A series of scary headlines, legal actions and pranks this week remind us of the internet's increasing perils for children, Axios' Sara Fischer and Kim Hart write.
- Parents and teachers struggle to keep tabs on every new game, social media and video fad targeting kids — and they have a hard time separating real threats from perceived ones.
This has been the case for generations, but online culture is fragmented and constantly morphing.
- Their anxiety about what children are exposed to online can be exploited by misinformed media reports about viral pranks, playing to parents' worst fears.
- Policymakers are frustrated. While many bipartisan efforts have attempted to create guardrails for kids, enforcing rules across the rapidly proliferating media platforms can feel like whack-a-mole to regulators.
Some parents respond to these dangers by dropping free platforms like YouTube that host user-generated content and instead opting for subscription streaming services like Netflix, Nickelodeon, Hulu or Disney that vet kids' content.
- But many lower-income families can't afford those. So families that rely on free, ad-supported video are disproportionately exposed to nefarious content.
The bottom line: Online platforms like YouTube and Facebook were created to capture the data and attention spans of adults. Now their youngest users need the opposite: more privacy and protection from bad actors.
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