YouTube has recently announced a significant move to set limits on recommended video suggestions, which is aimed at addressing growing concerns over the impact of social media on teenage mental health. The video-sharing platform revealed that it will restrict the frequency with which videos related to certain sensitive topics are recommended to teen users in the United States.
This decision comes as a response to the mounting legal challenges faced by social media platforms, including YouTube, for their alleged contribution to the worsening mental health crisis among teenagers.
According to YouTube, this initiative is a collaborative effort between the platform and its Youth and Families Advisory Committee, which identified specific categories of videos that may be problematic for teenagers when viewed repeatedly.
These categories encompass content that involves the comparison and idealization of specific physical features and body weights, as well as content showcasing social aggression, defined as non-contact fights and intimidation.
The restrictions on recommended videos related to these sensitive topics have been put into effect in the U.S. starting from Thursday, with plans to expand the limitations to additional countries over the next year.
YouTube is not alone in facing legal action; it has been named alongside other social media platforms in lawsuits filed by at least three school districts, including the Seattle Public Schools.
These lawsuits argue that these platforms have contributed to what is described as a youth mental health crisis, making it increasingly challenging for schools to fulfill their educational mission.
YouTube Announced Limits on Recommended Videos for Teens
This move by YouTube is not the first of its kind, as concerns about inappropriate content slipping through the moderation process have been raised previously. In 2018, mental health experts warned that this phenomenon on YouTube was contributing to anxiety and inappropriate sexual behavior among younger children.
YouTube has indicated that it is actively seeking guidance from independent experts with backgrounds in academia, nonprofits, and clinical practice to better understand how online content can impact the mental well-being of teenagers.
In 2018, YouTube established the Youth and Families Advisory Committee as part of its efforts to gain a deeper understanding of adolescent development and how teenagers can be affected by the content they encounter online.
One of the committee members, Allison Briscoe-Smith, a clinician and researcher, emphasized that exposure to content idealizing unhealthy standards or behaviors can convey potentially problematic messages, potentially influencing how teenagers perceive themselves.
The Howard County Public School System in Maryland filed a lawsuit against YouTube and other social media platforms, accusing them of being “addictive and dangerous” and claiming that they have “rewired” how younger people “think, feel, and behave.” This lawsuit reflects the growing concern over the impact of social media platforms on the mental health and well-being of teenagers.
YouTube has also asserted its commitment to enforcing its Community Guidelines, which include the removal of content that violates policies related to child safety, eating disorders, hate speech, and harassment.
The platform is actively updating its “Take a Break” and “Bedtime” reminders to make them more prominent and frequently displayed. These features were initially launched in 2018. Additionally, YouTube is making its crisis resource panels more accessible, allowing users to access help topics when searching for content related to suicide and self-harm.
A spokesperson for YouTube emphasized that the mental health of teens and younger viewers remains an ongoing priority for the platform. This initiative is part of YouTube’s continued efforts to create a safer and more responsible digital environment for its users.
In conclusion, YouTube’s decision to limit the recommendation of certain sensitive content to teenage users is a significant step in addressing the growing mental health crisis associated with social media use.
This move reflects the platform’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of its younger audience and reducing the potential harm caused by certain types of content.
However, it also highlights the broader challenges faced by social media platforms in balancing the freedom of expression with the responsibility to protect vulnerable users, particularly teenagers.