Should I be concerned about the ads my kid sees on YouTube?

Is there anything more annoying than those ads that appear all over the videos your kids watch on YouTube? Typically, an ad plays before the video, then more pop up all over the clip itself. You find yourself clicking them away instead of enjoying the show. And the ads are usually for age-inappropriate stuff, such as cars, web services, mature movies, and junk food. Most annoying, it seems that there's no end to the types of ads that can fit into a tiny video. Should you be concerned that your kids see these ads on YouTube?

Research on the negative impact of commercial content on kids has mostly focused on TV and movie advertising. But some small, early studies of the effect of digital marketing on kids shows a clear impact on everything from their understanding of money to exposure to alcohol ads to their privacy. Plus, "targeted" ads -- the ones that are based on a user's data trail and that YouTube aims to display -- are more influential than general ones. And kids under 7 don't understand that ads are trying to sell them something -- which is why commercials are regulated on TV.

A lot of folks are complaining that YouTube ads are out of control. In addition to the ones that play before the video, called bumpers, there are skippable ads, nonskippable ads, sponsorships, banners, and annotations that all appear at random while the video plays. The thing is, while YouTube controls some ads on videos, it's actually the clip's creator who controls the type and number of ads you see on individual videos. Creators make money off those ads -- and some say the more the merrier. Tons of ads is actually one sign of poor quality. You can't turn off ads on YouTube, but you can manage how much commercial content your kids are exposed to. Try these tips:

Personalize your ads. YouTube tries to tailor its ads to users' interests, activities, age, and other factors, and it would rather show you ads for stuff you'd like to see since they're more effective. In your Google Account settings, under Personal Info & Privacy, click on Ads Settings. Then click on Manage Ads Settings. Here you can "personalize" ads by telling Google what topics you don't want to see and what topics you like. Over time, your ads across all Google properties, including search, should be more to your liking. This has privacy implications, but at least you can avoid a lot of age-inappropriate ads.

Subscribe to YouTube Red. Similar to other online video streaming services such as Hulu, YouTube Red offers ad-free videos on the main site and YouTube Kids for a monthly fee. It will still show some ads, but not the annoying, invasive ones.

Stick to well-known, quality creators. YouTube gives its creators a monetary incentive to show personalized ads. But creators can disable this option. Higher-quality creators, including known brands such as Sesame Street, show fewer ads. (Look for the check mark next to a creator's name to make sure it is the brand you think it is.)

Use YouTube Kids. The advertising in the YouTube Kids app is limited. Google says the ads that run on YouTube Kids are approved as family-friendly and don't contain click-throughs to other sites. But consumer watchdog organizations have objected to the app running ads at all. And some of the content on YouTube kids -- like the popular unboxing videos -- are really ads themselves.

Consider an ad blocker. These downloadable browser add-ons will block some but not all advertising.

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Comments

Teen, 15 years old written by slick_fox

I think youtube should have an option whether or not to give a warning before an ad contains inappropriate content. In my review of Youtube, I was watching videos of toddler cartoon called Little Einstein's and Puppy Dog Pals, but before the video played, it showed sexual images and swearing before I can skip the ad. It was for a rated R Horror movie. Most inappropriate ads you can not skip at all. Sometimes it is rare and sometimes it is common. The inappropriate ads should play for inappropriate videos only, or videos that are meant for an older audience
Kid, 12 years old

Look, the ads your child gets are based on their search history. So as long as you kid ain’t searching for porn or anything he/she will be fine.
Kid, 12 years old

If anything, the ads are more concerned about what they're next to. About half the time adverts on YouTube are similar to TV ads. The other time they're advertising apps/games for phones. The phone ads can sometimes be not appropriate but nothing amazingly bad before you can skip. I'd just get your child a DVD/sit them in front of the TV if you are concerned about this kind of stuff
Teen, 13 years old written by mxlky

No. The only questionable ads I've seen are on TV channels. Most of them are just someone saying "BUY MY PRODUCT PLEASE!!!" so don't worry.
Kid, 9 years old

I got this Unikitty! episode Sparkle Matter Matters, which Cartoon Network uploaded as an ad and that is the longest advertisement your kid sees. That advertisement was on a grounded video made by GoAnimate, which also the Unikitty ad kids can watch.