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Beware of violent YouTube videos disguised as popular kids' cartoons

Beware of violent YouTube videos disguised as popular kids' cartoons
© Oleksii Lomako | Dreamstime.com

My 4-year-old niece loves to watch "Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood," a PBS show for preschoolers. Because of YouTube, she can watch episodes whenever she wants. I just type the show's name into the YouTube search bar and thousands of episodes pop up.

However, I never thought watching children's shows on YouTube could put her at risk for viewing inappropriate content. Some YouTubers are creating violent cartoon videos with children's characters and small children are being tricked into watching scary videos.

There are thousands of these fake cartoon videos all over YouTube and since they appear to be regular cartoons, the autoplay function will suggest them as the next video to view. For instance, there's a video of Peppa Pig screaming as a dentist pulls out her teeth. There's another one where Peppa Pig and a friend burn down a house with someone inside. Other popular characters that have appeared in these videos include Doc McStuffins, Elsa from "Frozen," and Thomas the Tank Engine.

The picture above is from the "Smile Kids TV" YouTube channel. Another channel to watch out for is "Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs." The YouTube Kids app, which is supposed to provide family friendly content, does attempt to filter out inappropriate videos. However, it's difficult because these scary videos are tagged to show up in searches, the titles have characters' names, and the thumbnails from the video look very similar to real videos.

YouTube is aware of the issue and they do make it easy for viewers to flag inappropriate content. When a video plays, below the channel's name you can click the "More" button for the option to report a video. Reported videos are reviewed by staff and can be removed from the YouTube Kids app within hours. YouTube also suggested that you set the app to "restricted mode." To do this, scroll to the bottom of the page; this setting is in between "Content Location" and "History."

However, YouTube also said that the no filter system is perfect. Another thing you can do is shut off "Autoplay." To do that, click the gear symbol on a video and drag the Autoplay dial to the left.

Your best bet for protecting your children from inappropriate content is to only let them watch videos that were posted by the network's official channel or the TV show's official channel. "Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood" and PBS Kids both have verified channels. You'll know a channel is verified because it has a gray checkmark next to its name. From the specific channel, you can click "Playlists" and everything in this list is safe to view because it was uploaded by the official page.

Another way to protect your kids is to switch over to apps and websites when your children want to watch episodes of their favorite shows. PBS Kids, Disney Junior, and Nick Jr. all have specific parts of their website full of videos. There's also a PBS Kids app for Apple and Android, a Disney Junior app for Apple and Android, and a Nick Jr. app for Apple and Android.

Other kid-appropriate apps

Toontastic 3D

LEGO Life

Swift Playgrounds

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