*Updated 27 February with the name of the YouTuber featured in the video.
WARNING: Some images and videos may be upsetting.
Most families have very strict rules on what the kids should and absolutely will not be watching. Whether it has to do with the movies they choose to see at the cinema or the age-old debate over playing video games that may be just a little too violent for kids, age restrictions are there for a reason.
Things have become exponentially more complicated with the advent of the internet. And while we’re sure no parent is going to willingly let their little ones watch any inappropriate content online, the more sadistic of internet trolls seem to have found a way of creeping into your supposedly safe YouTube Kids app and making cameos in their most beloved nursery rhymes.
Fox 4 Now reports that while videos on the app appear to be animations for kids, a few have clips spliced into the narrative that definitely shouldn't be seen by children, or anyone really, but have been specifically aimed at kids. In the video below they show one with suicide tips from YouTube prankster, Filthy Frank, known for his “anti-PC, anti-social and anti-couth” videos. The Sun reports that he was unavailable for comment, but there is also no way of linking him to the splicing of the two clips.
Watch the horrific video below:
Pardon my French, but...
Elsagate and other content that just isn’t safe for kidsIf you happen across it now you’ll see the message “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service” because, after one mom reported it, YouTube eventually took it down. But the mom says in the Fox 4 Now interview that she’s seen other videos online with themes of “self-harm, cutting, suicide, shooting and [violence]...” So I wonder, how many more of these videos are out there? You may have heard of Elsagate, the controversy surrounding YouTube videos that are targeted at kids but which no kids should ever, EVER, watch. The videos feature either people dressed up as popular characters or copycat animations of these characters, specifically Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, Spiderman, Dora, Peppa Pig and Barney, in violent or sexual reenactments. While the videos may seem family-oriented at first, you'll soon realise the themes and content really aren’t safe at all.
Some cosplay-like videos may show Elsa in an adult relationship with Spiderman – taken too far it becomes a little fetishistic – while others deal with sexual content, drugs and alcohol, toilet humour and violence.
Like this Peppa Pig video with a rather disturbing trip to the dentist:
And this one that has “Peppa Pig” in the title of the video and a Peppa Pig thumbnail, but is very far from the Peppa Pig you know and love.
One user commented below the video: “6:42 did he just rape his dinosaur”. Well, I’m afraid he did.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook user Linda Nguyen supplied us with screenshots she took while watching one of these channels with her daughter.
This is not the Peppa Pig we know and love.
In her Facebook post she warned others of the harmful videos and content online and touched on the suicide tips too saying, “One example I read recently was using characters from a TV show called The Winx Club and it had a step-by-step tutorial of how to become a fire fairy by turning on your oven and turning on the stove and letting the magic gas fill the house and to make sure to do it at night so no one hears you or it will ruin the magic. The little girl in the article ended up severely burned over most of her body after blowing up the kitchen.”
*Note: We've reported these videos so it's only a matter of time before they're taken down.
How it could affect your kids
After seeing their heroes in compromising positions and unusual scenarios, children may end up feeling confused and scared. When it comes to scarier and more serious themes though, such as the suicide tips, mental health expert at the David Lawrence Center mentions to Fox 4 News that it may have a “cumulative effect” on young and impressionable children. “It can be triggering,” she continues, “especially for folks who have thoughts of self-harm.”
Fox 4 News also reached out to YouTube for comment. They responded saying, “We work hard to ensure YouTube is not used to encourage dangerous behaviour and we have strict policies that prohibit videos which promote self-harm.”
Well, it looks like YouTube may have their work cut out for them reworking those algorithms if thousands upon thousands of these videos are just a quick “Peppa Pig English Episodes Full Episodes Compilation” search away, and produced by YouTube channels called “Fun Kids Smile”.
What you can do to ensure your kids are safe
It’s not easy to distinguish between which videos are safe for kids and which aren’t, when they’re all titled the same, the thumbnails match the description and the channel name sounds pretty kid-friendly.
Here are a few common markers:
- We’ve found that, and especially with the Elsagate videos, while the thumbnails are of popular characters, they're usually displayed on a bright background (yellow mostly).
- They may also include several popular characters from different universes, like Elsa and Spiderman.
- You’ll also find once you start playing it you’ll hear background music and weird noises instead of dialogue.
- And when it’s an animation it’ll appear flatter than usual, with brighter colours, while the animation itself is jagged and slow-moving, with the addition of drawn on Paint-like lines and even emojis.
The best way to identify what your kids are watching is to either watch it with them, and for your older kids, limit their screen time and what they’re allowed to watch. Also teach them how to differentiate between an official channel and a knock-off one.
News24 reports, according to a 2018 Healthy Active Kids South Africa report from the University of Cape Town, that for children younger than 18 months we should avoid use of screen media, other than video chatting, while children aged 2 to 5 should be limited to 1 hour per day and school-going children should be limited to 2 hours.
Stick to these limits for your older kids make sure they’re using devices for homework more than anything else. We know you can’t always keep an eye on what they’re doing, but you can create playlists for them, block specific channels and inappropriate ads and enable YouTube’s restricted mode.
Click here to see how: Parent's guide: Making YouTube safer for your kids
And if you are watching a video with your Peppa Pig fans and Clubhouse kids and just happen to come across Peppa in a gruesome scene or Mickey in a compromising position, don’t just close the app – flag and report it.
Click those three dots below the video, hit “Report” and follow the prompts for YouTube to review and take action.Yes, it’s sad that that’s even something you have to do, and on a kids app no less. But there’s something sick and sadistic lurking right beneath those muddy puddles!
Have you seen any supposedly child-friendly videos on YouTube that absolutely shouldn't be seen by kids? Tell us and we can share it and warn other parents.