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21 CONTENT FOR KIDS Video at Home

For those making videos for children, Livingstone suggests they include prompts to encourage children to discuss what they’ve learned with their parents. “Maybe something that tells the kids to go and grab your mum and dad… Children love to tell their family what they’re enjoying,” she says. “Such conversation starters are helpful, because a lot of parents just don’t know how to break into that blank stare.” Moate suggests would- be video educators learn to speak to multiple age groups at once. “We would never want to patronise anybody, but we would never want to underestimate anyone, either,” she says. Will this renaissance in children’s video outlast the lockdown? There’s one big challenge: money. Moate and Foot don’t make very much revenue from their 130,000 subscribers for one main reason. “We choose to mark our videos as made for kids,” explains Moate. That limits the number and type of ads that can be shown. “That means we won’t make as much ad revenue on our videos, and that’s the way it is.” When lockdown ends, Moate has to go back to her day job to pay the bills, though the pair have set up a Patreon to help cover some costs. “We’ll have to stop doing the show five days a week, but we don’t want to stop doing it completely,” she explains. And hopefully they don’t need to — children will keep watching video whether there’s a lockdown or not, after all. CONVERSATION STARTERS ARE HELPFUL, BECAUSE A LOT OF PARENTS JUST DON’T KNOWHOW TO BREAK INTO THAT BLANK STARE


Comedian and illustrator Olaf Falafel presenting Art Club, which encourages children’s creativity

Moate admits their videos used to get lost “among all the nonsense you can find online, and suddenly it was being sought after”. Foot says

YouTube. “I don’t understand why the online video industry doesn’t see it in their interest to curate things like ‘great videos for 12 year olds’ or ‘videos for sporty kids looking for something to do in lockdown,’” says Livingstone. The publishing industry already does just that, she adds. Go into any bookstore, and the shelves in the children’s section are organised by age group and by interest, such as the top books for five year olds or prize-winning books for girls. “The publishing industry does loads of it, but the video industry just doesn’t,” she points out. BACK TO THE FAMILY Another change Livingstone would like to see is the end of autoplay, when another algorithmically chosen video starts playing after the one you’ve just finished in order to keep us watching — but that’s not ideal for learning or expanding young minds. “We want the next thing, the thing that takes it a bit further,” she says. “That allows us to develop, and that’s not how the algorithms work.” Autoplay also sparks discord between parents and children, Livingstone continues. “It creates such a conflict, because parents then have to actively turn it off, when the child already has seen what’s coming next.” Instead, parents should be given the opportunity to discuss with their children what they liked about the previous video and decide actively what to look for next.

parent-to-parent networks and advice from schools helped spread the word. “Just before lockdown, our subscribers were

just under 80,000 — now we’re over 130,000.” Video platforms

need to find ways to highlight quality content for children, rather than using the same tricks used to keep adults watching as long as possible in order to serve more ads, leading to cheap,

addictive content such as clips of toy unboxings and poorly animated videos set to nursery songs that flood platforms such as YouTube. “Are there algorithmic ways of promoting content to families – upranking exciting, challenging, stimulating content – or are they just going to let it flow as it does now?” Livingstone asks. YouTube Kids, Google’s separate app for children, is designed to be family- friendly, with curated collections making it easier for parents to find relevant videos. But it’s targeted at younger viewers, aged three to 12, leaving teenagers to fend for themselves on the grown-up version of

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