YouTube Kids is supposed to be a safe place for children to grab a bit of screen time – maybe watch some “PAW Patrol” or sing along to “Baby Shark.”
But recently, several parents have discovered disturbing videos on the site, ones making them question how safe a place it is.
The videos in question have a 9-second clip edited into them of a man giving advice on how to properly slit your wrists.
“Remember kids: sideways for attention, longways for results. End it.”
Parents not closely monitoring what their children are watching could easily miss the message because it quickly returns to what looks like a regular video.
Mom and pediatrician Free Hess posted the clip to her PediMom website and social media accounts.
The original video has since been removed from YouTube and YouTube Kids, but there’s nothing stopping someone from posting another like it.
“It makes me angry and sad and frustrated,” Hess told CNN. “I’m a pediatrician, and I’m seeing more and more kids coming in with self-harm and suicide attempts. I don’t doubt that social media and things such as this is contributing.”
The website for YouTube Kids promises “A safer online experience for kids.”
We use a mix of filters, user feedback and human reviewers to keep the videos in YouTube Kids family friendly. But no system is perfect and inappropriate videos can slip through, so we’re constantly working to improve our safeguards and offer more features to help parents create the right experience for their families
In a response to CNN on the videos Hess found, YouTube said it takes its commitment to parents seriously.
“We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video. Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don’t belong in the app are removed,” their statement said.
“We’ve also been investing in new controls for parents including the ability to hand pick videos and channels in the app. We are making constant improvements to our systems and recognize there’s more work to do.”
On her blog, Hess says “self-harm and suicidal-promoting content” is a big problem.
“Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the numbers of children exhibiting some form of self-harm is growing rapidly,” Hess said. “Every year 157,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 present to Emergency Departments for self-inflicted injuries and/or suicide attempts.”
She said it’s important for parents to educate themselves and be vigilant in monitoring what their children watch. That way they can report inappropriate content to social media platforms, so it can be pulled.