Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

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YouTube Kids comes to smart TVs

YouTube Kids, the application offering a filtered version of YouTube thats more kid-friendly, is now natively available on the big screen for the first time, Google announced today. Previously a mobile-only application, YouTube Kidswill now be offered on a range of smart TVs, including thosefrom LG, Samsung and Sony, which will make it easier for families with small children to access the service without having to use the apps built-in casting feature.

Specifically, the app will come to the following TVs:all 2015-2017 LG webOS TVs (via the LG content store); all 2013-2017 Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players (via the Samsung App Store); and, following a firmware update, 2016-2017 Sony TVs (with the exception of Android TV, which is coming soon).

Now just over two years old, Google also offered an update on the YouTube Kids apps traction, noting that the app today sees more than 8 million weekly active users and has streamed more than 30 billion views.

The goal with YouTube Kids is to offer a window into the more appropriate, educational and entertaining content found on the larger video-sharing site, without exposing children to the sites more mature fare.

However, unlike the kids categories on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon, the content in YouTube Kids is filtered by algorithms. And like any technology implemented without human oversight, that means it will sometimes get things wrong. In those cases, parents are asked to flag the offensive video to alert the company and get it removed.

In addition, parents who choose to turn on the apps search feature may also inadvertently expose their kids to inappropriate content, for the same reasons.

The app has faced controversy when its filters fail, and this continues today. For example,the BBC reported in March that YouTube was hosting thousands of videos designed to look like popular kids cartoons, but were actually adult-oriented parodies. The YouTube Kids app filters out some of these sorts of disturbing videos, the report said,but doesnt necessarily capture them all because of its reliance on automation.

YouTube Kids has also come under fire from consumer watchdog groupsthat have complained to the FTC that YouTube isnt beholden to the same policies around advertising as TV programmers are, which leads to deceptive ad practices. These groups said that YouTube Kids is filled with videos that basically function like TV commercials, but without disclosure including those with product placements, host selling and company-produced promotional videos.

YouTube toes a fine line between advertising and content, saying in its own guidelines that it doesnt consider a videofrom a toy company a paid ad, and while itmay show videos of kids eating sweets, itdoesnt accept paid ads from candy makers.

Today, there continues to be a number of outstanding complaints the FTC has not addressed, including two focused on advertising and a third focused on how YouTube and YouTube Kids use influencers to market to children.

YouTuberolled out an ad-free option last summer, but it only removes the paid ads, not thosethat fall into thisgray area.

In other words, YouTube Kids is just an okay-ish substitute for the YouTube app, and nowhere near as reliable as Netflixs Kids section for being kid-safe.

The app still requires parental involvement and monitoring, whichmeans youll sometimes have to put your foot down on channels that seem to only fuel rampant consumerism in kids by encouraging themto buy toys. (Or, rather, use this to your advantage to get the kids to do their chores and earn their allowance!)

With the added support for smart TVs, YouTube Kids is now available on iOS, Android, Chromecast and now TV platforms in 26 countriesworldwide.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/25/youtube-kids-comes-to-smart-tvs/

What it takes to build a YouTube empire

Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla have mastered the art of YouTube.
Image: defy media

Long before teens were lip syncing songs on musical.ly and celebs were battling it out on Lip Sync Battle, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla were recording their own musical showdowns from their high school bedrooms.

Their first YouTube video a Power Rangers theme song recording went viral 10 years ago, launching the beginning of their digital entertainment careers as the comedy duo SMOSH.

Now, SMOSH has seven YouTube channels, a combined 40 million subscribers, 39 million social media followers and 118 billion YouTube views. And they aren’t stopping anytime soon.

SMOSHs second channel is officially rebranding into “SMOSH Pit” this summer, and will launch new comedy shows, Mashable has exclusively learned. Also part of the expansion: SMOSH Games is adding one new cast member and SMOSH is launching Summer Games an event that pits two SMOSH channels against each other later this year.

“Things are so different now we’re a full-blown company, this is our job,” Padilla said in an interview while on set shooting one of SMOSH’s most recent videos.

“It’s weird because it’s become simultaneously less work and more work at the same time,” Hecox added.

But what’s most interesting about SMOSH is that unlike countless other YouTube creators many who experience just brief internet fame Hecox and Padilla still haven’t fallen out of the internet’s favor. Ten years in and that’s saying something: viral stars don’t often survive their fan’s short attention spans.

Most say there is no real formula to making it big on YouTube, but it seems the two have figured something out.

Building a brand

Image: defy media

Hecox and Padilla, Sacramento natives, didn’t know making videos could result in a career. Back then, Hecox was making money by working at Chuck E. Cheese’s part time (his experience there later inspired one of SMOSH’s shows) and uploading videos with Padilla on the side.

“I’d wake up at 11 to Ian calling me every day and he’d say ‘hey want to get lunch?’ we’d go to a fast food place, spitball ideas, joke around … and then write something up,” Padilla said of their early days.

They averaged about one video per month, which Hecox said would be “YouTube suicide” today.

Still, the extra hustle paid off. Then-Disney executive Barry Blumberg, who oversaw franchises including Kim Possible, was interested in building future digital stars. He was a fan of SMOSH videos and reached out to Hecox and Padilla to meet. He convinced them that being a YouTuber could indeed be a career.

Blumberg wasn’t wrong. As SMOSH became more of a digital force, it caught the attention of even more people in Hollywood.

Defy Media (formerly Alloy Digital), a Los Angeles creator of digital content geared toward millennials, eventually acquired the brand for an undisclosed sum in 2011. The company, which has investors such as Viacom and Lionsgate, produces, distributes and promotes content. It raised $70 million in September, as it looks to continue expansion of production and creating content that reaches far beyond YouTube.

Blumberg served as Defy’s chief content officer until March, when he announced his exit.

SMOSH remains Defy’s biggest brand, and the one it is expected to flaunt at its New Fronts presentation in May.

And with Defy’s investment, Hecox and Padilla added cast members and built their own team of collaborators. The two went from doing it all to managing a team of people who help them do it all.

“If you want to create something bigger than just two dudes with a camera, the only way to do that is to grow the team, grow the production and in turn grow the business that supports that production,” Hecox added. “It’s all part of the goal of being able to create good stuff.”

Shayne Topp is part of the on-camera cast tapped by Hecox and Padilla.

The actor, who started out doing linear TV shows and movies, joined the SMOSH family two years ago after his friend Noah Grossman also in the SMOSH cast recommended him.

“Ive been an actor for a long time, and Ive gotten to do a lot of cool things, and when I first joined Smosh I was honestly a little skeptical,” Topp said. “[I worried] that it wouldnt be the right move, but its turned out to be the best move Ive ever made in my whole life. I love being a part of this.”

In January, Topp was among the cast members on set filming a sketch for SMOSH’s main channel called “Am I A Bad Boyfriend?”

The sketch centers around a guy (Padilla) meeting his girlfriend’s friends for the first time. He is surprised to find everyone’s significant other is an electronic device, but Padilla’s character is the only one who thinks it’s weird.

Topp, Hecox and Padilla could barely hold back their laughter in between takes.

All grown up

Much has changed since Padilla and Hecox’s first video.

For starters, the two are both now 29, and far more experienced with writing, editing, shooting, producing, acting, and now leading.

They are also now famous enough that they were the first digital influencers to get their own Madame Tussaud’s wax figures. Forbes estimated the duo made $7 million in 2016.

The two describe SMOSH’s brand as a mix of MTV and Comedy Central “it’s for teens but at the same time it’s a little edgy,” Padilla said.

And while the SMOSH brand maintains its comedic tone, the type of content they put up expands and evolves constantly.

Since 2015, SMOSH has experimented with a variety of formats. They have released two Saturday Night Live-esque live sketch shows called SMOSH Live, two seasons of a sitcom (Part Timers), and launched eight new shows (including the popular Last Blank Ever series).

They have also launched two movies, which have completely different tones.

The first film Smosh: The Movie had more of a YouTube-centric premise. In it, the two teleport into different YouTubers channels in order to delete an embarrassing video of Padilla.

Ghostmates has a buddy comedy feel. It follows socially awkward Charlie (Padilla), who moves into a furnished apartment where Eddie (Hecox) also lives. Eddie is obnoxious, self-involved and a ghost, one that only Charlie can see. To get rid of Eddie, Charlie agrees to help him get to heaven.

While they dabble with all types of programming, the two have never really “sold out,” as fans would say. There has been somewhat of a divide between OG YouTubers and those who became overnight famous via vlogging. The latter of the two groups tend to use YouTube like a stepping stone rather than a place to hone their craft.

Tons of YouTubers have moved on from vlogging to write books, take roles in films and TV shows and go on nationwide tours. Others have juggled doing content on multiple platforms including Instagram and Snapchat at once to maximize their audience reach.

But for SMOSH, YouTube remains their primary home. Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms serve more as ways to promote their YouTube videos.

“Other people that started YouTube later than us thought ‘this is a great starting point to do other things,'” Padilla said.

“And you’ve seen Hollywood actors start channels but you can tell their heart isn’t in it, they aren’t really creating it, they are just kind of a face, and I think people see through that,” Hecox said.

SMOSH has many things going for it, but two pillars stand out: They were early to the YouTube game and they have stuck with it, without abandoning their YouTube fans to test other platforms. YouTube fans are fickle and their outrage swift.

Joe Bereta, creative director of SMOSH, attributes the brand’s success to something he deems “the Jackass factor.”

Jackass wasnt necessarily successful because they risked life and limb whilst buck-naked (although it was awesome),” Bereta explained. “It was successful because you just wanted to hang out and have fun with that crazy group of guys. I think thats what we [at SMOSH] offer up now, except we have girls in our group, so we win.”

WATCH: How To Be Youtube Famous

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/04/16/the-rise-of-smosh-anthony-padilla-ian-hecox/

‘I cant trust YouTube any more’: creators speak out in Google advertising row

Inconsistencies behind the companys ability to police advertising on controversial content are coming to light

Googles decision-making process over which YouTube videos are deemed advertiser friendly faces scrutiny from both brands and creators, highlighting once again the challenge of large-scale moderation.

The company last week pledged to change its advertising policies after several big brands pulled their budgets from YouTube following an investigation that revealed their ads were shown alongside extremist content, such as videos promoting terrorism or antisemitism.

Havas, the worlds sixth largest advertising and marketing company, pulled all of its UK clients ads, including O2, BBC and Dominos Pizza, from Google and YouTube on Friday, following similar moves from the UK government, the Guardian, Transport for London and LOreal.

Google responded with a blog post promising to update its ad policies, stating that with 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute we dont always get it right.

However, the inconsistencies behind the companys ability to police advertising on controversial content are coming to light and its not just advertisers who are complaining. Some YouTube creators argue their videos are being unfairly and inconsistently demonetized by the platform, cutting off their source of income that comes from the revenue share on ads placed on videos.

Matan Uziel runs a YouTube channel called Real Women, Real Stories that features interviews with women about hardship, including sex trafficking, abuse and racism. The videos are not graphic, and Uziel relied on the advertising revenue to fund their production. However, after a year, Google has pulled the plug.

Its a nightmare, he said. I cant trust YouTube any more.

Its staggering because YouTube has a CEO [Susan Wojcicki] who is a feminist and a big champion for gender equality, he said, pointing out that there were other far more extreme videos such as those promoting anorexia and self-harm that continued to be monetized. He also referenced PewDiePies videos featuring antisemitic jokes that were allowed on the platform for months.

Its bad that YouTube attempts to censor this very important topic and is not putting its efforts into censoring white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, jihadists and stuff like that, Uziel said.

He wants Google to be more open about how exactly they moderate content. I want them to be transparent about what they think to be advertiser friendly, he said.

Google currently uses a mixture of automated screening and human moderation to police its video sharing platform and to ensure that ads are only placed against appropriate content. Videos considered not advertiser-friendly include those that are sexually suggestive, violent, contain foul language, promote drug use or deal with controversial topics such as war, political conflict and natural disasters.

Transgender activist Quinby Stewart agrees there needs to be more transparency. He complained after YouTube demonetized a video about disordered eating habits. I definitely dont think the video was even close to the least advertiser-friendly content Ive posted, he said.

QueerBean (@QuinbyStewart)

lmao of course the first video i had marked as not advertiser-friendly was the one about my disordered eating habits pic.twitter.com/UObYPe4fmM

March 20, 2017

He complained to the platform and the company has since approved the video for monetization.

YouTubes policy is just very vague, which makes sense because I think demonetization needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Their policies seem more reasonable when you ask a human to check it, but the algorithm that catches videos originally is really unfair, he said.

Sarah T Roberts, an information studies professor from UCLA who studies large-scale moderation of online platforms, said that large technology companies need to be more honest about their shortcomings when it comes to policing content.

Im not sure they fully apprehend the extent to which this is a social issue and not just a technical one, she said.

Companies such as Google and Facebook need to carefully think through their cultural values and then make sure they are applied consistently, taking into account local laws and social norms. Roberts said the drive to blame either humans or algorithms for decisions was based on a false dichotomy as human values are embedded into the algorithms. The truth is they are both engaged in almost every case, she said.

The fact that it is now hitting Googles bottom line should be a wake-up call. Now its financial and is going to hit them where it hurts. That should create some kind of impetus.

The Guardian asked Google for more clarification over how the moderation process works, but the company did not respond.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/21/youtube-google-advertising-policies-controversial-content

Google’s bad week: YouTube loses millions as advertising row reaches US

Major brands including Verizon and Walmart pulled their ads after they were found to be appearing next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech

Its been a bad week for Google, with major brands pulling millions of dollars in advertising amid rows over extremist content on YouTube.

In the US, the telecom companies AT&T and Verizon, as well as the pharmaceutical company GSK, Pepsi, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and the car rental firm Enterprise, have all pulled advertising from Googles video-sharing platform, a contagion spreading from Europe, where a number of high-profile advertisers pulled out of YouTube following an investigation by the Times.

Major brands content was found to be appearing next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech, with a cut of the advertising spend going to the creators.

Verizons ads were featured alongside videos made by Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghoneim, who was banned from the US over extremism, and the hate preacher Hanif Qureshi, whose preachings were said to have inspired the murder of a politician in Pakistan.

We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate, an AT&T spokesman said in a statement. Until Google can ensure this wont happen again, we are removing our ads from Googles non-search platforms.

Following the exodus of some of its high-profile advertisers, Google has publicly apologized and pledged to give brands more control over where their ads appear.

This marks a turning point for YouTube. For the first time, its dealing not only with reputation damage but revenue damage, said Alex Krasodomski-Jones, a researcher at the thinktank Demos.

YouTube might purport to be a video-sharing service, but as with Googles search engine and Facebooks social network, the platform is really about one thing: advertising. So when theres a problem with advertising like this, its a big problem, Krasodomski-Jones said.

The row highlights an uncomfortable fact about advertising in a digital age: most brands dont know exactly where their online advertising is running. Black box machines are now largely responsible for the placement of ads online, using complex trading systems that try to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time for the the cheapest possible price. This process is called programmatic advertising. When an ad appears against a piece of content, its not always clear whether its been shown based on a persons previous browsing behavior, interests, or demographic data or because the brand is affiliated with a particular content creator, such as a YouTube star.

There has always been good placements of ads and bad placements of ads and media buying companies have always prided themselves on trying to get the context right, said Charlie Crowe, chairman of the media and marketing publisher C Squared. The difference in the online world is that its all done by an algorithm. The human element is taken out of the equation, so there are problems.

Programmatic advertising has been largely fraudulent since its inception, and there are many companies in the marketplace including Google to have made vast profits out of the naivety of the advertisers, who havent really known what theyve been buying.

The dispute adds weight to demands for companies such as Google to take more responsibility for what is on their websites, as Facebook was forced to do in the wake of the fake news scandal.

YouTube already provides brand safety controls for advertisers, allowing them to pick what types of videos they are happy to be associated with based on keywords. The platform also advises creators about the types of videos not considered advertiser friendly, including content thats sexually suggestive, violent or dealing with a controversial subject matter. However, with 400 hours of video uploaded to the platform each minute, its a challenge to keep unpalatable content completely quarantined from paying customers.

Fifteen minutes of browsing YouTube by the Guardian was enough to find T-Mobile ads on videos about abortion, Minecraft banners on videos about snorting cocaine and pre-roll ads for Novartis heart medication running on clips titled Feminism is cancer.

They need to get better at the management of what is brand-safe and what isnt, said Gabe Winslow, of the digital marketing agency Ansira.

Advertisers and agencies also have a responsibility to audit their campaigns to ensure that their ads appear in the desired location, he said.

This squabble is indicative of growing tensions between the advertising industry and technology companies such as Google and Facebook, which have become indispensable partners and, in some cases, competitors.

Silicon Valley technology companies completely dominate the online advertising market. According to a 2016 study, Facebook and Google accounted for 90% of the growth in the online advertising industry. All other online media companies are competing for the scraps.

The more powerful they become at the expense of traditional media companies, the harder it has become for advertisers to negotiate favourable terms. The current YouTube boycott offers some leverage for demanding better, independently verified data and controls.

Theres increasing resentment among agencies and publishers [towards Google] thats difficult to talk about given its sheer power, Crowe said. This issue has given them a sense of schadenfreude.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/25/google-youtube-advertising-extremist-content-att-verizon