Is YouTube Kids Purposely Training Kids To Watch YouTube Ads?

Is YouTube Kids Purposely Training Kids To Watch YouTube Ads?
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Some of the ads and their bumpers that you’ll see on a typical weekday morning.

My 18-month-old daughter uses YouTube for two things: Peppa Pig and that Imogen Heap song that was designed to be baby crack. But the YouTube Kids app has another thing they want her to watch. Specifically, ads…for YouTube Kids.

I get it, I get it: free apps need to be ad-supported. So at first I thought this was just a move to bully me into paying for YouTube Red. In the evening, this exact same app, with the exact same settings, advertises video series that are exclusive to YouTube Red, including one with Minecraft mega-star DanTDM. On the weekends, it shows ads for movies. But in the mornings, prime toddler time, all of the ads are for the app you are already using.

My daughter gets frustrated by the ads, because if she clicks on Peppa Pig she wants Peppa Pig, dammit. If the big rectangle is showing an ad instead, she’ll click one of the little rectangles that does have Peppa Pig showing. And then she’ll have to watch an ad on that one, too.

At first I thought: I can’t wait until she learns to recognise the “skip ad” button, or to sit still for the 15 seconds it takes to wait out an unskippable ad. But then I thought: maybe that’s the whole point.

I asked Nina Tyler, communications senior associate for the YouTube team at Google, what is the purpose of these ads. Here is the entire text of her emailed response:

Hi Beth, across YouTube and our companion apps we occasionally run house ads

I asked again how they make money or if they served another purpose. She didn’t respond.

The ads aren’t on their own, either: they are preceded by a three-second bumper telling you that you’re about to watch an ad. These bumpers started appearing after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint saying, in part, that kids can’t tell what’s an ad and what’s not. Likewise, YouTube has ad policies that forbid a lot of things — clickable ads, ads for food and drink — perhaps leaving little to advertise besides YouTube itself.

These ads can’t be making money for YouTube in any direct way, but if they teach kids how to sit still through an ad, they will become savvier consumers — and maybe easier marks — as they grow up. Either that, or I’ll get sick of the crying and switch to YouTube Red.


    • You must be using it mostly on a desktop browser with an ad-blocker enabled if you’re not seeing them. On the mobile and tablet apps, where kids are more likely to be watching, ad blockers don’t work.
      Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never even looked for a mobile-capable ad blocker. My guess is that Google wouldn’t allow one on the Play Store if it worked to block YouTube ads on Android.

    • Exactly this! It is quite bizarre. One day my 3 yr old was watching Thomas on the iPad which
      seemed harmless, and it was also the older puppet version. Just what they were saying
      caught my ear and then I looked. It was indeed an episode of Thomas but someone edited
      it together as a twisted satanic story of how Harold got possessed by the devil. Henry was the only one who knew how to banish demons and asked for Percy as his payment.
      Definitely a wtf moment lol. But then I started to have to filter out a lot of things like that.

      The ones I absolutely hate are the damned ‘crying obsession’ ones. You would usually
      get a mashed up video of someone playing gta but with a HULK or SPIDERMAN skin. Then they edit paw patrol figures on them and make them fall down or do some stupid stuff like slip over poop, and then comes the endless crying. Other questionable videos involve your favourite characters having their teeth pulled out and then they cry with bloody mouths etc.

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