Want help talking to your kids about porn?  Get our free Quick Start Guide: How to Talk to Kids about Pornography.

Tackle the Tech

Parent Alert! YouTube’s Pedophile Problem + How Clever Kids Misuse Google Docs

Our regular Parent Alert! news updates help parents stay ahead of the trends affecting kids in our hypersexualized culture.

Here’s what’s going on in March 2019.

YouTube caught enabling child sexual exploitation!

Eleven-year-old Corie loved to share her gymnastics competitions on her YouTube channel.

She was proud of her accomplishments and eagerly read the comments: “Great job on the double backflip!”  “You’ve worked so hard and it’s paying off!”

While scrolling through the comments she was surprised to find that one viewer had left just a timestamp and the word “hot” next to it.  The comment had 30 upvotes.

Weird?  Scary?

It's actually child sexual exploitation!  And it’s just the tip of the latest YouTube child sexploitation crisis.

A YouTuber discovers a pedophile “wormhole”

YouTube’s child sexploitation problem is not new.

In 2017, YouTube was in hot water for allowing videos with pornographic cartoon characters to be monetized. The scandal earned the name “Elsagate”.

Fast forward to February 2019.  A YouTuber named Matt Watson uploaded his own research on YouTube’s pedophile problem.

His findings?  YouTube’s recommendation algorithms enable pedophiles to share and access child pornography.

Related: Is YouTube (Finally) Protecting Children?

Some examples of what he discovered:

  • Pedophiles are using kids’ YouTube videos to network with each other and trade social media contacts.
  • Pedophiles timestamp kids’ videos at points where girls or boys are in compromising situations (e.g., while doing a yoga pose or a stretch).
  • If a viewer watches a video that is heavily timestamped with suggestive comments, the recommended videos on the sidebar become increasingly lewd.  This helps pedophiles find other videos with explicit content and connect with other pedophiles to share content and contact information.
  • There is advertising from major brands on many of these videos.

This comment from Matt Watson’s YouTube video tells the story from a sibling’s perspective. (Note: edited for minor spelling and punctuation.)

“This happened to my sister. [She] and her friend were making a challenge video about 3 years ago; they were 12 at the time. This video blew up - it got like 25,000 views. I was confused why it blew up because it wasn't a very good video. I watched the video and checked the comments and it was a bunch of timestamps with smiley face emojis. I watched the video again and saw they were wearing skirts and the timestamps were points where you could see under the skirt. The video currently has the comments disabled. I don't know if it was Youtube or [my sister] that did this as I haven't confronted her about the situation. Parents, please make sure your children are being safe on the internet and not putting themselves in vulnerable situations.”

Major brands jump the YouTube ship

In response to this expose, major brands have removed or paused their advertising on YouTube, including Disney, Nestle, Kellogg, and AT&T.

YouTube has since pulled 400 channels and disabled comments on tens of millions of videos featuring lewd or exploitative comments on kids’ videos.

These shocking numbers expose what a huge problem this has been!

The company has also said that it will no longer allow comments on videos featuring young children or “risky behavior” by minors.

How to make YouTube safer and protect kids online

Should your family also “jump ship” when it comes to YouTube?  Many parents are deciding that social media is not a good idea for their middle schooler.

Here are some positive parenting steps to help you protect kids online:

  1. Common Sense Media provides a great video on five ways to make YouTube safer for your kids.  There’s also an ultimate guide that answers many questions about YouTube settings.
  2. Of course, no filter or privacy setting is 100% foolproof.  But you can do something else! Build up your child’s digital citizenship to help them be confident and make wise decisions on the Internet.
  3. Siblings can provide a lot of insight into their brother or sister’s online activities because they are using the same spaces.  This isn’t to promote “tattling” on each other but to get help quickly when needed!

Check out this Common Sense Media video:

Are your kids using Google Docs as a secret chat room?

Why would kids use a word processor to communicate with each other when there’s Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp – all of which are specifically designed as social media tools?

Well, it turns out that when kids are blocked or grounded from using their apps, they will find a way around that.  And in some cases, it’s by using web-based Google Docs.

It’s rather genius if you think about it! Use a “boring” software that’s normally not on parents’ radar to secretly share information and then quickly delete it all.

As Michelle Woo, Parenting editor at Lifehacker puts it:

“All they need to do is open up a document, invite their friends to become collaborators, and boom—they have a private space to chat, draw, share links, upload photos and post memes.”

The not-so-genius part of getting around parental controls is when kids use the software to cyberbully their classmates.  Unfortunately, this is happening with Google Docs.

“We’ve seen more than 60,000 cases of kids ganging up on other children in Google Docs.” Bark App Team

Parenting Tips

  1. Use a good parent monitoring app such as Bark to help you to see what your child is doing, creating, and uploading on her Google Drive. Monitoring kids is so important to keep kids safe online.
  2. A lot of the news about kids on Google Docs revolves around cyberbullying, such as who’s on the “in” or “out” list at school. Cyberbullying may also include sextortion, which involves using sexual photos as a form of blackmail. This is an opportunity to have good conversations with your kids about their digital citizenship. We can talk about not participating in conversations or activities that may hurt others - and can stay with your child for a long time.


The Dirty Dozen List for 2019:  Guess who is at the top of the list?

The National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has released its Dirty Dozen List for 2019.

Who landed on the number one spot this year?   Amazon.

Let’s take a quick look at the top twelve offenders and why they were chosen:

1. Largest online retailer profiting from sexual exploitation: Amazon

  • Childlike sex dolls
  • Erotic child nude photography
  • How-to books on sex trafficking
  • Softcore porn in TV/movies

2. Leading provider of online databases to schools: EBSCO Information Services

  • High school databases contain non-academic, sexually explicit material
  • How-to sex act material and live links to pornography

3. Google Chromebooks used in schools:

  • Unfiltered and unprotected from porn

Google Images:

  • Pictures of sex acts are easily found


  • Pornography and sexual violence left to the public to deal with

4. Influential cable/TV network: HBO

  • Graphic scenes, eroticized rape scenes (e.g., TheDeuce, True Blood, Game of Thrones)
  • Ineffective parental controls

5. Biggest massage chain: Massage Envy

  • Sexual harassment lawsuits by hundreds of clients

6. At-home entertainment provider: Netflix

  • Graphic sex acts, eroticized depictions of children, lewd shows directed to teens (e.g., Big Mouth)

7. Nevada

  • Only U.S. state that has legalized prostitution; magnet for sex trafficking

8. Leading media streaming company: Roku

  • Provides hardcore pornography channels

9. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

  • Hypersexualizing and objectifying women

10. Online videogame distributor: Steam

  • Sexually graphic and violent games
  • 35 million users under 18 years old

11. Social media outlet: Twitter

  • Hardcore pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking

12. United Airlines

  • Pornography use allowed on airplanes, sexual harassment complaints

There’s no getting around it:  we live in a sexualized, porn-saturated world. How can we protect kids online when these major businesses are helping create a sexually toxic culture?

We CAN push back!

Tap into the power of social media
Share the Dirty Dozen list and your concerns online. Corporations pay careful attention to their brand image. Help motivate them to clean up their business practices! You can quickly send a Tweet or post, ready-to-go graphics on any social media channels here.

Are you part of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or PTO at your school?
You can influence a safer environment by sharing the problems with EBSCO database with other parents and school administrators.  More school-specific resources can be found on the NCOSE website.

2020 Updates:

  1. See NCOSE's 2020 Dirty Dozen List here!
  2. Get an update on YouTube's policy changes here.

Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition

"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent

Learn more or buy