Tips for committing suicide are appearing in children’s cartoons on YouTube and the YouTube Kids app.
The sinister content was first flagged by doctors on the pediatrician-run parenting blog pedimom.com and later reported by the Washington Post. An anonymous “physician mother” initially spotted the content while watching cartoons with her son on YouTube Kids as a distraction while he had a nosebleed. Four minutes and forty-five seconds into a video, the cartoon cut away to a clip of a man walking onto the screen and simulating cutting his wrist. “Remember, kids, sideways for attention, longways for results,” he says and then walks off screen. The video then quickly flips back to the cartoon.
“I am disturbed, I am saddened, I am disgusted,” the physician wrote. “But I am also relieved that I was there to see this video with my own eyes, so that I could take the appropriate actions to protect my family.” Those actions included deleting the YouTube Kids app and forever banning it from the house.
That particular video was later taken down from YouTube Kids after the doctor reported it to YouTube. However, parents have since discovered that several other cartoons contain information about how to commit suicide, including the same spliced-in video clip. In a subsequent blog post, pediatrician Free Hess, who runs pedimom, reported another cartoon—this time on YouTube—with the clip spliced in at four minutes and forty-four seconds. That cartoon was also later taken down, but Hess captured a recording of it beforehand, which you can view on the blog.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for YouTube told Ars: