Much of what I am going to describe next has been covered elsewhere, although none of the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has really grasped the implications of what seems to be occurring.
To begin: Kid’s You Tube is definitely and markedly weird. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze.
The video consists of a regular version of the Finger Family song played over an animation of character heads and bodies from Disney’s Aladdin swapping and intersecting.
Again, this is weird but frankly no more than the Surprise Egg videos or anything else kids watch. The creeps in with the appearance of a non-Aladdin character —Agnes, the little girl from Despicable Me.
In turn, the amplification of tropes in popular, human-led channels such as Toy Freaks leads to them being endlessly repeated across the network in increasingly outlandish and distorted recombinations.
There’s a second level of what I’m characterising as human-led videos which are much more disturbing than the mostly distasteful activities of Toy Freaks and their kin.As someone who grew up on the internet, I credit it as one of the most important influences on who I am today.I had a computer with internet access in my bedroom from the age of 13.While I find it disturbing, I can understand how it might provide some of the rhythm or cadence or relation to their own experience that actual babies are attracted to in this content, although it has been warped and stretched through algorithmic repetition and recombination in ways that I don’t think anyone actually wants to happen.[Edit, 21/11/2017: Following the publication of this article, the Toy Freaks channel was removed by You Tube as part of a widespread removal of contentious content.]Toy Freaks is a hugely popular channel (68th on the platform) which features a father and his two daughters playing out — or in some cases perhaps originating — many of the tropes we’ve identified so far, including “Bad Baby”, (previously embedded above).As well as nursery rhymes and learning colours, Toy Freaks specialises in gross-out situations, as well as activities which many, many viewers feel border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely, including videos of the children vomiting and in pain.I see kids engrossed in screens all the time, in pushchairs and in restaurants, and there’s always a bit of a Luddite twinge there, but I am not a parent, and I’m not making parental judgments for or on anyone else.I’ve seen family members and friend’s children plugged into Peppa Pig and nursery rhyme videos, and it makes them happy and gives everyone a break, so OK.As many of the Wrong Heads videos as I could bear to watch all work in exactly the same way.The character Hope from Inside Out weeps through a Smurfs and Trolls head swap. I get the game, but the constant overlaying and intermixing of different tropes starts to get inside you.Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them.The above video is entitled Wrong Heads Disney Wrong Ears Wrong Legs Kids Learn Colors Finger Family 2017 Nursery Rhymes. I have no idea where the “Wrong Heads” trope originates, but I can imagine, as with the Finger Family Song, that somewhere there is a totally original and harmless version that made enough kids laugh that it started to climb the algorithmic rankings until it made it onto the word salad lists, combining with Learn Colors, Finger Family, and Nursery Rhymes, and all of these tropes — not merely as words but as images, processes, and actions — to be mixed into what we see here.