A woman from Gainesville, Florida, was shocked recently when she discovered videos featuring themes of suicide, school shootings and abuse on her child’s YouTube Kids app, which claims to feature a curated selection of YouTube content appropriate for kids.
BuzzFeed News reports that Dr. Free Hess, a pediatrician from Gainesville, Florida was shocked when she discovered a massive collection of shocking and violent content on the YouTube Kids app. Hess flagged as many as a dozen videos in the app which have reportedly since been deleted, but she still worries that the child-focused app could contain other inappropriate videos.
“I found about 10 [videos] very quickly and very easily, but stopped there simply because I wanted to get the blog post out, not because there weren’t more,” Hess said. Hess kept a record of some of the content she discovered by screen recording it and sharing it on her blog, PediMom.com. One video titled “Monster School: SLENDERMAN HORROR GAME,” features a character enacting a school shooting. This video was hosted on a channel called TellBite, which has over 167,000 subscribers.
Another clip from the YouTube channel Toasty Qween depicts a female character attempting to commit suicide with a knife before her father intervenes in the situation; the video is set to the song “Don’t You Worry Child.” Another video is a parody of the popular adult-themed video game Doki Doki Literature Club; the parody video is titled “Doki! Doki! Rainclouds New End!!!” and features a character narrating a suicide stating: “Why won’t the world let me die?”
In the parody video, a second character appears in time to stop the attempted suicide, with the narrator stating: “Why couldn’t he just let me hang myself?”
Hess stated that she’s aware some of these videos were not initially intended for a younger audience, yet they have somehow ended up on the YouTube Kids app. In a statement, YouTube said that it “take[s] feedback very seriously,” and is working to “ensure the videos in YouTube Kids are family-friendly.” The YouTube spokesperson further added: “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.”
Hess stated that she doesn’t believe that YouTube is doing enough to curate the YouTube Kids platform and protect younger viewers from adult-themed content. “I would like them to recognize the dangers associated with this for our children [and] to be taking parents’ concerns seriously,” she said.
YouTube Kids has previously come under fire for failing to curate content on the platform correctly, Business Insider reported last year that conspiracy theory videos were prominent on the platform. “Search for ‘UFO’ on YouTube Kids and you’ll mostly find videos of toys that are clearly fine for children to watch. But one of the top videos claimed to show a UFO shooting at a chemtrail, and we found several videos by prominent conspiracy theorist David Icke in the suggested videos,” Business Insider reported. “One suggested video was an hours-long lecture by Icke in which he claims that aliens built the pyramids, that the planet is run by reptile-human hybrids, that Freemasons engage in human sacrifice, that the assassination of President Kennedy was planned by the US government, and that humans would evolve in 2012.”
Then there was the Elsagate incident in which disturbing videos that initially seemed to be parodying children’s films such as Frozen but soon turned violent or sexually themed. YouTube also attempted to crack down on these videos following a number of reports about the videos.