The thing about kids is that they don’t know things — they’re neither experienced nor educated — but they’re still pretty smart. And that makes the YouTube Kids platform’s strategy of determining whether it’s dealing with an adult pretty dumb.
The age gate is trivial to crack
Let’s back up for a second. YouTube has a mobile app for kids, and the idea behind it is that there will be guardrails up on the content there. Essentially, the idea is that your child can watch Sesame Street unimpeded and without encountering Sesame Street parody videos or worse. The company has also launched an age-gated website that mimics the app. The age gate is trivial to crack.
To prove to YouTube that you’re an adult, you have to... do a math problem. It’s basic multiplication, the kind I could do in my head by third grade and I could do on a calculator by kindergarten. Like I said, trivial to crack.
It gets worse, actually! Josh Billinson described on Twitter his attempts to get through the gate. The problem changes with each wrong answer, and YouTube won’t lock you out. So Billinson just typed the same number over and over until he got it right — brute-forcing the question.
Now, it is possible that YouTube is being deliberately ineffective because preventing kids from logging on and viewing its sweet, sweet content is not actually YouTube’s goal. But let’s assume that YouTube really does want to keep kids out and just hasn’t thought very hard about how clever the little ankle-biters are. The best way to assure you are dealing with an adult is to ask different questions. Some of them may be Googleable, but I’m pretty sure if we phrase them right, they’ll be harder to find.
I have some suggestions:
- What is the nickname for the last surviving person in a horror movie?
- Fill in the blank: Tina Turner famously asked “What’s ___ ____ ___ __ ___ __ ?”
- On a rotary phone, what is the hardest number to dial?
- To listen to an entire record, what must you do halfway through a listen?
- On a TV, “bunny ears” are a nickname for what?
- On a standard transmission car, what is the name of the pedal you operate with your left foot?
- Who is Wu-Tang for?
- Complete this phrase: “Mr. Gorbachev, _____ _____ ______ ______.”
- What is the best response to “Hello, Jerry,” if you’re in a Seinfeld kind of mood?
- Marsha and John arrive at a four-way stop at the same time. Marsha is arriving from the east and John is arriving from the south. Who has the right of way?
- What inferior talent replaced David Lee Roth as the lead singer of Van Halen?
- How many digits are in a Social Security number?
- What was Weezer’s controversial follow-up to the Blue Album?
- What TV show does the phrase “jump the shark” originate with?
- American athlete Michelle Kwan won two Olympic medals in what sport?
- Complete this phrase: “Jet fuel can’t ____ ____ ____.”
- In 1991, what singer’s performance of the US’s national anthem was so moving that it was ultimately released as a single?
- Who won the format wars, VHS or Beta?
- The Walkman, first released in 1979, worked with what two-word piece of technology?
- In Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, what is Keanu Reeves’ famous catchphrase?
- Dr. Dre was a member of which groundbreaking hip-hop group?
- You’re playing The Oregon Trail. Do you ford the river with your oxen?
- Before computers, what was the two-word system used in libraries to locate books?
- What is the name of the document employers are required to send to employees in order to report their income?