Kids and their screens have always been tied together. I grew up on Sesame Street, but my nephews grew up on Blue's Clues or Spongebob Squarepants. Children's shows can be educational, fun, annoying, but no one would have ever called them dangerous.
Welcome to 2019, where nothing is sacred anymore.
Suicides and suicide attempts have steadily been increasing for children under 12. It's almost unthinkable, how can the most innocent of us be dealing with such emotional pain? Bullying is a huge trigger for suicide attempts, but there are also several other factors at place - and some can only be called evil.
First came the "Momo" challenge. A Terrifying internet "game" that encourages children to kill themselves.
Youtuber Shane Andrews took part in the Momo challenge to better understand it.
“I was met with some very violent images and text messages that I cannot show,” Andrews said. “The messages were scary. They said that they knew personal things about me which they couldn’t possibly know.”
He added, “They want you to do small tasks, like wake up at odd hours, overcome a fear,” Andrews said. “Then it escalates quickly … [to challenges] like jumping off a house and ending your life. You’re supposed to document these things [on] video."
The challenge has been directly linked to several suicides around the world.
While the challenge is despicable, a recent find in a video posted to YouTube and YouTube Kids, which markets directly to children under 8, is even more shocking. In a video that looks much like any other child-friendly clip, a man instructs kids on how to better commit suicide.
"Remember kids, sideways for attention, longways for results," a man says while mimicking cutting his wrists. "End it."
The instructions are sandwiched between clips of popular video games and could be easily missed by a parent.
The video has actually been circulating since last July. It was initially reported by Dr. Free Hess, a pediatrician, on her blog PediMom. It took days for YouTube to respond, but it was eventually pulled down.
They promised to better police their kids' content.
"It makes me angry and sad and frustrated," Hess said to CNN. "I'm a pediatrician, and I'm seeing more and more kids coming in with self harm and suicide attempts. I don't doubt that social media and things such as this is contributing."
YouTube says it is working on ways to better protect children, including giving parents more control over which videos will be shown to their kids.
"We are making constant improvements to our systems and recognize there's more work to do," a YouTube rep said.
When we only had to contend with TV, it was much easier to make sure our children were safe. The internet has made it much more important for parents to step in. Keep your eyes open because there are predators out there.