Users have been targeting the children’s show Peppa Pig by distorting episodes so that they feature inappropriate content that has left children feeling frightened.
Creators have designed the episodes to closely resemble the art of the TV show, with some legitimate clips of the show placed in between the harmful clips, so that it is difficult for parents or children to distinguish between episodes that are fake. A simple Google search will have parents and childminders stumble across the videos that were once placed on channels like YouTube Kids, these have now been removed.
Some of the videos show Peppa Pig involved in knife attacks and abductions where the characters are taken by ‘gangster’ pigs, by being captured in a net and dragged into a forest while the characters are distressed. There is another video of Peppa Pig being viciously attacked in a forest by wild animals. A number of the videos have been viewed by users over three million times.
Disguising harmful content
The creators of the harmful content have also targeted Twitter by making accounts that incorporate Peppa into their handle but then post inappropriate content. This ranges from Islamophobic tweets of “Jihadi Peppa Pig” and a satanic account that posts sexual and explicit images.
Children who are familiar with Peppa Pig and have access to the internet and channels such as YouTube and Twitter, are likely to follow these accounts but could quickly find themselves in a vulnerable and unsuitable environment that could influence their actions.
Psychology academic Dr.Linda Kaye said that: “Younger people are arguably more vulnerable to persuasive and radical messages than adults, so these accounts may be deliberately setting up their accounts in this way to capture younger people with an intention for encouraging them to align their attitudes to that of the community”.
A vulnerable audience
Children are vulnerable and will easily fall into the trap of these harmful videos, which makes it even more important for parents and those caring for children to be vigilant when allowing them to use the internet.
As the internet continues to grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to police the numerous apps and websites children use, with YouTube included. In the last couple of years, numerous studies have shown that children are increasingly being exposed to videos containing advertising and disturbing imagery that is indistinguishable from the usual regular kids’ programming. It’s also been noted that many children are accessing inappropriate content through their parents’ accounts or devices.
How can we protect children from harmful content?
Parents and those working or caring for children can safeguard against harmful materials in a number of ways while still allowing children to watch videos from their favourite shows. Although the Peppa Pig content managed to seep through to the YouTube kids channel, the app still manages to filter the majority of disturbing videos.
The social media video platform also recommends parents change channel settings to ‘restricted mode’ and turn off the search feature in the app. In addition to this, parents can adjust privacy controls and settings within any device that children are using.