Self-harm clips hidden in kids' cartoons

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A Florida mother has discovered shocking YouTube videos which give children instructions on how to kill themselves.

When Free Hess found the video on YouTube last week, she posted it on her blog - warning other parents to take control over what their kids may be watching.

Tony Stower, head of child safety online at the NSPCC told the BBC: "Tech giants have a responsibility to protect children on their platforms, but YouTube and YouTube Kids keep failing to tackle disturbing videos like this".

"Unlike YouTube itself, YouTube Kids is supposed to be specifically FOR kids".

On her blog, Hess says "self-harm and suicidal-promoting content" is a big problem.

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"I had to stop, but I could have kept going", Hess told CBS News. "He waited until parents' guards were down, thinking their kids were just watching a harmless cartoon when he made his entrance four minutes and forty-five seconds into this video", she wrote. It is just one of the issues YouTube says it is addressing.

Dr. Free Hess of Gainesville posted the video on her PediMom Facebook page. The videos Hess has found contain mentions or visuals of self-harm, suicide, sexual exploitation, trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and gun violence, including a simulated school shooting.

She said that minutes into the clip from a children's video game, a man appeared on the screen - giving instructions on how to commit suicide.

Usually, kids are left alone with an iPad or a smartphone as they watch cartoons on YouTube or YouTube Kids. I immediately turned off the video.

According to the Washington Post, Andrea Faville, a spokesperson for YouTube, said that the company is working to make sure that its platform is "not used to encourage risky behavior and we have strict policies that prohibit videos which promote self-harm".

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"We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video", the statement read.

"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", the spokesperson said. In April past year, YouTube announced three new parental control features to give parents the ability to curate what their child is seeing on the app. But no system is ideal and inappropriate videos can slip through, so we're constantly working to improve our safeguards and offer more features to help parents create the right experience for their families.

"Once someone reports it, it's too late because a kid has already seen it".

"There is this disconnect between what kids know about technology and what their parents know because the parents didn't grow up with it", she said.

"We need to educate ourselves about all of these platforms and which ones have which types of risks", Hess said.

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