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Is “YouTube Kids” safe for your child? Florida mother finds disturbing content

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

“YouTube Kids” has been host to many safe children's programs, used for the entertainment and education of children worldwide. But one Florida mom, as well as many others, is urging the public to pay close attention to what their child is watching after finding extremely disturbing content, shockingly hidden in the middle of a cartoon.

According to the mother, who is a career pediatrician, states that a clip hidden in the middle of the cartoon, showed a man signaling and giving suicide instructions, detailing the viewer to slit their wrists and "end it," which was stated at the end of the message.

Developed by YouTube and released in February of 2015, “YouTube Kids” is a video app, providing a version of the service geared toward children, making it a safer and simpler way for kids to explore the world through online video.

"Seven months ago, a concerned mother alerted me to a cartoon on “YouTube Kids” that had a clip of a man spliced in showing how to properly slit their wrists," said Hess in a blog post. "Exposure to videos, photos and other self-harm and suicidal promoting content is a huge problem that our children are facing today."

“YouTube” and “YouTube Kids” has since removed the original video, however, “YouTube Kids” states that "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." “YouTube Kids” representatives stated that they appreciate people bringing problematic content to their attention "Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don't belong in the app are removed," said “YouTube Kids”.

The unknown man detailing suicide instructions isn't the only inappropriate thing appearing in YouTube Kids videos. A disturbing figure, named "MoMo," has been appearing in “YouTube Kids” videos, as well as other social apps that teenagers are known for using today. MoMo, who appears with bulging eyes; long, thin, black hair and a grin that stretches across the figure's face, has been infiltrating the videos.

According to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, "the set up can come from countless other apps – anything with a chat function. A 'curse contact' sends a number and tells you to contact them on Whatsapp. One video of such interaction in America I've seen shows an ominous sounding voice recording being sent to a child telling them to take a knife to their own throat. Another version of the "MoMo" scare tactic threatens family if a 'challenge' is not completed. It's chilling viewing. There are numerous variations and, of course, now imitators." The statement also makes note, assuring families that "'MoMo' isn't going to crawl out of your child's phone and kill them."

Reports state that pictures of the figure first appeared on Instagram in 2016 and has since been converted into the disturbing suicide challenge game, allegedly blamed for suicides in France, Belgium and other countries.

Parents are encouraged to closely monitor all content platforms their children may be using for entertainment. If you notice inappropriate content, click the 'report' button to flag the content.

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