Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

SpongeBob NoPants

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

SpongeBob NoPants

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Edmunds

A SPONGEBOB SquarePants video dubbed with explicit hip-hop lyrics. A violent trailer for an R-rated horror film that played at the beginning of a Fireman Sam video. An episode of Disney series Doc McStuffins with subtitles riddled with expletives.

These are just a few examples of inappropriate content children might have stumbled across in the past few months when watching child-friendly clips on the world's most popular video-streaming site, Google-owned YouTube.

For many parents, YouTube is a godsend, offering instant entertainment on long car rides, in doctor' waiting rooms, or just keeping the kids entertained for the half-hour before dinner.

It can also be a goldmine of information, whether you want a clip to help a child learn a musical instrument, teach them spelling, maths or colours, or be inspired by elaborate science experiments.

But with the good comes the bad - brutal violence, sexual content, in-depth examinations of all manner of stomach-turning physical ailments - and the just plain weird, such as a how-to video of DIY prostate exams.

That has left parents asking how anyone can control what kids access on a platform that has 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. It is a concern that is being raised around the world and one YouTube is tackling with only mixed success. Earlier this year, it launched its child-friendly content YouTube Kids app. It is not available here yet and has received a lukewarm welcome in the US.

Consumer groups there are worried inappropriate content is slipping through the app's checks and parents have complained about encountering pornographic cartoons, graphic violence and alcohol advertising.

Google also offers YouTube Safety Mode, which filters out clips labelled age-restricted or flagged as having "mature" content.

But this relies on other users to correctly identify the content and it has to be enabled on every browser that kids are using. …

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