Is there an ‘Evil Santa’ on YouTube Kids? Police issue warning over disturbing Facebook story

According to a viral Facebook post, an ‘evil Santa’ has been sharing disturbing messages with children through YouTube Kids

Father Christmas is a vital part of any family Christmas.

With his warm and cuddly demeanour, Santa Claus is a safe, trusted character who can bring the festive season alive for children.

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So, parents have reacted with horror this week to news on Facebook that someone has been posing as an evil santa online and telling young kids disturbing things.

But is this story true - and should parents be concerned about their children’s online safety?

Here’s what you need to know.

Parents have reacted with horror to allegations on Facebook that someone has been posing as an ‘evil Santa’ online and targeting kids (image: Getty Images via Canva Pro)

What is the ‘evil Santa Claus’ story?

On Facebook on Monday (1 November), a parent shared a story about her son.

The now-deleted post said the five-year-old boy, WIlliam, had been using YouTube Kids - a version of the video sharing app for under-13s that is meant to have stricter controls on content and security than the regular app.

William reportedly said he was going to put a knife in his stomach and kill himself because an evil Santa Claus had told him it was the only way to get Christmas presents.

He said he had also been encouraged to stab other people to get more presents, the post alleged.

“I asked him to show me ‘evil Santa’. He said oh you can’t find him mummy, he finds you and gives you tasks and if you don’t complete them he will come get you in your sleep,” the post said.

The mother in question said she had also paid extra money each month for parental control on YouTube Kids.

A YouTube spokesperson said the site had ‘not received evidence’ of the evil Santa video on YouTube kids (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Is the story true?

In a statement, Cleveland Police said there was “no evidence of the video online at this time”.

“We have carried out research including on YouTube Kids and found no videos relating to the Facebook post.

“Whilst the video cannot be located at present, the hype is being caused by the re-sharing of this post.

“The original post was close to 90,000 shares but appears [to have] now been removed.”

Stories reported second-hand on the internet are always impossible to verify and should be treated with a degree of scepticism.

And there do appear to be some holes in the account.

For one, YouTube Kids offers free parental controls, which would appear to discredit the mother’s claim she had paid extra for them.

These parental controls are also rigorous, according to YouTube.

On its website, the app says it uses automated filters which “identify family-friendly content for inclusion in the app”.

The company said its filters have been informed by feedback from parents and via consultations “with a variety of external specialists in child development, children’s media, and digital learning and citizenship”.

A YouTube spokesperson said: “We’ve not received evidence of there being videos on YouTube kids showing or promoting the content described in this post.

“Additionally, on YouTube kids, we provide parents with free tools to customize the experience for their kids and to control what content their child can and cannot see.”

How can you protect your children online?

The internet can be a terrifying, harmful place, but it can also be a fantastic resource for children’s learning and entertainment.

According to charity Action For Children, worried parents can do a number of things to ensure their kids are safe online.

These include:

  • Working with their child to agree a list of websites they can visit
  • Teaching children not to give out personal information, including their name, address, and telephone number or even the school they go to
  • Taking an interest in their online world and having open conversations about their favourite websites, videos and their online friends
  • Letting them know that they can tell you about anything that happens on the internet. Action For Children says you should try to listen without judgement or anger

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