YouTube CEO says platform is ‘valuable’ for teens’ mental health

YouTube has been criticised for allowing kids to access content suitable for adults, which Wojcicki said the company has worked to address. — Bloomberg

YouTube chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki said Google’s video platform is beneficial to adolescents’ mental health, amid growing concern that rival Instagram may be “toxic” for teenage girls.

“We certainly do see for a lot of really tough issues that YouTube can be a really valuable resource,” Wojcicki said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “So body positivity, mental health, we see a lot of creators actually talk about mental health and that, for a lot of kids, really it destigmatizes, and enables people to talk about what’s happening and what’s going on with them. So we do take it very seriously.”

The remarks are the first time the leader of the world’s largest video website, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, has responded to a series of Wall Street Journal stories on rival Facebook inc. The newspaper reported that Facebook knew that its photo-sharing app, Instagram, was harmful for the mental health of some teenage girls and didn’t take steps to address the problem.

Facebook on Sunday said that while those dealing with body image issues felt Instagram made it worse for them, users coping with loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues said the app helped deal with those issues. The company on Monday also said it was pausing work on an Instagram site dedicated to children younger than 13 years old.

YouTube has faced repeated controversies surrounding its content moderation and its app for kids. Google and YouTube paid US$170mil (RM711.11mil) to the US Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General in 2019 for violating the privacy of children without parents’ consent by allegedly tracking them across the Web. The site has also been criticised for allowing kids to access content suitable for adults, which Wojcicki said the company has worked to address.

“We do have a panel of experts that we work with to be able to help us understand what are the different ways that our product could be used, or what or how do we face some of these challenging issues to make sure that we’re getting the best advice,” Wojcicki said. “And we certainly look also at any kind of third-party research that we would see on the topic.”

The CEO said that as a mother, she feels it’s important to give other parents as many tools as possible to help supervise their children’s screen time, to ensure they’re watching safe, appropriate videos.

“I want to be doing the right thing and I care about that,” Wojcicki said. “I care about the legacy that we leave. I care about the world that we leave to our children, and I care about how media is consumed by the next generation and by everyone today. And so I really have put a lot of time and effort to make sure that we are acting responsibly.” – Bloomberg

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