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Do You Know YouTube?

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Day 2: We have no idea what our kids are watching.

I explore the Most Viewed section (found under the Videos tab) and am surprised to find that professionally produced content like music videos and TV clips gets far more views than amateur content. I also realize that YouTube is a loophole around some parental controls: No matter how well you manage your kids' media access (installing V-chips or banning shows like South Park), clips of the verboten are accessible online. Outtakes from R-rated movies are also popular.

I click on the Channels tab and find NoGoodTV, an adult Internet site where celebrities say the F-word as many times as possible. Then I click on another popular channel, Sexy French Maid French TV, and see seven minutes of young women climbing in and out of frilly black skirts and garter belts. I view a video by a young woman who calls herself FilthyWhore, then watch one with porn stars giving explicit sex tips. And while I never stumble upon truly X-rated content, there are constant "comments" inviting viewers to porn sites, as well as videos that directly link to them.

Shocked by what seems to be a universe of video anarchy, I decide to get a professional opinion. According to Liz Perle, editor-in-chief of Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org), a nonprofit group in San Francisco that provides entertainment reviews for families, "YouTube videos aren't rated, so kids can watch whatever they want." Without explicit warnings about offensive content, parents remain clueless.

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