A wide-ranging survey of YouTube users found most come across videos of “dangerous” behavior and nearly two of three have “encountered content there that they felt was unsuitable for children.”
The survey by Pew Research looks at the content of videos and how YouTube recommends videos to people.
It found that about 20 percent turn to YouTube to understand world events.
“But even as many users are turning to content on YouTube to help them understand the world and learn new things, large shares say they encounter negative experiences with content on the platform,” the survey found.
“Around two-thirds of users (64 percent) say they at least sometimes encounter videos that seem obviously false or untrue while using the site, while 60 percent at least sometimes encounter videos that show people engaging in dangerous or troubling behavior,” the report said.
“And among parents who let their young child watch content on the site, 61 percent say they have encountered content there that they felt was unsuitable for children.”
The research found users are turning to YouTube “for much more than entertainment.’
“Roughly half of YouTube users say the platform is very important for helping them figure out how to do things they’ve never done before. That works out to 35 percent of all U.S. adults, once both users and non-users of the site are accounted for. And around one-in-five YouTube users (representing 13 percent of the total adult population) say it is very important for helping them understand events that are happening in the world.”
Thirty-four percent of parents say their child watches content regularly, even though the company explicitly states that the platform is not intended for children younger than 13.
The company’s “up next” videos also were shown to recommend to users longer videos when viewers select a suggest video.
“Depending on a user’s individual settings, these videos may play automatically once the video they are watching has finished. Some 81 percent of YouTube users say they at least occasionally watch the videos suggested by the platform’s recommendation algorithm, including 15 percent who say they do this regularly, according to the survey.”
Pew also found YouTube recommended videos averaging more than 12 minutes for the first “up next,” while subsequent videos were 13:28, 14:12 and 14:50, keeping watchers on the site longer and longer.
Pew said the results are from a survey of 4,594 U.S. adults questioned this summer, while the “next up” details come from an analysis of more than 170,000 “random walks” through the recommendations.
Some 51 percent say the site is very important for figuring out how to do things they haven’t done before, and another 35 percent say it is somewhat important.
Only 28 percent say it’s very important for just passing time.
Sixty-three percent said they frequently or sometimes notice videos that seem obviously false or untrue, and 61 percent say they see videos of people in “dangerous or troubling behavior.”
Forty-three percent say they frequently or sometimes see videos that are abusive or demeaning.