Imagine for just a minute that your young child is searching YouTube for their favorite cartoon character, instead of seeing a legitimate video they’re seeing disturbing images of a “Frozen” character, Peppa Pig or Spider-Man doing things that are unspeakable.

Fake cartoon and animated videos are crowding YouTube of Elsa from Frozen dying or drinking from a toilet, of Peppa Pig chasing another character with a handgun, or Spider-Man urinating in a bathtub while a Disney princess bathes.

The fake videos are created and uploaded by YouTube users with a sick sense of humor.

What’s more is that the videos show up in search results along with legitimate children’s shows. A British study found fake children’s videos have been viewed over 37 billion times and despite complaints and reports from parents, the videos are still listed on YouTube.

I contacted Google to find out why and a spokesperson defended the videos with the following statement:

“We’re always looking to improve the YouTube experience for all our users and that includes ensuring that our platform remains an open place for self expression and communication. We understand that what offends one person, may be viewed differently by another. As a platform we strive to serve these varying interests by asking our community to flag any video that violates our strict community guidelines.”

Google also provided suggestions for parents who are troubled by the videos:

  • If you’ve encountered inappropriate content and would like to report it for removal, please help by flagging the video using the flag icon located below the video. We rely on our community to “flag” videos they deem inappropriate, based on our Community Guidelines.
  • For more information on content reporting and removals, visit the Policy and Safety Hub.
  • For more information about our removal processes, please check out this video.

YouTube is intended for use by people over the age of 13 and Google has an app for anyone younger called “YouTube Kids”. This app can be controlled by an adult where things such as search can be turned off. Since search is why some of the fake videos show up by turning it off the user is most likely to find only official channels.

Of concern though is how videos stay up and viewable in both the YouTube and YouTube Kids app. I flagged several fake videos of “Frozen” last March but found them still listed this week.

For parents there are 3 things to know and steps to take to protect their children:

  1. Turn off search within the YouTube Kids app.
  2. Block disturbing videos. While flagging doesn’t seem to be effective, blocking a video keeps it from being visible on the device.
  3. Never give a young child unsupervised use of a tablet, phone or computer running YouTube and other video apps and websites. The internet is filled with photos and videos young children should not see.

This isn’t the same world parents grew up in watching kids shows and cartoons on TV. It’s up to parents to filter what they want their children to see.