YouTube star’s “suicide forest” video triggers backlash, serves as warning to parents

SEATTLE — The 22-year-old internet icon known for vlogging his life through YouTube videos may not be a household name for parents, but chances are kids inside your home know who Logan Paul is.

The YouTube star has more than 15-million subscribers–mainly catering to kids and teens.

Paul claims to entertain and push the boundaries and did just that in a recent video, now pulled from his YouTube page.

The video, which was viewed more than 6 million times before it was deleted, showed Paul and his friends exploring a Japanese forest known among locals as a popular place to commit suicide.

In the video, Paul chuckles and jokes, saying things like, “What? You’ve never stood next to a dead body?”

Later apologizing for the posting it online.

It’s extreme--even for the videos he’s known for, but to local parents it's unacceptable.

One local organization says some families have no idea how much content like that is already readily available to kids with access to the internet.

"They’re finding references to drug and alcohol, they're finding references to suicide,  or death or sexual content," said local mom Jill Goetz. "What we can do is actively monitor what my child has access to."

Goetz is a mom and an educator with “Savvy Parents, Safe Kids” – an organization that strives to educate parents on the dangers online. She says as disturbing as the video is – it’s a good excuse to talk to your kids and an even better time to look at what settings you control as a parent.

The company is run by three local moms as a way to offer classes to kids of all ages, parents and educators about the risks online.

"I think we got lulled into using our tech devices as babysitters a little bit," said Goetz, who admits she's guilty of it as a parent too.

Goetz has a 5-year-old son and has already had the conversation with him about the games he can play on the Nintendo 'Switch' he just got for Christmas.

"In just the same way that our kids are using the internet and accessing the internet and really exploring the world, parents can circle back around and use all of those same avenues to protect their children," said Goetz.

In the meantime, Goetz--who called the video disturbing--wasn't quick to judge and said this is a tragedy that parents can turn into a learning experience. Encouraging moms and dads to talk to their kids about bullying, suicide and not posting things they may later regret on the internet.

Monday, the YouTube star apologized on twitter, saying the video was intended to raise awareness on suicide.

The video raised a firestorm online from fans defending his actions, while others claim it mocked and glorified suicide and was out of line.

Tuesday, Paul shared another message to fans, this time in a video uploaded to his YouTube page. Issuing an emotional apology to the suicide victim and his family:

"I made a severe and continuous lapse in my judgement and I don’t expect to be forgiven. I’m simply here to apologize. What we came across that day in the woods was obviously unplanned and the reaction you saw on tape were raw—they were unfiltered. None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should have never posted the video. I should have put the cameras down and stopped recording what we we’re going through. There’s a lot of things I should have done differently, but I didn’t. And for that—from the bottom of my heart—I’m sorry. I want to apologize to the internet. I want to apologize to anyone who’s seen the video. I want to apologize to anyone who has been affected or touched by mental illness or depression or suicide. But most importantly, I want to apologize to the victim and his family. For my fans who are defending my actions, please don’t. They do not deserve to be defended. The goal with my content is always to entertain, to push the boundaries to be all inclusive and the world I live in—I share almost everything I do. The intent is never to be heartless, cruel or malicious. Like I said, I made a huge mistake. I don’t expect to be forgiven. I’m just here to apologize. I’m ashamed of myself. I’m disappointed in myself and I promise to be better. I will be better. Thank you."

Paul deleted the original video, which would have been removed for infringing on the sites content rules.

YouTube issued a statement Tuesday:

"Our hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated. We partner with safety groups such as the national suicide prevention lifeline to provide educational resources that are incorporated in our YouTube safety center."

‘Savvy Parents, Smart Kids’ say if your kids are on Instagram and Snapchat--you should be, too. Saying that in the same ways kids look for videos on YouTube, parents can also use the site for tutorials on how to install YouTube safety features for kids.

As for determining what age is appropriate to use the site--one organization--Common Sense Media, says that YouTube is appropriate only for people ages 13 and up and that YouTube kids is more geared for children above the age of 7.