Children's TV programme Peppa Pig has been targeted by internet users who have distorted YouTube episodes of the show in order to distribute inappropriate content for children online.
Children access the videos of Peppa Pig only to find they are actually corrupted clips uploaded by harmful content creators, showing scenes such as Peppa being involved in knife attacks or viciously attacked by wild animals.
There are also Twitter accounts using the show's characters' names that vulnerable children could stumble across, but that post harmful content for children, including sexual and explicit images.
Dr Linda Kaye, a psychology academic, stated: ‘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 of encouraging them to align their attitudes to that of the community’.
It is extremely difficult for children and their parents to distinguish between these distorted clips and legitimate Peppa Pig episodes, as they very closely resemble the TV show itself and incorporate some scenes from the actual cartoon.
While some corrupted episodes have been removed from YouTube Kids, they are still available elsewhere on the internet and can be found via a simple Google search.
As a result, this raises questions about what can be done to protect children from harmful content and safeguard them against harmful materials.
There are safeguards in place to protect children from harmful content, such as parental controls, but with research showing that a growing number of young people are being exposed to harmful content online, it is clear that more needs to be done to safeguard this vulnerable audience.
Some children are able to access inappropriate content via their parents' accounts, which raises the question of whether this should be allowed.
At Virtual College, we have a range of safeguarding courses that look at how to protect vulnerable people in a variety of situations, including children accessing inappropriate content online.
Parents can also change their YouTube channel settings to 'restricted mode' to protect children from harmful content, and adjust the privacy controls of any device that their children have access to. YouTube Kids is also available, which is a separate app that provides a version of YouTube which is orientated to children. It was launched in 2015 and limits the content on the service to curated, family-friendly videos, channels, and educational clips.
Virtual College are proud to be safeguarding experts, and you can find out more about this here.