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Graphic videos on YouTube Kids raising concern for parents

HOUSTON – A kid's video, spliced with horrific messages, recently popped up on YouTube Kids but it is no longer visible.

A mom found the video, recorded it and posted it on her blog.

It shows the children's video game "Splatoon" and then a man pops up on the screen showing kids how to harm themselves.

Parents we spoke with are just horrified.

"That's crazy, like I don't know who would do that. That's sick," said one concerned parent.

"They're pretty sick. I mean it's not cool," said another concerned mom.

"I would be totally totally disturbed. I would never let my kid watch YouTube again without me being there, like, every second," said a worried mother.

Another video we found on YouTube Kids promotes human trafficking.

In this video a boy says he wants a pet.

A man shows up with a girl who has visible injuries all over her body.

The man says, "She costs $400."

And in another cartoon, language used threatens to kill someone and then actually follows through.

"Something like that as a parent is very alarming. It's very scary," says a concerned dad.

"Parents cannot shove this off as a hoax that they don't have to worry about. This is a real issue that your kids as young as 5, 6, 7 are aware of, and are hearing about," says Rania Mankarious of Crime Stoppers of Houston.

Mankarious said it doesn't matter if it's a hoax or if the embedded videos and messages are real. Kids are seeing and hearing about them. And it's up to parents to take action.

"You've got to continually talk to your kids about how to navigate, what doors to open, what doors not to open, and how they can always talk to you," Mankarious said.

It may seem overwhelming, but Mankarious says parents can do a lot.

No. 1: Get control of your kids' devices.

"Privacy is not an issue when it comes to youth and the online world. As parents we've got to dive in and see what they are looking at, where they're spending their time," Mankarious said.

If you are worried your child is deleting browser history, go to settings on your child's device and look at battery usage.

It will show where your child has been, how much time they were there, and it cannot be deleted.

"And Google! Do simple Google terms, ask for notifications of articles that talk about hoaxes, suicidal threats, online challenges Google will notify you when articles like these pop up," Mankarious said.

Dr. Alton Bozeman, psychologist at the Menninger Clinic in Houston says another fix could be as simple as moving the computer.

"Some of that might mean having the computer in an area of the home where it is public, discussing with your children what are they watching, what did you see what did you learn?" Bozeman said.

If your child sees something they don't understand explain it to them in a neutral tone.

That will keep them from worrying.

If they are scared, ask them why they are scared, ask them what questions do they have.

"We do have to be realistic, we can't monitor our children 24/7 and also the danger of thinking we can monitor everything on the internet means that we are underestimating the threats at their own schools and situations where they are interacting with people other than ourselves," Bozeman said.

Bozeman said limiting screen time is another useful tool, encouraging kids to earn it.

And some parents are choosing to keep kids off YouTube altogether.

YouTube says it relies on the YouTube community to report inappropriate content.

When something is reported it's reviewed to see if it meets guidelines.

Twitter also encourages users to flag questionable content.

Crime Stoppers of Houston has an entire section dedicated to helping parents navigate cyber safety, tips for both parents and kids. Check out this link for more information.


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