So I’m sure you guys have learnt about the freaky YouTube hacks that have been found peppered throughout some of our kid’s favorite YouTube and YouTube Kids videos. Yep, I’m talking KIDS videos… you know, the ones that are seemingly safe and harmless. The ones our children are glued to, when they are enjoying their screen time, each day. Malicious people are hacking dem videos, you guys, and adding content that basically encourages your little one to self harm, or even worse, end their lives or that of their families. Shocked yet? I know, right.
Pediatrician, Free Hess, found a bunch of YouTube and YouTube Kids videos that included tips on how to commit suicide… and they’ve been around for as long as a year, you guys! A mom friend of hers made her aware of the epidemic when the friend’s son discovered an eerie edit in one of the YouTube videos he was watching. Basically, in the middle of the footage, a guy appears, instructing kids to slit their wrists. “Side ways for attention, long ways for results.” (You can watch the video here.)
To date, Hess has reported numerous dodgey YouTube videos. Some contain content that promotes suicide, sexual exploitation and abuse, gun violence, human trafficking and domestic violence. All cleverly hidden in seemingly innocent videos that our kids are consuming!
The most recent disturbing YouTube content that I’ve stumbled on is the Momo Challenge. So basically Momo is a freaky looking character that targets young kids, by encouraging them to text a number on Whatsapp. This person then sends them disturbing challenges – instructions that they need to complete – ranging from performing daring acts, to engaging in self-harm and even taking their own lives.
These Momo challenges appear midway through Peppa Pig, Fortnight and other Kids YouTube videos. Momo also freaks kids out by telling them that “everyone will die” and “I am coming for you”. Children are left traumatised and some are afraid to sleep alone. A three-year old, who had been exposed to Momo, while watching Peppa Pig, on YouTube Kids, told his mom ‘they’re going to kill everyone!’
I don’t know about you guys, but I am completely freaked out by this! My children will not be seeing YouTube anytime soon! But hey, I often relied on the safety of YouTube Kids, when my 4-year old wanted some screen time (and I wanted some, you know, adult time). But surely there are safer alternatives to YouTube… right? Well yes, yes there are. Here are few alternatives I found online:
1. Download your own videos, maaan! Instead of feeding YouTube content to your kid, find safe videos online (you might want to screen each video first), and save them to the device, so that your kid can view offline. You can actually buy a subscription to YouTube Red, that allows you to curate your own videos and save them to offline. Same thing. Tip: Always make sure the device is not connected to the internet.
2. Subscribe to Netflix, you guys. Netflix has a host of safe kiddies programs that are better alternatives than simply letting them go rogue on YouTube Kids. I love that Netflix has a developed a login that ensures your children are viewing kid-friendly content. Read more about those kid-friendly controls here.
But either way, you guys, we need to be chatting to our small kids about online stranger danger. My 4-year old needs to know that there are bad people out there who may try to influence and scare her. Having these types of conversations are important. Let your children know that they must not be afraid to tell an adult, if they come across anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Do you allow your kids to watch YouTube? What are some of the ways you safeguard them against the creepy content creators of this world?