YouTube videos for children are growing in popularity with the most successful channels racking up billions of views and monetised to earn the creators a fortune. Most children's channels feature the unboxing of toys and children playing games however others are more sinister. In the phenomenon known as Elsagate adults dressed as children's favourite characters such as Elsa from Frozen and Spider-Man from Marvel are performing graphically violent and sexual sketches. The videos will start out innocent and gradually become more disturbing.

Frequently occurring are sex scenes including orgies, forced abortions, decapitation, limbs being severed, and the eating of faeces.

All whilst the performers wear costumes of cartoon characters and perform the scenes to playful music.

Children's YouTube filters

YouTube includes an option to enable filters that prevent adult content being shown to children, but these Elsagate videos are not being stopped.

These videos are being viewed by children every day on phones and tablets and parents are completely unaware, thinking the filters provided by YouTube are enough to stop their children viewing this content.

How violent imagery impacts children

In his paper titled The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children, Dr Christopher L. Heffner described the consequences of allowing children to view images of Violence. He described how exposure to violent images in childhood induced a 12% rise in aggressive behaviour, as well as a stark reduction in empathy.

This lack of empathy, a lack of concern for the pain or suffering of others, resulted in those children behaving aggressively towards other children and being more likely to cause harm, but also in them being more fearful of the world around them.

Dr Heffner acknowledges that there is no evidence either way as to whether the impact of these violent images and behavioural changes are long term and the implication is that by stepping in could well course correct this aggressive reaction.

That said, he finishes the paper by advising parents exercise caution in their children's viewing habits and not rely too heavily on screens for their entertainment due to the pervasive nature of violence on television.

How sexual imagery impacts children

The America College of Pediatricians released details on a study by Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant about the impacts of young adults viewing pornography and sexual imagery. For obvious reasons, nobody has conducted a study of showing pornography to children, but we can assume the results are transferable.

The subjects were exposed to a series of pornographic images of six weeks. Male subjects demonstrated an increased callousness towards women and stated many women secretly want to be raped, and all subjects viewed rape as a less serious crime and developed an increased interest and acceptance of extreme, deviant and violent sex acts.

By warping children's view of sexual relations from a young age, Zillman and Bryant stated that women, in particular, were put at greater risk, and there was a strong correlation to increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse.

Should YouTube step in?

These videos are earning the creators a lot of money primarily by infiltrating the children's YouTube settings. Many parents are unaware that these videos even exist, increasing children's risk of exposure. By not stepping in and either banning these videos or tightening restrictions, I believe YouTube is complicit in psychological damage and grooming of children for profit.