Tuesday, December 12, 2017

*Be Aware - Save the kids from the Internet's new low!*

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Is this post is for you? Answer these to find out -

- Do you have kids at an age when they depend on you for judgement and guidance?
- Do you give your young ones unsupervised Internet screen time?
- Are they overtly attached to any present day animation characters like Elsa, Emma (Frozen) or any popular Disney characters?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you need to read on!

The Internet is an open, semi-moderated ocean of everything. And everything is available if you just know what to find. The where is helped along by Google and other search avenues.

On one hand, there is obviously a lot of good you can do when you introduce and expose the internet to your young ones. Although keep in mind the need to create effective layers of control for that the access. The PC / network filters, firewalls and net-monitoring or nanny tools are mighty helpful (at least for kids not old enough to circumvent them). 

But on the other hand there is a dark and frightening side to it.

If you have been following any of the recent kids / teenager targeted Hollywood franchises (movies), you know the popularity of characters like Elsa and Emma (Frozen), the Spider-man (Marvel Series) and the Batman and Joker (DC Comics).

Imagine a situation when your kid makes a harmless search for a YouTube video featuring her favourite character, and using simple search terms like *Frozen* or *Elsa* or *Spider-man*, or anything like it, while on safe-search too.
These are quite common keywords for Google or YouTube and predictably will bring up lots of results targeting your average kids. This would obviously include user run Cartoon Channels aimed at ages about 2 – 8 as well.
Pretty harmless you would say, simply click along!

BUT what about the fact when some of these videos (popular ones with millions of views) start really innocent.. and halfway through turn into themes which are violent, sexual, antisocial or just plain disturbing? Videos showing content which could damage your kids and leave them puzzled and confused or hell even change the definition of normal for them?

Horrifying, no? And the fact that this could happen so easily makes it even more scary.

Sadly, this is the current state of affairs on the Internet which is upon us, as in right now. With almost all of these videos having easy access and friendly titles like "Elsa and Spiderman play hide and seek" they become instant click-bait... But halfway through turn into something else...you get the picture.

So prevalent is the theme, that there is even a term *Elsagate* (initially referenced on a subreddit) which broadly classifies this YouTube phenomenon.

On one hand, I am sure we all understand and agree on the need of natural progression and evolution of personality and attitude which happens with age. We also agree that we should not excessively police our children. I for one would surely want my kids to have the same opportunity to grow, evolve and express like I did.

But when common, harmless playtime takes shape of tools which are conniving and deceitful in motive, you as a parent need to step in and take action.

In this case, most of the videos are available even through the child filter, thus they will make through the age safe list and even the seemingly children-friendly YouTube Kids App. This means very young children could be exposed to this, which is a horrifying thought.

So what do we do now? Well, I suggest nothing extraordinary but seemingly common (though rarely followed) actions -
1. Till a permanent solution (be it technology based effective checks, filters or outright banning of these channels) happens, be the parent with an eye out on what your kids do online.
2. Make any and all surfing a family time activity, which allows you to spend time with kids, but also gives you the opportunity to step-in, guide and take control as needed.
3. Be an aware parent. Try to notice changes in your kid's behaviours and patterns for anything out of the ordinary. You may be an effective parent for your kid, but your kid's friends may not have that privilege.
4. If you have other friends and family who follow these characters like their lives depend on it, be a good friend and pass this information to them as well.

Internet is a powerful tool, and as the quote goes, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
So be aware and responsible, you are the only immediate guidance your kids have, play that role. 

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