Recently, The New York Times had an article about an unusual trend on YouTube. The YouTube children app, which was first introduced in 2015, is supposed to be an app that can safely show families kid-friendly videos that are on the video-sharing site.
However, the app has somehow managed to let disturbing content slip through its filters. Many of the videos that have caused parents to complain about the app include a video in which characters from Nick Jr.’s show “Paw Patrol” go to strip clubs, characters from that same show pretend to commit suicide “for fun,” and those same characters engaging in satanic activities.
This unusual phenomenon has been dubbed “Elsagate” (from Elsa, a “Frozen” character that frequently appears in these videos, and Gate, because all scandals since Watergate are apparently required to have this name).
A typical Elsagate video would feature Elsa, Spider-Man and various other kid-friendly characters engaging in odd and unusual activities. Many of these videos involve situations that are highly inappropriate for children, including abortions, drug use, violent behavior and even fetishes.
These videos are labeled by their creators as “educational videos that teach numbers and colors” when they obviously have no positive values for children. These videos have been around since at least 2013, however they haven’t been seen in the spotlight until the mainstream media started discussing them in 2016 and 2017.
Since the article was first published in early November, several of the offending videos have been removed by YouTube; however, this was only because several advertisers threatened to end their relationship with YouTube if their ads still appear on “controversial” videos. Early in 2017, many of these advertisers already pulled out after it turned out that these ads ran on racist, neo-Nazi videos.
Since then, YouTube has implemented a scheme of demonetizing videos of a “sensitive nature” where even neutral videos of current events lost money simply because it was about issues ranging from LGBTQ issues to international politics. All of this has made parents question whether YouTube really cares about their customers, or if it really is just about the money.
The Elsagate scandal shows that even with all of the kid-friendly features that YouTube has added in recent years, it still isn’t a good idea to let children be on this site. These Elsagate videos use misleading titles and descriptions to lure children into watching violent and sexual content that isn’t appropriate for their age. The best thing for parents to do is to actively monitor what kinds of videos are on this site and to watch appropriate videos with their children, so seeing this type of upsetting content won’t harm them.