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YouTube Trolls Are Targeting Kids by Promoting Self-Harm in Animated Shows

Beware the YouTube Kids app, parents.

Free Hess/YouTube / Via pedimom.com

A shocking discovery has parents worried that the YouTube Kids app may not be safe for children, after all. According to BuzzFeed News, some popular shows on the service have been altered to include a clip teaching kids how to harm themselves.

The offending video is taken from comedy skit by YouTuber Filthy Frank that hackers have edited to make it appear as if the man is in whatever show kids are watching.

“Remember, kids, sideways for attention, longways for results. End it,” Frank says, demonstrating the motion of cutting his arms in the clip, which was most recently discovered in a Splatoon cartoon on the app.

Mom and pediatrician Dr. Free Hess first found out about the hack in July 2018 from one of her friends, who found her kid watching the disturbing video on YouTube. Hess told BuzzFeed News that despite repeatedly reporting it, the clip got over 600,000 views before it was removed.

“This video was intentionally planted on YouTube Kids to harm our children,” the 43-year-old wrote in a blog post. “He waited until parents’ guards were down, thinking their kids were just watching a harmless cartoon when he made his entrance four minutes and forty-five seconds into this video.”

Free Hess/PediMom.com

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So far, YouTube has had to remove two shows containing Frank’s video. BuzzFeed News reports that the company has yet to release who is behind the reuploads, but that “they’ve given them a strike and will terminate the channel if they continue to violate company policies.”

Hess, however, urges YouTube to do better. “I would like them to recognize the dangers associated with this for our children [and] to be taking parents’ concerns seriously and have a better process for removing these things when reported,” she said in the same interview.

YouTube has long struggled with providing content that’s truly “kid-friendly.” In November 2017, for example, the company faced backlash after hundreds of children’s channels were invaded with exploitative videos depicting kids in inappropriate and even abusive scenarios.