Columbia mom concerned about what daughter saw on YouTube Kids

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COLUMBIA - A Columbia mother is no longer letting her daughter watch YouTube Kids after learning that some videos give children instructions to harm themselves or their parents.

Hope Hall said her five-year-old daughter Bella watches YouTube Kids on her tablet every day. That was until Hall heard about a creepy character popping up in the videos. 

When Hall first showed Bella a picture of Momo, Bella said she didn't know who it was. 

"She had like, a blank look on her face and started shaking her head 'no,'" Hall said. 

At bedtime, Bella got nervous and fessed up. 

"I guess the thing threatens children saying, 'If you tell your parents, I will come and kill you and kill your parents in the middle of the night,'" Hall said. "That’s not okay. That’s terrifying."

According to her mom, Bella had a rough night, worrying about the character coming into her room. 

Hall said Bella likes to watch videos about Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol, but the Momo image was spliced in the middle of those innocent videos. She said whoever is behind it is "evil."

"They’re trying to teach children to commit suicide and cut their wrists the 'right way,' turn stoves on when their parents are sleeping, and then threatening, 'You know, if you tell your parents any of this, I’ll come kill you and your parents,'" she said.

Momo is not the only thing popping up in the middle of children's videos. Dr. Free N. Hess wrote a blog post last summer about videos that are dangerous for children. 

One video in particular is of cartoon characters, until a man in sunglasses comes on and gives young viewers tips on how to hurt themselves.

Hall said she is grateful for a close relationship with her daughter so they can talk about this problem, and she encourages other parents to have a conversation with their kids. Hall said she wants her daughter to know Momo is not real and she is completely safe. 

Raphi Wald, a psychologist, said there is a way to talk to children about it.

"There are people out there in the world that might convince you to do bad things, might convince you to do things you know you don’t want to do," Wald said.

YouTube released this statement about the issue: "We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video. Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don't belong in the app are removed."

"We've also been investing in new controls for parents including the ability to hand pick videos and channels in the app," the statement said. "We are making constant improvements to our systems and recognize there's more work to do."

For now, Hall said, Bella will be sticking to educational games and taking a break from YouTube Kids. Hall said she wants more government regulation to prevent this from happening again. 

 

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