What Every Parent Needs to Know About “YouTube Pranks”

Jul 04, 2017

If you have kids, they are on YouTube. Everyone seems to be watching videos on YouTube these days, but kids especially are glued to the popular site. In fact, accordingly to Stage of Life, 75% of teens seek advice through YouTube channels.

That’s a lot of eyeballs on YouTube videos.

With 91% of teens aged 13-17 watching any of the 4 billion videos viewed each day, there is some cause for concern. Not just with the sheer volume of videos that are available to kids via YouTube, but also with a growing trend of something much more worrisome.

YouTube Pranks – Fun or Fatal?

One of the issues with YouTube is that while there is access to lots of good information, there are also thousands of people trying to “go viral” at any given time. What does this mean? Collins Dictionary defines it as, “If a video, image, or story goes viral, it spreads quickly and widely on the internet through social media and e-mail.” Essentially, it is shared over and over again in a very short period of time, usually leading to 15 minutes of short-lived fame.


A shortcut to going viral is a pranks video. It’s hard to look away, much like the scene of a car accident. Prank videos on YouTube have been around for years, but since it seems like “going viral” gets harder each day. You have to come up with an idea that people haven’t seen before, that they’ll want to watch and share with their friends and family.

As Brian Koerber from Mashable says, “Online, every day is effectively April Fools' Day. And when the game is to constantly shock and awe your audience, things can turn nasty real quick.”

Yes, pranks can be fun. But where do you draw the line between fun and potentially fatal?

One recent instance shows a growing backlash against prank videos. The YouTuber, DaddyOFive, lost custody of his children after his family’s videos showed emotional and physical abuse of their son, Cody. The Independent reported, “The videos gained the channel almost 800,000 subscribers and millions of views, as well as supporters who said they enjoyed the stunts being shown in the video. But they also attracted detractors, including YouTube star Philip DeFranco, who released a video editing some of the more horrifying clips together. That video was viewed more than three million times and brought widespread condemnation of the DaddyOFive channel.”

More recently, a story broke about a couple who attempted to do the “most dangerous video ever,” according to Monalisa Perez’s tweet teasing to her YouTube and social media audience. Monalisa shot her husband in the chest, while he stood only a few feet in front of her with a book shielding him. The book was intended to stop the bullet, but it did not work, making for one of the most macabre YouTube videos of all time. Perez, only 19 years of age, is now charged with second-degree manslaughter for her role in her husband’s death.

YouTube’s Safety Mode

Keeping kids safe on YouTube is a hefty task. Videos are being uploaded every second of every day and that makes quality control a huge issue for parents. Kids are impressionable and prone to imitation – especially when fame could possibly be on the horizon. So how can you keep your kids safe and still let them use YouTube?

YouTube has a safety mode available, which can filter out some inappropriate content. We have a step-by-step guide for how to access this feature on desktop and mobile – read it here. And while having this safety mode is helpful, there is nothing to stop your tech savvy child from reversing this mode and accessing unsavory content.

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Koerber from Mashable explains, “The thirst for going viral became increasingly demanding, and people resort to one-upping each other with more extreme videos to remain in the spotlight. Those hungry for viral fame would do just about anything for attention.”

Taking Steps for YouTube Safety

  1. Installing a parental control software to block websites and mask profanity can help keep your kids safe.
  2. Suggest family-friendly YouTube channels to watch. For some suggestions, try these 20 YouTube Stars You Will Want Your Kid to Follow.
  3. Most importantly, talk to your kids about what’s real on tv, video games, the internet and what’s not – make sure they understand what is dangerous to imitate.