A mother found YouTube videos that she claims offers instructions to children on how to kill themselves. However, parents have since discovered that several other cartoons contain information about how to commit suicide, including the same spliced-in video clip.
Mom and pediatrician Free Hess posted the clip to her PediMom website and social media accounts. Among those were scenes depicting school shootings, a cartoon about human trafficking, and others glorifying child suicide. "It's changing the way they're growing, and it's changing the way they're developing".
Hess, a pediatrician, put out a call to action to different groups to report the video to get it removed from the site.
Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for YouTube, said in a written statement that the company works to ensure that it is "not used to encourage risky behavior and we have strict policies that prohibit videos which promote self-harm".
The YouTube Kids page says, "We created YouTube Kids to make it safer and simpler for kids to explore the world through online video - from their favorite shows and music to learning how to build a model volcano (or make slime;-), and everything in between". Some advertisers have already begun boycotting the site until it can improve its algorithms to prevent their ads from appearing next to extremist clips promoting hate and violence. Licensed child psychologist Nikel Rogers-Wood, Ph.D., of Rice Psychology in Tampa, said the videos prove parents have to be aware.
Seven months earlier, Hess had posted a complaint from another mother, who also worked as doctor, who had found the same video sequence on YouTube Kids, a video app that is specifically targeted at children and billed by YouTube as "a family-friendly place for kids to explore their interests".
Hess says she wants to YouTube to find a way to do a better job of reviewing content before it is made visible to the public.
Dr Nadine Kaslow, a past president of the American Psychological Association, told The Post that it is a "tragic" situation in which "trolls are targeting children and encouraging children to kill themselves".
"There are many more videos out there with inappropriate content but they can be hard to spot prior to being viewed".
"We need to fix this", she said, "and we all need to fix this together".
Anxious mums responded sharing their experiences of Momo, many said they are now changing the way their children watch their favourite TV shows like Peppa Pig. "I had to stop, but I could have kept going", Hess said.
"Challenges appear midway through Kids YouTube, Fortnight, Peppa pig to avoid detection by adults. There needs to be messaging - this is why it's not OK".
She added that there should be "serious consequences" for those who had a hand in the videos, noting that it was "very worrisome" that they were targeting children.
For support in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.