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Starting around 2016, an unsettling phenomenon arose on a platform that most would hope to be a place that’s safe from it. In recent times, it has become more and more true that you never know what you’ll find, or what your children will find, on the internet — more specifically, on YouTube, and even its ideally kid-friendly counterpart, YouTube Kids. In this case, though, people seem to have let their guard down, and it has given parents cause for alarm, especially considering how common it is to give children from the age of three years old the ability to watch whatever and however many videos they want.Even regardless of what they might be watching, there have been concerns and studies about allowing young children to have unlimited screen time. One study by the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that kids with no access to screens over a period of time were better at interpreting facial expressions and nonverbal cues than those that had their normal screen time. This means that too much screen time at too young an age can inhibit the development of social skills.Now, on top of those concerns, there’s another danger to worry about, which is the content that they are being exposed to while on these devices. The videos began to get noticed in 2017, and the whole situation became widely known on the internet as ElsaGate. Videos classified as part of this often featured characters that are liked and recognized by children, such as Elsa from Disney’s movie Frozen, which inspired the name. The reason ElsaGate videos are so troubling is that these characters are depicted with themes and situations that are disorienting, vile, violent, or sexual. Young children could be watching them, one after another, unaware that anything is wrong. Usually, the videos will have long, vague titles that are intended to take advantage of the recommendation algorithm for more attention and views, so they can appear among the more innocent recommendations. This way, they get millions of views and are even at times eligible for advertisements.Many parents are worried by the whole problem, and rightfully so. How are the kids being affected? What insidious consequences could there be for exposing them to this? While these effects aren’t being studied, there have been parents reporting strange behavior on the part of their kids, and there are theories that the videos are meant to normalize dangerous, abusive, or sexual actions.More attention was brought to the issue in late 2017 with some celebrities and content creators commenting on it, including Joe Rogan, James Bridle, and Philip DeFranco. YouTube has responded by making efforts to solve, or at least suppress the problem, deleting over fifty channels and thousands of videos, changing their guidelines so that videos that make inappropriate use of family-friendly characters aren’t considered advertiser-friendly. However, there are those who are skeptical of these efforts because of YouTube’s history of dealing with monetization issues on its main site. As of now, the problem is not completely gone and may become a greater issue as future generations become more invested in technology.

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