The Algorithm Channel: What Are Your Children Watching?

This week the word “Algorithm” hit the headlines, and not in a good way. An unsatisfactory one had inflicted A Level results on the country’s teenagers that edged on the bizarre. So what are your children watching online?  Are you aware of the power of algorithms?


what are your children watching? YouTube can be a tool for radicalization

Young and lonely people are easy prey for the skewed world view of extremists.

Many of us could go a long time without hearing about an algorithm again (long, long ago in the 1980s our Mothers felt the same about “plaque”.) Yet that’s not the worst about algorithms when they are applied to the wrong problem. The young – and other vulnerable groups open to a suspect world view have little defence against a bombardment of one-sided information All brought to them courtesy of the algorithms used by YouTube.

Pretty soon you could convince yourself that Global Warming isn’t happening. Unscrupulous scientists put about stories of dying coral reefs and bedraggled polar bears (fake photo!). Why? In return for generous research funding. “There’s money in it!”

What Are Your Children Watching? – Phoney Websites That Look “Legit”

While after You Tube come the dodgy websites with their re-hashed stories customized to appeal to your  prejudices – selected through algorithm by the victim’s choice of YouTube viewing.  Savvy teenagers somewhere in Eastern Europe write them for profit. 

Often the URL can look almost identical to the title of a genuine site. Every night throats of young girls are cut by sneak assassins of an enemy group in a sophisticated city. Why is this never on the mainstream news or in the papers? “Ahh!” they tell me. “It’s covered up – because they are so biased, infiltrated run by, etc..”

Right, Left, But Seldom Centre

Strangely, both Right and Left are convinced that the BBC and print journalism also known as The Establishment, have this truly sinister bias. Anyone who Speaks Out (a sad thug with a good intelligence whose abilities once promised better things than brawling) is deemed to be “Demonized” Then Deplatformed. (Couldn’t get a gig?)

Seriously, there is a real debate urgently needed on the topic of free speech, but not when the aim is to swap one lopsided vision with your own side’s. It is all about having a side now. Who knew that all US Democrats were the enemies of God (and guns – tut!) until last week?

More, More, More

If you have political leanings you can rely on a spate of YouTubes “Coming up next” aiming to push that leaning to 175 degrees. If you are unlucky, you will have at least one vulnerable friend – someone you don’t want to quarrel with – bombarding you with untitled YouTubes by What’s App and email. Sometimes it’s cute animals, but just as often it’s distressing propaganda dressed up as worthy truth.

Your Phone – Your Reputation!

The thought of your phone falling into the wrong hands before you’ve deleted is frightening. As a teacher it makes my toes curl. YouTube’s owner Google has been trying harder. The communication giant removed just under 259,000 latter day video nasties between January and March this year. Some schools have blocked YouTube from all PCs. This makes teaching very hard. You lose masses of excellent content. You Tube is not evil in itself, any more than algorithms are.

What Are Your Children Watching? – What You Can Do

You can fight back by NOT going for the “Coming up next” option. Also helpful in protecting kids from wacky news views are sites such as: Safe Internet and  Common Sense Media

Still Worried? 

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