Behind even the most innocent-seeming YouTube trends can lurk predators intent on exploiting young kids.
Emily Levy at Vocativ reports on YouTube “Feet Dares,” a creepy trend of men, sometimes disguised as fellow tweens, asking tween vloggers to show their soles, suck on their toes, or open a banana with their feet.
But now the kids are fighting back.
“Feet dares” for both male and female tweens have become so pervasive that many make videos specifically to address how they won’t do feet dares. The requests come in innocently enough as suggestions for videos that will give the kids more subscribers and views.
“The dare exchanges—a sort of play-date for the digital age—are common among kids who find themselves bored after school. But in reality, many of the tweens engaging in challenges aren’t tweens at all; they’re ‘pervs’...on the hunt for a certain kind of child porn,” writes Levy.
A channel called YouTube Video Alert made an entire video warning underage vloggers that those asking to see their feet aren’t doing it as an innocent dare, but because of sexual intent.
The challenges seem weird but harmless to the kids, and many in the videos expressed that they didn’t know why someone was inundating their inbox with requests for “foot dares.” One says she won’t show the soles of her feet, but she does demonstrate her flexibility by putting her legs behind her head.
As Levy puts it, “a mature eye reveals the stunts are far dirtier than the girls believe.” But some tweens do realize that the requests are coming from “foot fetish people,” as evidenced in the video compilation of complaints below. Some of the kids ID the YouTube usernames of the people who solicit them, then warn other tween vloggers not to answer those messages.
Vocativ reports that YouTube is trying to crack down on “content related to kids and sex” (reluctant to use the term “child porn”) and has cleared out 100,000 queries involving inappropriate videos of children. “Foot Dare” videos specifically are hard to find because many have innocuous titles like “Dares!” or “Dares and Challenges!”
Blocking creeps and pedophiles has been an ongoing battle for YouTube, because offenders often don’t post their own videos or leave the other evidence necessary to file reports against them. If their accounts are eventually taken down by YouTube, they can easily start new ones.
In 2012, the Daily Dot reported on a scammer who solicited underage YouTubers by pretended to represent a modeling agency. He was eventually stopped—not by YouTube, but by the FBI.