From openly operating pedophile rings to violent content, and now suicide instructions, it’s becoming increasingly clear that YouTube (and YouTube Kids) isn’t the safe space that parents hope. It seems people are finding loopholes daily within the algorithm supposedly designed to make browsing safe for youth.
The latest issue of concern has been the discovery of disturbing content that teaches young children how to commit suicide.
One distraught mother, Meridy Leeper, could hardly believe her eyes when she saw her 7-year-old daughter being shown a “how to” on suicide while she was playing YouTube games. In an attempt to raise awareness about how profoundly this has affected her daughter, Meridy vulnerably shared her story on Facebook.
“This is an exceptionally hard thing for me to post,” she wrote. “I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’ve decided it’s way too important not to bring awareness to other parents. This is not up for criticism. I only want to let all parents know what to watch for…”
“Kids youtube, [R]oblox, [F]ortnight… no matter how much you think you are monitoring your child.. notifications to what your child is watching. It doesn’t matter,” she continued. “My 7-year-old child was taught how to attempt suicide by kids youtube and these games. She has expressed that she doesn’t feel neglected or unloved. Instead, she was constantly told to ‘go kill yourself’ by other gamers, by kids youtube. Shown HOW to.”
Meridy then explained that her child recently suffered from a full-blown anxiety attack as a result of the exposure to the content on YouTube. The very next day, she drew this disturbing image in school:
“This is a VERY real danger! I NEVER thought I would find myself helping my SEVEN-YEAR-OLD CHILD through an anxiety attack,” wrote Meridy.
“PLEASE, keep your children away from these things,” she urged. “I’m just so glad my child was able to express her feelings before she actually tried to harm herself. I never thought something as ‘innocent’ as kids youtube would have these subliminal messages. Again, I’m only sharing our experience in the hopes to prevent another child [from] going through this.”
Her message has spread alarmingly quickly on social media, garnering over 360,000 shares on Facebook.
And Meridy certainly doesn’t stand alone in her concern. Her warning is echoed by other parents who have made equally appalling finds on the platform.
Pediatrician and mother Free Hess discovered a video offering self-harm tips and ‘suicide instructions’ dispersed between clips of a well-known video game on YouTube and YouTube Kids.
The instructions delivered by a man in front of a green screen were spliced between footage of the Nintendo game Splatoon.
“Remember kids, sideways for attention, longways for results,” says the man, identified as YouTuber Filthy Frank, as he demonstrates cutting motions on his arm. “End it.”
After Hess exposed the dangerous video on her blog as a warning, YouTube reportedly took it down, citing that it violated “community guidelines.” However, the video had been reported up to eight months ago already, as was reflected in the comments.
“I had to stop, but I could have kept going,” said the pediatrician. “Once you start looking into it, things get darker and weirder. I don’t understand how it’s not getting caught.”