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Take care - those cartoons may not be kid-friendly

Dangerous parodies, honest exchanges on emotional issues, and fatal live-streaming

DISTURBING CARTOONS

Do you know what your kids are watching on YouTube?

The BBC has uncovered thousands of videos that feature popular cartoon characters like Peppa Pig, Minions, Thomas the Tank Engine, Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Princess Elsa from Frozen, and Marvel characters like the Incredible Hulk and Spiderman.

The disturbing difference, however, is that these videos are dangerous parodies.

The animations are convincing enough, so much so that toddlers might not be able to tell the difference.

The plot soon turns dark minutes into these videos. Peppa, for instance, has her teeth pulled out and is clearly in a lot of pain.

Elsa gets pregnant in one video, and breaks her arm in another.


A recently created YouTube channel called SG Narratives is producing videos that explore the dynamics between people in modern relationships. In this video, Edmund (left) and Sean answer a set of given questions designed to encourage an honest, and at times emotional, exchange. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE

Mickey Mouse gets his ears cut off, while Spiderman tries to take off the bikini of a female beach-goer.

The videos came to light after journalist and parent Laura June noticed something was not quite right with what her three-year-old daughter was watching.

"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 says.

While an adult might notice the discrepancy, a child might not be equipped to do so, adds Ms June.

The view counts for some of these videos are close to 200 million, which could mean they have been watched by many, many children.

BBC reporters tried contacting the people behind the channel Toys And Funny Kids Surprise Eggs - one of the top 100 most watched YouTube accounts - but did not receive a response.

Subsequently, YouTube responded to the reports in a statement.

"We take feedback very seriously. We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it easy for anyone to flag a video," it said.

Several channels have subsequently been pulled down.

The latest development comes hot on the heels of an ongoing advertising boycott by major brands over concerns that YouTube is not able to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos.

PepsiCo, Wal-Mart and Starbucks have reportedly suspended their advertising on the video platform after it was revealed that their ads were playing ahead of clips containing racist content.

YouTube suggested that parents use the "kids" version of its app and monitor what their kids are watching.

On the flip side, there were also several users who defended the videos, insisting that the content was clearly meant for adults.

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"Obviously, the responsibility of what children watch lies with their parents, not the platform. Please be better parents," said one user.

HONEST CONVERSATIONS

SG Narratives, a recently created YouTube channel, has been making waves for exploring the dynamics between people in modern relationships.

In the videos, two people sit opposite each other and answer a set of given questions designed to encourage an honest exchange.

This enables them to "listen to each other, no matter how difficult".

Some of the questions include: "Where do you see us in 10 years?", "Who holds the power in our relationship?" and "Why do you love me?"

What sets the series apart is how the conversations touch on emotional issues.

In one video, a couple - Rachel and Billy who have been dating for 18 months - discuss the question: "What's the pain in me you would like to heal?"

Rachel says she wants to support Billy emotionally, given his family situation which was not elaborated upon, and that she feels he is still withholding information from her.

In another video, same-sex couple Edmund and Sean, who have been together for five years, talk about what their respective families think of them. Sean candidly admits he has yet to tell his parents about his sexual orientation, but it is something he is working on.

Another issue the couple talk about is personal trainer Sean's future career plans. "How long can your muscles last?" Edmund asks.

SG Narratives was started as a passion project by three friends - music director Nurzatiman Astha, 33, finance support officer Syakir Ryli, 27, and creative director Sudirwan Juhaimi, 33.

Mr Sudirwan tells The Sunday Times that the trio took inspiration from an Emmy award-winning interactive documentary created by studio The Skin Deep.

"Singaporeans shun difficult conversations, especially with loved ones. It's because of our non-confrontational nature.

"We do not have the tools equipped to deal with real honesty - to receive it and to deliver it," he says. "But the thing is, the most difficult conversations are the conversations we need to have."

Comments left on the videos have been largely positive.

One YouTube user said: "Their honesty, connection, reflection and respect for each other is so beautiful. All relationships can learn from this."

Mr Sudirwan says their upcoming videos will also feature couples who have broken up, newly married couples and cousins. The channel releases new videos every Tuesday at noon.

DON'T LIVE-STREAM AND DRIVE

A young Russian woman identified as Sitora B was reportedly broadcasting her drive to work in Kazan, Tatarstan, when she was involved in a fatal car accident.

Seconds before the video cuts off, the 22-year-old is seen cheerfully singing in her car and looking straight into her smartphone, which was placed under the steering wheel. She had also been reading and replying to messages from her followers during the stream.

According to reports, her small car was involved in a collision with a bus. The impact was such that she was flung from the driver's seat.

Local police reportedly confirmed the accident, and attributed it to the driver being "constantly distracted from the control of her car".

They advised people to stop live-streaming while driving. There were more than 4,000 cases of drivers using their smartphones while on the road last year alone.

The bus driver and another passenger were also injured in the incident.

Some netizens, however, have doubted the authenticity of the report as they were not able to find her stream.

But, real or fake, one YouTube user noted: "Treasure your one and only life. "Streaming your activities to your followers can wait till you arrive safely at your destination."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Take care - those cartoons may not be kid-friendly'. Print Edition | Subscribe