to push viral competition. The most obvious example of this is the constant “calls to action” baked into videos that push users to subscribe, buy other products, subscribe to newsletters and so on.
And since she’s far better at explaining what I’m talking about, here’s Lindsay Ellis breaking this concept down in more detail:
So what does this have to do with children earning money on YouTube? Well, it comes down to a very simple question about how Capitalism treats human existence. Why do children feel the need to earn this money? Why are there constant fluff pieces in the media about children being applauded for having to scrimp and save for college in their preteen years? The answer to both questions is the same. And I also have to wonder how this is any different to other historical examples of childhood exploitation.
Child labor laws hurt the earning power of kids in factories. That’s why they had to be laws. So why won’t some parents celebrate the idea of protecting their children from toxic influences?
It’s very telling that Google prevents creators from talking about how much money they earn through Adsense, the platform Google uses to serve YouTube ads. It’s almost as if the company doesn’t want people taking a deeper look at how that money is earned and what costs are attached to it beyond monetary concerns.
So even if we were to only consider the excessive monetization and commodification of experience as a problem, this uproar over lost revenue would be asinine. But there’s a deeper and far more disturbing problem here. One born seemingly of greed and profit-seeking rather than genuine parental understanding.
This argument also acknowledges that there is a noticeable problem with child exploitation that is indirectly being catered to, even unintentionally, but that this issue is less important than making money. The most recent “Adpocalypse” kicked off on YouTube specifically because of people drawing attention to pedophiles leaving disgusting comments on videos featuring children. This is the same reason for the increased pressure on YouTube to police content, both produced by and aimed at, children.
But somehow the idea of monetary wealth is more important. If there was ever a more prescient hyper-Capitalist nightmare, I don’t know it.
At the same time that Republican politicians in Oregon would threaten to murder police before voting on a bill designed to tackle impending climate disaster, this kind of statement just makes it more and more difficult to deny that we’re living in a universe consisting of perpetual headlines from The Onion.