With over 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, it's nearly impossible to get bored watching YouTube.
It's no wonder kids find watching YouTube so entertaining, new content is merely a click away. So what's the problem?
YouTube is designed to keep users engaged as long as possible so they can continually target the viewer with ads. YouTube achieves this by creating an endless stream of video content tailored to viewer's interests based on who they subscribe to, or the video they're watching at the time.
YouTube is also full of "parody" videos which are basically live action knock off videos of kids cartoons, made by adults attempting to make money off advertising. They're quite often un-rated and because they reference kids shows they'll appear in the recommended list alongside the videos parents allow their kids to watch.
This means that it's very easy for kids to start watching a safe video and then click the next video in line until they find themselves watching something totally inappropriate.
So what does this mean for parents of kids under 13?
Cyber Expert and Psychologist Jordan Foster from ySafe explains: "YouTube's constant advertising is not the issue, it's the tailored stream of videos targeting the viewer. Kids are provided with a never ending source of entertainment that can begin with a cute Peppa Pig video and lead to very inappropriate content before parents even realise".
"This is what Cyber Experts refer to as the YouTube rabbit hole - a parent can put on an innocent cartoon for the kids while they get dinner ready and very quickly the child can click the next video in the 'Recommended' list, and then the one after that and so on until they're watching videos with nudity, foul language or worse."
And for parents of teens?
Teens are also at risk of falling down the YouTube rabbit hole - but the risk to teens is predominantly around excessive screen time.
"I find that parents are quite lenient with teens and YouTube, but what they're not realising is how much time they spend watching" says Jordan.
"Teenagers themselves don't even realise how much time they're spending - a few quick videos from their favourite YouTubers before bed can turn into a 2 hour session before they know it."
What parents need to know about YouTube
1. There are an enormous amount of parody videos around kids' topics and these are often risque and semi-pornographic.
2. YouTube content can be classified by those submitting it and users can object to these classifications. You can run YouTube in a safe mode where content that is not classified or is classified as adult is excluded.
3. You can check out your child's viewing history in YouTube (and you should), here's how.
4. There is nudity and profanity in YouTube and your kids will find videos with adult themes which can trigger further exploration.
Jordan's tips for parents
1. Set boundaries and time limits around YouTube use.
2. Be vigilant - ensure the volume is always turned up so you can hear what your kids are watching and check the screen every so often.
3. Install parental controls- YouTube's ability to display appropriate content is limited. I always recommend installing parental controls like Family Zone to filter innapropriate content on all sites including YouTube, and as a complete way to manage cyber safety for your family.
The article was first published by Family Zone.