Cake Stories, #StoryTime and other misleading content

Learn about Cake Stories, #Storytime and other misleading content online

Many children and young people love watching baking, video gaming and beauty videos. However, cake stories or videos marked with #StoryTime often include inappropriate and misleading content hidden in their narration, which parental controls don’t recognise.

What is misleading content?

Under the umbrella of fake news and misinformation, misleading content advertises itself as one thing but features something else. Clickbait is a good example of this. On YouTube, for example, thumbnails might feature things that don’t exist in the video, which is a common among content farms.

According to YouTube’s guidelines, however, creators cannot do this. Creators also cannot use a title or description that misleads viewers. But there are some grey areas in this matter. For example, if a video thumbnail features a cake that isn’t in the video, but the video is still about baking, it is in line with the rules.

What are cake stories?

Cake stories refer to videos across social media platforms that feature a story alongside unrelated narration. For example, the video might show someone decorating a cake, but the narration tells a story about a character who gets in a fight.

Other videos might retell stories from sites like Reddit that feature conflict in relationships. In most cases, this content is not appropriate for children.

Cake stories feature misleading content that some parents may not catch.

Depending on the creator, cake stories can present themselves in different ways. For some, the title will only refer to the visual content, e.g. ‘Fresh birthday cake’, but will have embedded subtitles. In others, the title will hint at the story content, e.g. ‘Cake storytime’ with optional subtitles. Some are more clear about what they feature, e.g. a nail art video titled ‘Story: I’m SCARED! Nailart mashup’ with optional subtitles.

However, because many of these videos feature harmless visuals like baking, they might not seem inappropriate at a glance. Additionally, a title like ‘Fresh birthday cake’ and hashtags like ‘#storytime’ may not get flagged by parental controls.

The title examples above are also all in line with YouTube’s guidelines.

Types of hidden content

Baking videos

Misleading content like cake stories are most often seen in videos about baking. The videos usually feature sped up how-to style content like baking and decorating cookies, cakes and other baked goods. If your child watches the videos with headphones, you might think the audio is simply music or instructions for how to bake.

Many channels on YouTube feature this kind of content with clear names like Sweet Storytime and Cake Story. However, other channel names like cake 4 u are less clear.

Beauty tutorials

Hidden content isn’t limited to baking tutorials. It is sometimes seen in beauty tutorials as well. Sometimes the creator will lip sync to another video’s story or, like the baking videos and cake stories, it will be a simple voiceover. These voiceovers may not come from the creator themselves.

Video games

Especially popular on TikTok, #storytime yields several video gaming results. These videos tend to look like standard playthrough videos of games like Roblox or Minecraft but often also have captions. Some titles may suggest what’s in the video narration, but not all.

Animated stories

These videos often feature a split screen. Half of the screen might feature a video game clip or something similar while the other half has an animated version of the story being narrated. While these stories are more visual, parents may still miss inappropriate content hidden within the animation.

Inappropriate content light-bulb

Girl with dog on her lap looking at mobile phone

Discover how inappropriate content impacts young people and what parents/carers can do.

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Why is hidden content risky?

Because the cake stories videos look like content that parents and carers might be okay with their child viewing, they sometimes miss the inappropriate narration. And while some of these stories might be similar to friends sharing a scary story at a sleepover to ‘creep each other out’, young children might come across content too old for them. These stories may include violence as well as sexually abusive content involving minors.

Due to the limits of parental controls, filters may not catch this type of content.

Actions parents can take

Regardless of the online safety issue parents and carers come across, there is always something you can do. To minimise the harmful risk to children online when it comes to cake stories or misleading content, you can:

  • Have regular conversations about what they watch online. Showing interest means children are more likely to come to you if they have a problem
  • Watch content together
  • Set parental controls and privacy settings. While parental controls may not get everything, they do limit inappropriate content your child might come across
  • Report any content that is inappropriate. YouTube’s moderation team can then review the videos and potentially remove them. Teach your child how to do the same if they ever see or hear anything unsettling
  • Set up content preferences where possible
  • Block users and channels with inappropriate content to keep them from coming up in your child’s feed.
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