Have you heard of YouTube? It’s an Internet site where companies and ordinary people upload and share their own video clips, music videos, and educational content. As the material on YouTube has evolved, the age group of the audience has also expanded, leading to a necessity for age limits for some content uploaded to the site. The current viewer age limit is set at 19 for restricted materials. However, the rise in posting more ‘intemperate’ videos has led some to call for further age category limits such as over 12 and 15 too.
In Korea, drinking and smoking are prohibited for people under the age of 19. However, with the advent of YouTube, teenagers are regularly exposed to a culture of smoking and drinking through their online content. According to a Channel A’s survey of over 1,600 video clips from 11 YouTube channels in Korea, 72 percent of the videos showed smoking scenes. 86% of them were videos that the video uploader, usually called a ‘YouTuber’, were smoking in themselves. People also objected to the appearance of disguised smoking-related advertisements that were uploaded on YouTube and could be viewed by people of all ages. BAT Korea, a British multinational tobacco company, introduced its first electronic cigarette in Korea through a promotional music video, leading critics to call them out for their online advertising. This music video gained popularity with 375,000 views in just 12 days after it appeared on YouTube. The problem is that these YouTube videos were available to anyone without an age limit. The public expressed regret over the age limit weaknesses on YouTube, saying teenagers who watched these videos are being provided material that promotes smoking and drinking as 'cool'.
A number of people said that the provocative content, including criminal acts and other wrongdoings, had a negative impact on teenagers. Currently, audiences can watch videos featuring prank calls to public organizations, secretly evaluate a person's face without their express permission or criticize a high-profile accident or death that was uploaded to YouTube. In addition, video clips of a response to sexual harassment, animal abuse, the theft of cars and threats to passers-by have all been uploaded to YouTube. The YouTubers who uploaded these videos have been criticized by many people, but it has not led them to delete the content. Instead they argue the videos are an example of their 'freedom of expression.' The biggest problem is that under aged viewers are at risk of copying these acts. In fact, young viewers posted videos of themselves ringing people's doorbells and running away, abusing their pets for fun or other clips that adversely affect public security by making prank calls to 119 or 112. In the most controversial video clip, called ‘Sewolho Liquid Monster’, a young YouTuber said she wanted to 'turn Sewolho upside down, cut it off and throw it on the floor like a liquid monster,' shocking viewers. Many people fear that young viewers have an ill-defined concept of criminal behavior and its repercussions, so they are more likely to copy the actions they see in these provocative videos.
|▲ Scene of 'Sewolho Liquid Monster' video clip, which shocked a numeber of other YouTube viewers. (Photo from Youtube)|
Videos with sexual content are also problematic on the streaming site. Videos showing how to circumvent the age limit of pornographic video websites have been posted. The age limit on pornographic websites was significant in preventing young viewers from engaging in sexual acts prematurely. However, learning how to circumvent the restrictions has adversely affected the establishment of proper sexual values among the young. Video clips of sex products that went too far also sparked controversy. There are a lot of videos on YouTube that are heavily sexually commercialized for users under the age of 19. Even YouTube content using the famous furniture brand ‘IKEA’ has become controversial. The video features women assembling IKEA furniture from a sexually exploitive angle. Cameras highlighted the bodies of the women with parts of their bodies exposed in close-ups or from subtle angles. During the assembly, their shoulder straps were lowered to take pictures with a sexy concept. Strong criticism accompanied the video posting. They pointed out that the content openly codified and targeted women using a routine act of ‘household assembly’ in YouTube videos that could be easily seen by any age group. Some viewers voiced concerns about the establishment of an incorrect sexual stereotype of women with teenagers.
|▲ Video clips using furniture brand 'IKEA' containing sex products that went too far sparked controversy. (Photo from asiae.co.kr)|
Lee Sung-kyu, the head of the National Center for Non-Smoking Support, argued that YouTube can be more dangerous for teenagers because it doesn't have a proper age limiting system in place. Most things that have a great influence on a person's life, such as his perception of incorrect and criminal behavior and his or her sexual values, are established from a young age. If solid values are not established when a person is young, it will have a negative effect on the mental maturity of teenagers. Under such circumstances, the weak age limit of YouTube, which permits the open viewing of many controversial videos available to all age groups, including children and teenagers, provides a pretext for their continual immaturity. Therefore, if enough people want better for the young generation, the age limit on YouTube must be reinforced.