Parents freak out after self-harm and suicide clips surface on YouTube Kids

28 February 2019 - 06:00 By nivashni nair
Parents are concerned that messages of violence and self-harm are hidden in YouTube Kids clips.
Parents are concerned that messages of violence and self-harm are hidden in YouTube Kids clips.
Image: iStockphoto

Activate parental controls, get involved and find alternatives.

These are some of the tips that South African social media law expert Emma Sadleir is endorsing after parents raised alarm over hidden suicide tips in YouTube Kids videos.

Parents have been "worried sick" after Florida mom and paediatrician Free Hess, founder of the child safety website PediMom, revealed that there were videos glorifying suicide, sexual exploitation and violence on the app aimed at children.

"My research has led me into a horrifying world where people create cartoons glorifying dangerous topics and scenarios such as self-harm, suicide, sexual exploitation, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and gun violence which includes a simulated school shooting. All of these videos were found on YouTube Kids, a platform that advertises itself to be a safe place for children, eight years' old and under," Hess wrote on PediMom.

The resurrected Momo Challenge added to parents' worries when North Ireland police issued a public warning on the creepy game which targets young children on social media.

A doll encourages them to add a contact on messaging service WhatsApp, then hounds them with violent images and dares.

It encourages self-harm and ultimately tells them to commit suicide.

**Suicide game targeting our kids** Some information on the latest "Momo" game which is doing the rounds at the moment...

Posted by Police Service of Northern Ireland on Saturday, February 23, 2019

On Wednesday, Sadleir posted tips on Facebook for parents who "have seen some of the really scary stories circulating about content on YouTube Kids - everything from suicide instructions, self-harm, the Momo challenge hidden in Peppa Pig and Fortnite videos, knives, predators and paedophilia."

Sadleir recommended tips from Code9 Parent, an online service for parents to have an active role in monitoring and supporting their children's online activity.

Code9 Parent recommends that parents turn off the "allow searching" feature to prevent children from searching for content within the app.

Parents should turn on the "approve content only" feature.

The "pause watch history" feature should be turned on to prevent suggested videos showing.

Parents should also look for alternatives to YouTube, such as Kids Netflix, ABC Kids, Amazon Prime and even old-school DVDs.

Code9 Parent said nothing replaced parental supervision and vigilance therefore parents should check videos thoroughly before allowing children to watch.

"All devices should be in a public space in your home. Talk to your children about online safety and what to do if they see something upsetting online," it advised.