YouTube videos consumed by children and teens often lack diversity or perpetuate racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes

A new report from Common Sense Media takes a unique look at YouTube content through the lens of children’s ethnic and racial development.

SAN FRANCISCO, June 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — For young children (0-8), time spent on video-sharing sites like YouTube now exceeds time spent watching TV, and tweens and teens (9-18 years) say YouTube is the site they wouldn’t want to live without if forced to choose. But much of the content they consume on YouTube is either devoid of color characters or includes biased and stereotypical depictions of race, gender and ethnicity, according to a new report released today by Common Sense. Media.

The report, “Who is the “you” on YouTube? Missed Opportunities for Race and Representation in Children’s YouTube Videos“, follows the 2021 edition of Common Sense Media”Imperative of inclusionreport and this is the first time that researchers have looked at hundreds of hours of YouTube content through the lens of children’s ethnic and racial development. According to the report, 62% of YouTube videos watched by children ages 8 and fewer featured any Black, Indigenous people and a further 10% included only superficial or stereotypical portrayals of BIPOC characters, and when BIPOC characters were prominent, videos were much more likely to include interpersonal violence (27% vs. 16% of videos with prominent characters (white characters), foul language (32% vs. 13%), and slightly higher alcohol, drug and smoking use (7% vs. 2%) In addition, videos featuring prominent BIPOC characters had lower overall educational quality Only 18% of videos featuring BIPOC characters were of lower educational quality. educational ality, compared to about 30% of those with white characters.

Analyzing how often BIPOC characters appear and how they are portrayed in content on YouTube is critical, given the platform’s popularity, influence, and ability to shape children’s experiences through to social validation, viral content and recommendation feeds. “Young children and adolescents are like sponges, absorbing every image and message they consume,” says Deja Rollins, a doctoral student studying racial and media effects who co-wrote the report. “And because they lack the media literacy skills we often develop as adults, the hours of stereotypical and racially disproportionate YouTube content they consume can play a critical role in shaping their overall identity and understanding of the world they live in. We know kids are on YouTube, that’s a fact, so that’s exactly where we went to investigate who and What dominated the content of our sample. » The report, produced in partnership with the University of Michigan, analyzed more than 1,242 YouTube videos watched by young children, tweens, and teens, representing 344 hours of content. Comparatively, content consumed by tweens and teens does slightly better than videos watched by young children when it comes to including more diversity and positive portrayals of BIPOC characters. For tweens and teens, more videos contained BIPOC characters than those viewed by the 0-8 age group (61% contained at least one BIPOC character vs. 38%), but the majority of characters were still predominantly whites. In videos watched by this older age group, a lower proportion of videos with prominent BIPOC characters (18%) contained violence compared to those without prominent BIPOC characters (25%).

“While YouTube has taken steps to include more diverse voices on its platform, it is clear that children are still watching content that portrays negative racial and ethnic stereotypes,” said Michael RobbPhD, co-author of the report. “YouTube certainly has the power to be the platform that succeeds on diversity of representation, but at the moment it’s still missing that opportunity, especially when it comes to content viewed by children.” The report’s authors recommend that YouTube take a number of steps to help its viewers access more diverse content, such as updating its algorithm to avoid inadvertently promoting biased and racist content, especially in videos for children, and consider adding experts to review a selection of trending videos and identify where questionable and biased depictions are spreading fast so they can be removed.

“Having more pairs of eyes examining the content before it is posted on YouTube could really make a difference in how inclusivity is reflected on media platforms,” said Enrica Bridgewatera PhD student studying media and identity development who co-wrote the report. “As one of the most influential media platforms, YouTube could help children along their personal journey understand what their different identities mean to them, and that’s a big deal.”

Last year, alongside the Inclusion Imperative report, Common Sense Media added a new note for various representations to help families and educators identify media that show acceptance and inclusion. Since its launch, more than 2,424 titles have been rated to assess representations, diverse or otherwise.

Other key findings:

  • YouTube videos watched by children do not reflect the ethnic diversity of young children, tweens, and teens in the United States For children ages 0-8, the largest discrepancies between U.S. Census and YouTube representation occurred among black, Latino, and multiracial groups. For children ages 9 to 18, the largest discrepancies between U.S. Census and YouTube representation occurred among Latino and multiracial groups.

  • For tweens and teens, ethnic and racial stereotyping, including the use of inappropriate accents, the N-word, or ethnic and racial-themed jokes, appeared in about 1 in 10 videos on average. This means that if tweens and teens watched 10 YouTube videos a day for a year, they could see 300 videos depicting stereotypes of BIPOC characters.

  • Gender stereotypes went hand in hand with ethnic and racial stereotypes in videos watched by tweens and teens. Videos containing ethnic and racial stereotypes were much more likely to also contain gender stereotypes (55%) than those without ethnic and racial stereotypes (18%) in videos viewed by tweens and teens.

  • Teaching about race and ethnicity was extremely rare. Of the 1,242 videos watched by children in the study, only two (0.002%) discussed race and ethnicity.

Common sense media and the University of Michigan analyzed YouTube videos viewed by 114 young children (ages 0-8), collected from March to April 2020and by 140 tweens/teens (ages 9-18), collected from June to July 2021. Parents or children provided a list of recent videos they had viewed on the main YouTube site, which were coded for ethnic and racial representation (1,242 videos in total).

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.

About common sense
Common Sense is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and families by providing the trusted information, education and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more about

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Shirley K. Rosa