I-Team: Political ads deemed "Family safe" on YouTube

Posted at 10:30 PM, Oct 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 14:59:31-04
Terrorists, dangerous criminals.
These are just some of the buzzwords used in political ads this election season. While they are probably not messages you want your children to hear, the I-Team discovered they probably are if they use YouTube.
It's election season, meaning it's almost impossible to avoid political ads. This year those ads are getting millions of views on the world's most popular video site, and some of those views are by young children. In some cases, kids are even seeing ads with dark overtones. 
This issue caught my ear about a month ago as my young sons were watching cartoons on YouTube.  
According to Google, the company that owns YouTube, political ads are considered "family safe" making them "eligible to show to all audiences." Something Lynn Turner, a professor of Communication Studies at Marquette calls very problematic. She advises you can't shelter kids from everything, but in this case, the message might be too much.  
"Political ads, especially ones with negative overtones like that, kids are not prepared to deal with that," Turner said.
Local mom, Lydia Carey, agrees. She first overheard a political ad on YouTube the other day.
"I was a little bit surprised because of the language they're actually using," she said.  
Carey said she used it as an opportunity to talk about the election with her oldest daughter, who's six, but is still concerned about the types of political ads playing on YouTube, especially when it comes to Margaret, her two and a half-year-old.
"You don't know what's going to show up," Carey pointed out. "I can't be listening every few minutes. If they're hearing something that is a little bit alarming or offensive that scares me a little bit." 
There are different methods for targeting video ads on YouTube. The placement can be very specific or more broad.  
Former politician and now UW-Milwaukee Professor, Mordecai Lee, said since the first digital ad push in the 2008 presidential election, this method of reaching voters is growing.  
"It's an indication of how far politics has penetrated all aspects of modern day life," he said. "The online world is everywhere and therefore politics is everywhere."
Faced with that reality, Carey said she is hoping to keep her daughters protected from some of those messages as long as she can.
People spend hundreds of millions of hours a day watching a variety of content on YouTube, which includes videos for kids. If parents want to limit the ads their children are exposed too there is the YouTube Kids app.