Does your kid spend a lot of time or even nominal time on YouTube watching innocent cartoon videos? Well, it's time for you to stay vigilant as multiple reports suggest suicide tips are being stashed in kids' content on YouTube and YouTube Kids. This alarming revelation came to light after a parenting blog PediMom, followed by Washington Post and Ars Technica reported the matter.
This is a serious problem and kids being exposed to such vile content raises concerns and questions over YouTube's role in identifying and removing such content. YouTube is embroiled in a long battle with problematic content on its video-sharing platform, ranging from removing hateful and violent content, child sexual exploitation and more, but videos encouraging suicide among kids crosses a line.
Usually, kids are left alone with an iPad or a smartphone as they watch cartoons on YouTube or YouTube Kids. The sinister content is fused into cartoon videos in such a way that parents won't suspect a thing unless they decide to sit down with the kid to watch the entire cartoon. According to the reports, four minutes and 45 seconds into the cartoon, a clip of a man appears out of nowhere and demonstrates how to cut a wrist.
"Remember, kids, sideways for attention, longways for results," the man in the video says and walks off the screen and the cartoon continues. Several spliced-in videos with problematic content have been flagged and removed, but the numerous others have been found by Free Hess, a pediatrician and mother. The Washington Post highlighted that some videos show cartoons about a child committing suicide by stabbing and another by hanging and some cartoons even show human trafficking.
Kids' minds are inquisitive. Exposing their curious nature to such videos can end up badly as they can trigger bad memories, nightmares or even attempt at mimicking suicide attempts shown in the videos. Kids are young to understand the consequences and it would be too late before parents realise it.
"I am disturbed, I am saddened, I am disgusted. But I am also relieved that I was there to see this video with my own eyes, so that I could take the appropriate actions to protect my family," an anonymous "physician mother" said after discovering suicide tips suddenly appear out of nowhere while watching cartoons with her son.
In response to Ars Technica's request for a comment on the matter, a YouTube spokesperson said: "We work to make the videos in YouTube Kids family-friendly and take feedback very 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. 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."
Let this revelation be a warning to all those parents to let their kids watch YouTube. While it is important to control the screen-time for kids, it is utmost important to be watchful of the type of content they are watching.