The idea of a “YouTube Flu” has been circling the internet. The term originated from a court case in Ohio in which a group of middle-school boys were convicted of pranking their teachers in disturbing and frankly gross ways. The boys are facing felony charges but will likely receive limited sentencing as they are minors and their attorney claims they were under the influence of YouTube.
The “YouTube Flu” was given its name because of how contagious YouTube trends have become. Kids are influenced by what they watch and act out in similar ways.
Just like those boys in Ohio, young teenagers across America are acting out pranks and trends they see online. Psychologists studying the phenomenon and effects of YouTube have found increased levels of anxiety in children.
Dr. Donna Volpitta, founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership, found in her research that “fear-inducing videos cause the brain to receive a small amount of dopamine.” The rush of dopamine to the brain gives children the feeling of reward, causing them to repeat the behavior.
Talking to other college students, I have noticed that many disagree with the viewing habits of young kids. They feel children and teenagers have fallen subject to hidden subliminal messages and false realities.
As someone who watches YouTube and knows the dangers, I would never want my future children to be exposed to some of the same things kids are today.
How do you convince children that what they are watching on YouTube is not reality? YouTube and influencers have altered a new generation of viewers and content creators. They are setting precedents for future content creators and instilling in this generation the mindset that people only do things for attention, likes, views and subscribers. Young adults posting vlogs of their daily routines and fun weekends without any glimpse into the nuts and bolts of life has created a false sense of reality.
What viewers are seeing is not the whole picture, and in the real world actions have much greater consequences. Many popular influencers are not demonstrating responsible behavior and this can have an extremely negative impact on their younger audience.
If children do not understand the difference between what they see online and how they are expected to act they may begin to model these actions in their everyday lives.