YouTube is causing stress and sexualization in young children
Watching “fear-inducing videos cause the brain to receive a small amount of dopamine,” said Dr. Volpitta. Dopamine is produced in the body to promote reinforcement — it acts as a reward and creates a desire to do something over and over.
Signs your child is experiencing emotional stress
Your child is more prone to mood swings.
Your child withdraws from activities.
Your child routinely expresses worries.
Your child is complaining, crying, or displaying fearful reactions.
Your child is clinging to a parent or teacher.
Your child is sleeping too much or too little.
Your child is eating too much or too little.
Natasha Daniels, LCSW, child psychotherapist in Chandler, Arizona, agrees. She is the founder of AnxiousToddlers.com, an educational website for parents. “YouTube is an ongoing conversation in my therapy practice, which indicates there’s a problem,” she said. Over the last five years, she said she has seen a rise in cases of children suffering from anxiety triggered by videos they have watched on YouTube. These children exhibit loss of appetite, sleeplessness, crying fits and fear.
Daniels said parents should heed YouTube’s terms of service, which states, “The Service is not intended for children under 13.” She continues, “I’m seeing this impacting kids between the ages of six to 12, but it’s the younger ones that are really concerning.”
Even more disturbing than the videos that cause stressful emotions are the ones containing sexually explicit content that target children.
“There have been times when a child is brought to my office between [the ages of] eight and 10 and they’re found doing sexual things: oral sex, kissing and getting naked and acting out sexual poses. This usually indicates some sort of sexual abuse. In the past, whenever I did some investigating, I would find a child who has been molested himself or that an adult has been grooming the child for abuse. However, in the last five years, when I follow the trail all the way back, it’s YouTube and that’s where it ends,” said Daniels.
Recommendations for parents to restrict children’s media use
Children under 18 months should avoid screen-based media with video-chatting being an exception.
Children 18 months to 24 months should only watch with their parents, with their parents choosing high-quality content.
Children two to five should only watch high-quality video of their parent’s choosing for one hour per day.
Children aged six or older should receive consistent limits on media use, with priority given to sleep and activities rather than media consumption.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Chamath Palihapitiya, one of Facebook’s original executives, has been very vocal about how he believes technology is devolving society. “[My children get] no screen time whatsoever,” he said during a recent interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Microsoft‘s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs also famously went against their children’s wishes by raising them with little to no screen time.