Distressing YouTube videos targetting kids' favourite shows

The YouTube clips appear to be your children's favourites, until they take a darker turn.
The YouTube clips appear to be your children's favourites, until they take a darker turn.  Photo: YouTube

Parents all over the world are being caught out by innocent looking videos that look like popular children's TV shows, but actually contain disturbing and inappropriate content.

For the busy parent who just wants to keep their child happy with a Peppa Pig video, it's an easy mistake to make. The image looks like any other Peppa Pig video. But once you press play, the plot turns darker than anything the children have seen Peppa and her friends get up to before.

One such video features Peppa going to the dentist, who wields an enormous syringe, pulls Peppa's teeth, making her cry in pain. Not something any of us want our children to watch!

Laura June, parent and journalist, noticed something wasn't right when she put a video on for her three-year-old daughter. "Peppa does a lot of screaming and crying and the dentist is just a bit sadistic and it's just way, way off what a three-year-old should watch," she wrote in an article for The Outline.

"But the animation is like close enough to looking like Peppa – it's crude but it's close enough that my daughter was like 'This is Peppa Pig.'"

Hundreds of similar videos of familiar children's characters with inappropriate themes appear on YouTube. And it's not just poor Peppa. Other videos feature characters from Frozen, the Minions movies, Doc McStuffins, Thomas the Tank Engine, and a lot more.

Some videos are so clearly made for adults that it's obvious from the start, while others are bootleg copies of children's shows. But it's those that look innocent but contain highly inappropriate content that are disturbing for parents.

One channel that features these videos is called "Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs". It's one of the top 100 most watched YouTube accounts in the world, with 5 billion views. Its landing page looks innocent enough, with images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Elsa from Frozen, Cookie Monster, Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig.

But click through to the videos and you'll see titles such as "FROZEN ELSA HUGE SNOT", "NAKED HULK LOSES HIS PANTS", AND "BLOODY ELSA: Frozen Elsa's Arm is Broken by Spiderman". And okay, we're giggling a little bit too, but each of those videos features toilet humour and animated violence that we don't really want our kids watching.

So how can you protect your kids from stumbling across these videos? The YouTube Kids app filters out most disturbing videos. YouTube recommends you turn on the "restricted mode" at the bottom of YouTube pages.

The Australian Government site iParent has loads of helpful tips on how to keep your children safe online too.