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Mother Finds Suicide Instructions Spliced Into Popular YouTube Kids Videos

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Parents are alarmed by recent videos shared on popular video platforms YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Pediatrician and mother Dr. Free Hess discovered a video on YouTube Kids last July that included edited-in footage of a man telling children how to kill themselves. After miming how one could carry out suicide, the man points to the camera — at the child viewer — and says, “End it.”

Though the video was taken down from YouTube Kids, the video has resurfaced in other videos on the parent platform, YouTube.

“I think it’s extremely dangerous for our kids,” Hess told The Washington Post. “I think our kids are facing a whole new world with social media and Internet access. It’s changing the way they’re growing, and it’s changing the way they’re developing. I think videos like this put them at risk.”

In her work as a pediatrician, Hess said she’s seen more and more kids come into her office that are struggling with self-harm or have attempted suicide.

In response to the controversy, YouTube issued a written statement. The company said it works “to ensure YouTube is not used to encourage dangerous behavior and [has] strict policies that prohibit videos which promote self-harm.”

YouTube asserted all flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and videos that violate their policies are removed.

“We rely on both user flagging and smart detection technology to flag this content for our reviewers,” the statement said. “Every quarter we remove millions of videos and channels that violate our policies and we remove the majority of these videos before they have any views.”

Hess told CNN that YouTube is faster at removing videos from YouTube Kids than from YouTube itself — which still poses a problem for kids.

“Once someone reports it, it’s too late because a kid has already seen it,” she said.

She encouraged parents to speak up and keep reporting inappropriate content.

“We need to fix this, and we all need to fix this together.”

If this news is hard for you, know you are not alone — and there is help for people who feel suicidal. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Gettyimages photo via Chalabala

Originally published: February 26, 2019
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