Majority of parents that have children watching YouTube Kids feel relatively safe because the platform is child-friendly. Parents feel assured that their kids will not come across questionable content. However, some moms found seriously disturbing videos that made them feel YouTube Kids is not safe for their children.
A mother from Florida said she found clips on YouTube and YouTube Kids that provided children instructions on how to kill themselves (commit suicide). Free Hess saw the video for the first time back in July when another mother alerted while watching cartoons on YouTube Kids. While watching the show, there was some small footage that appeared showing a man in sunglasses showing children how to slit their wrists.
Shocked and in disbelief, Hess, a pediatrician, put out an alert to different groups to report the video and have it removed from the website. Hess said that it took a week for YouTube Kids team to take down the video.
While the video was removed on YouTube Kids, Hess was shocked to see the video again this month, but on YouTube. She alerted YouTube of the video as well as others, and it took YouTube a few days to pull the video down. Hess has been writing about this issue in detail on her parenting blog.
Speaking to CNN, Hess said, “It makes me angry and sad and frustrated.” Furthermore, she added, “I'm a pediatrician, and I'm seeing more and more kids coming in with self harm and suicide attempts. I don't doubt that social media and things such as this is contributing.”
After seeing this horrific video on YouTube Kids, she went back on the platform to dig some more. She was shocked to find more videos that glorified not only suicide but sexual exploitation, abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and gun violence. “There were just so many that I had to stop recording,” she said.
Shocked and disgusted, Hess said that she wants YouTube to do a better job at monitoring the content that's uploaded on the platform, not just on YouTube Kids. She understands that YouTube and Google are a business, and “they might not have the exact goals that I have, but I do want them to respond better when people report offensive videos, and I want offensive things taken down immediately when reported.”
In response to Hess' allegation and her findings, YouTube provided a statement, saying they it works hard to make videos on YouTube Kids family-friendly and take any and all feedback very seriously. “We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video,” the statement said. “Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don't belong in the app are removed.”
“We've also been investing in new controls for parents including the ability to hand pick videos and channels in the app. We are making constant improvements to our systems and recognize there's more work to do.”
YouTube has a lot of work to do, that's for sure. Hess' findings on YouTube Kids is quite alarming. She says, “We need to fix this,” and “we all need to fix this together.” YouTube most definitely has taken notice and will likely do a better job of monitoring content from here on out. YouTube and parents essentially need to work together to combat this issue because everyone can make an effort. Only time will tell on improvements from YouTube's team and YouTube Kids' team.