What are content farms and are they harmful?

Watch videos with your child to check for content farms

Quick ‘hacks’ on various video-sharing and social media platforms have become popular. And content farms have found a way to engage lots of people in short periods of time. But many of the videos they create have content that could seriously harm young viewers.

What is a content farm?

The phrase ‘content farm’ describes a large company that quickly generates content in large amounts. It is often viewed as low-quality content. On YouTube, a lot of this is in the form of crafts or ‘hacks’. Some are harmful or dangerous.

In many cases, one larger company owns multiple channels on YouTube that put out this content. For example, one of the biggest media publishing companies in the world, TheSoul Publishing, owns the popular channels, 5-Minute Crafts and Bright Side. This company also posts on other platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Content farms exist to make money. The videos are monetised to earn money from ads. As such, if they get a lot of clicks, then they get a lot of revenue as well.

Dangerous ‘hacks’ and crafts

Content farm channels use clickbait titles and thumbnails to get page views and clicks on their videos. Usually, the title will be something like “5 Cooking Hacks You Have to Try” while the thumbnail might show something strange or outrageous. Oftentimes, the image on the thumbnail is not in the video.

Many of the videos have disclaimers in their descriptions that state they are for ‘entertainment purposes only’. However, this is not included in the video itself. As such, dangerous videos can harm young viewers who wouldn’t think to look in the description. The responsibility is placed on the viewer rather than the company putting out the video.

An example seen in one video is cooking an egg in a microwave. When heated in this way, the egg can explode. If poorly-timed, the egg might explode when removed from the microwave. This could cause serious burns and injury.

These content farm videos also use a lot of imagery, colours and commentary that may interest young children.

How to protect your child

If your child or teen is interested in videos that come from any type of content farm, help them think critically about what they see. Think about:

  • Could these activities cause harm? Some videos include hacks for foods. Others encourage the use of hot glue guns or the destruction of clothes and other items.
  • What is the purpose of these videos? The descriptions state that the videos are for entertainment purposes only. This likely means that the creators are trying to get clicks and views to earn money on their videos.
  • Have other users tried these ‘hacks’? Often, other YouTube creators will test these hacks for other viewers. Creators like Ann Reardon often debunk the videos. They educate users on why the hacks aren’t possible or why they might be dangerous.

Additionally, if you or your child comes across a video that encourages dangerous acts, make sure you report the video to YouTube. The the platform can then review and remove it if it violates their guidelines.

While setting parental controls is a great step to support your child as well, they may not block all harmful videos. Therefore, it’s important to check-in with your child on what they are watching and have conversations about what they see.

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