EXAMINING THE “ELSAGATE” PHENOMENON: DISTURBING CHILDREN’S YOUTUBE CONTENT AND NEW FRONTIERS IN CHILDREN’S CULTURE
Keywords:children's media, YouTube, Elsagate, screen genres, streaming video, children's culture
This paper investigates new genres of children's content on YouTube that have provoked potent cultural anxieties about the role of YouTube in children's culture, and have raised concerns about the apparent wealth of content targeted at children on the platform that is not child-appropriate. The paper examines the journalistic commentary that constitutes the "Elsagate" phenomenon - the neologism used to describe public revelations about the controversy - and conducts a genre studies textual analysis of the YouTube content consistently referenced in this commentary. This analysis aims to illuminate the relationship between the textual features of disturbing children's YouTube content and the cultural anxieties these features have incited.
The paper contends that the child-oriented YouTube genres at the centre of the Elsagate controversy re-position extant cultural boundaries of child-appropriate content – boundaries which in some cases have long been enshrined in policy and standards guidelines – in ways that trouble ingrained ideological distinctions between child and adult culture. The paper illustrates how disturbing children’s YouTube content interrupts traditional power balances and interplays between media industries, parental mediation strategies, and “child-effects”: young children’s agency over their own consumption choices and influence on parental media practices (Bulck et al, 2016).