“We believe technology presents great opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively and access useful information, but we also know we have a responsibility to protect young creators and families and consider the potential impact of emerging trends on them,” said Claire Lilley, YouTube’s child safety policy manager. “We’ve been working with experts to update our enforcement guidelines for reviewers to remove ASMR videos featuring minors engaged in more intimate or inappropriate acts. We are working alongside experts to make sure we are protecting young creators while also allowing ASMR content that connects creators and viewers in positive ways.” Read next.
Has Apple finally bitten off way more than it can chew? YouTube banned Makenna’s channel for three days in November but reinstated it after discussions with the family. The company’s delayed decision against its largest child ASMRtist leaves questions about whether the phenomenon can be adequately monitored. Videos featuring the sexualisation of minors are banned by the site, and ASMR “mouth sound” videos now fall within this remit. Yet at the time of writing, a search for “child ASMR mouth sounds” on YouTube brings up hundreds of videos with a disturbing number of views. Do parents or YouTube bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of these young creators? While we wait for an answer, child ASMRtists are taking things into their own hands. T he website for ASMRtist United looks remarkably like it was created by a child – which it was. Founded in August 2017 by 14-year-old Jacob Daniel, the “company” offers advice to ASMRtists under the age of 18.
There is a guide on how to filter sexual comments, advice on coping with cyberbullying and a post entitled “How do I stop my school from finding my channel?”. “There a lot of young ASMRtists and I try to tell them, let your parents know,” says Daniel, who has 24,000 subscribers on his channel JacobJacob15. Jacob looks out for other ASMRtists (he also reported the channel of the young girl licking lollipops) and offers help to young YouTubers. Inside the daring mission to reach the bottom of all Earth’s oceans. “Someone told one of our members, ‘Oh, I have your address, I’m going to give it to a bunch of paedophiles,’” Daniel says. “This member called me crying and sobbing and I felt so horrible.” The child told his parents about the threat and gave up making videos. “I know I’m only 14,” Daniel says, “but we have strict, strict rules. If we get a report on anything, we report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We have a sheet of all the contacts… I’ve been on YouTube since I was about five. I’ve got a lot of hate comments so I know how to handle everything.” Daniel’s channel is full of disclaimers. Under all of his videos are the words “Account Monitored and Managed by Parents”, which he says he wrote to avoid hate comments. “He does things with the computer and editing that I know nothing of,” says Daniel’s 53-year-old mother, Parker Prunkl, with a toothless grin. “I know Microsoft Word and Excel but his editing… I think he’ll grow up into the film industry.” Although Prunkl is proud of her son and helps him film videos and buy props, Daniel still seems very much in charge. When I first emailed Prunkl to set up an interview with her son, she was polite and excited. Daniel later confessed he was actually the one who responded to my email. The wild experiment to bring apex predators back from the brink. In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. Jacob Daniel is clearly a savvy child – although excitable and eccentric, he talks soberly about safety on YouTube, clapping his hands as he tells children to “be, be safe”. He tells kids to use fake names, access their email with VPNs, and avoid making custom Skype calls with viewers. For all his intelligence, however, Daniel is still a child. He and Prunkl show off a series of wigs they play with at home – he dons a purple one with red horns; Prunkl shows me her doll. They talk excitedly about the pranks they play on the public, wearing the wigs to order food in take-away shops. “I didn’t know he was gonna have a channel this big, I thought it was a phase or a little bit of a hobby,” Prunkl says. “This is a whole new world to me, the ASMR thing – to tell you the truth I didn’t know what it was and he kept explaining it to me until I figured it out.” Daniel and Prunkl might have it figured out but, like Makenna Kelly, they still experience troubling comments.
An older man sends Daniel letters and once drove past him on the street and shouted at him. “In one letter he made a stylised JacobJacob15 ASMR logo and I looked a bit closer and I found out he took my channel name and basically put it on a swastika,” Daniel says. “And he said he was sending me a motivational armband. Now I know a lot about history, and I know who had motivational armbands.” Read next.
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