Horrified Parents Discover Suicide Instructions Hidden Within YouTube Vids For Kids

Free Hess said that she has posed as a child to log on to YouTube in the past, where she found pictures and videos of self-harm, suicide, sexual exploitation, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and gun violence.

February 25, 2019

Momo Face [Police Service of Northern Ireland]

Photo by: Momo Face [Police Service of Northern Ireland]

Momo Face [Police Service of Northern Ireland]

By: Catherine Townsend

Horrified parents are speaking out after finding videos instructing their children how to harm and even kill themselves on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Free Hess, a pediatrician and mother, has flagged at least two videos since July that she said she found between clips of the popular Nintendo game Splatoon.

The person in the video was YouTube star Filthy Frank, who has over 6.2 million subscribers. "Remember kids, sideways for attention, longways for results," Filthy Frank says, miming cutting motions on his forearm. "End it."

CBS News reports that there is no evidence that Frank, whose real name is George Miller, was involved in creating the video.

Hess posted the video on her blog, and says she wants to warn parents to more closely monitor their childrens' viewing habits.

"Looking at the comments, it had been up for a while, and people had even reported it eight months prior," Hess told CBS News. Hess reports that YouTube has finally taken the video down after stating that it violated the site's community guidelines. But she said that she spotted another version of the same video on YouTube Kids in July last year, adding that "once you start looking into it, things get darker and weirder."

Hess has posed as a child to log on to YouTube in the past, where she found pictures and videos of self-harm, suicide, sexual exploitation, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and gun violence.

A YouTube spokesperson told CBS News that the site has "strict policies" that prohibit videos that promote self-harm. "We rely on both user flagging and smart detection technology to flag this content for our reviewers," the spokesperson 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. We are always working to improve our systems and to remove violative content more quickly, which is why we report our progress in a quarterly report and give users a dashboard showing the status of videos they've flagged to us."

Last year, the site announced three new parental control features — but due to the sheer volume of content posted, monitoring videos for prohibited content is a challenge.

YouTube announced on Thursday it was taking aggressive action, including disabling comments on tens of millions of videos, terminating over 400 channels, and reporting illegal comments to law enforcement.

In Northern Ireland, reports of the “Momo Challenge” game, in which a character hidden inside a regular video game dares the gamer into self-harm, has caused the Police Service of Northern Ireland to put out an alert warning parents of potentially dangerous content.

Sometimes, the creepy character encourages users to message it through WhatsApp. Momo will tell the gamer that the interaction is a “secret” and not to tell their parents.

Reports in Europe have linked the game to suicides of young children. Parents say they are finding the character embedded in seemingly “normal” games that their children play on iPads and other gaming systems.

One Belfast mother said she found it on her seven-year-old daughter's iPad – even though she claimed that she had parental controls in place.

"Our advice as always, is to supervise the games your kids play and be extremely mindful of the videos they are watching on YouTube," police said. "Ensure that the devices they have access to are restricted to age suitable content."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals: 1-800-273-8255

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