A Florida mom has a warning for parents after she and another mother found disturbing clips encouraging suicide slipped into children’s videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids.
Free Hess is a pediatrician and has her own blog called PediMom. This week, she wrote on the blogging site that she was contacted by a parent who found a clip edited into a YouTube cartoon.
Almost five minutes into the video of the cartoon, a man appears on-screen and gestures at his wrist as he says:
“Remember, kids, sideways for attention. Longways for results.”
Hess posted a video of the moment to her Twitter.
This is a cartoon on @YouTube. At 4.44 secs a man is spliced in showing children how to properly slit their wrists. #thisisnotok #protectourkids #parentsdemandaction. Link to full video and to report in comments. pic.twitter.com/ur1xVpLoqR
— PediMom, Dr. Free N. Hess (@thepedimom) February 15, 2019
The concerned mom blogger wrote:
This is a cartoon on
@YouTube. At 4.44 secs a man is spliced in showing children how to properly slit their wrists. #thisisnotok #protectourkids #parentsdemandaction. Link to full video and to report in comments.
Hess encouraged others to report the video containing the clip so that YouTube would take it down. Her efforts were successful, but this isn’t the first time suicide tips have appeared.
A different mom previously found the same clip, which features popular internet comedian Filthy Frank, in a video on YouTube Kids.
— PediMom, Dr. Free N. Hess (@thepedimom) February 24, 2019
That video was also eventually removed from the platform, but the issue raises larger concerns over whether YouTube can properly monitor content promoted to children, according to the Washington Post.
Hess told the outlet:
“I think it’s extremely dangerous for our kids. I think our kids are facing a whole new world with social media and Internet access. It’s changing the way they’re growing, and it’s changing the way they’re developing. I think videos like this put them at risk.”
A YouTube spokesperson said that the platform relies on monitoring technology to detect harmful videos, but some can slip through the cracks. When that happens, users can flag content to get taken down.
Hess warns that parents should stay on the lookout for other similar videos, as exposure to dark topics like suicide can be harmful.
As of now, it’s unclear who has been editing the message into videos.