Mom finds suicide tips hidden in YouTube Kids videos

child on ipad
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Many parents feel perfectly comfortable letting their kids watch videos on YouTube Kids because the assumption is that the platform is offering content that is appropriate for kids, right? After all it's called YouTube "Kids" so it must have kid-appropriate content. But that's not the case according to Dr. Free N. Hess, a Florida mom, child safety expert, and pediatrician who is letting us all know that she has found multiple instances of alarming content on YouTube Kids, including how-to suicide clips.

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Yup, you read that correctly. Videos explaining to children how they can harm themselves have surfaced on YouTube Kids along with other violent content and videos that are rife with cursing. Hess is on a mission to get these kinds of videos off YouTube. She's been writing about the situation on her blog Pedimom and hopefully, thanks to her diligence, we can all learn more about what our children are being exposed to and how to protect them.

Sometimes the disturbing content is hidden within videos.

What's particularly insidious about some of the dangerous content found in YouTube Kids videos is that some of it is spliced into other videos, so it's not obvious that it's even there until a child is already watching. Hess recorded a video of someone else watching a video that has dangerous content edited into it.

Clearly, whoever put that content into the video did so with malicious intent. It's unclear if Filthy Frank, the internet personality who is heard saying "Remember kids, sideways for attention, longways for results," had anything to do with inserting himself into the video.

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Hess started a new hashtag to help get the word out.

There are many more examples of content that is dangerous for kids that Hess has found, but we'll spare you the incredibly disturbing details and focus on awareness instead. Hess created the hashtag #SafeKidVids to help get the word out that parents want a safe place for children to watch videos.

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What does YouTube have to say about it?

"We rely on both user flagging and smart detection technology to flag this content for our reviewers," a YouTube spokesperson told CBS News. "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."

Here's what you should do if you come across disturbing content on YouTube or YouTube Kids.

YouTube is a Google platform and Google offers ways to flag inappropriate content. In the video above, Google explains how you can flag content that you think is illegal or goes against its terms of service.

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What else can you do to protect your kids?

Phones and tablets come with parental controls that you should familiarize yourself with and use. You should also learn how to use the current parental tools and controls offered within the YouTube Kids app itself by visiting the official YouTube blog.

Unfortunately, for now, the best parental tool that exists is an actual parent or caregiver monitoring the content a child is watching and hopefully catching dangerous content and blocking it before a child ever lays eyes on it.

Note: If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can always reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. They are available 24/7 by phone or online chat.