Huggy Wuggy Police Warning Prompts Misleading Rumors About TikTok and YouTube Kids

We looked at the origins of an inflated controversy about a character named Huggy Wuggy from a survival horror video game called "Poppy Playtime."

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A somewhat misleading police warning about Huggy Wuggy and Poppy Playtime made the rounds about TikTok and YouTube Kids.
Image via YouTube

On April 1, 2022, the English website Dorset.live published the following headline about “very distressing” videos that were said to have been floating around on TikTok, YouTube, and YouTube Kids: “Dorset Police warning about Huggy Wuggy bear that is singing songs about killing.” It referred to Huggy Wuggy, a furry, blue, tall, and sharp-toothed character in a 2021 survival horror video game titled, “Poppy Playtime.” It was developed by MOB Games and is rated “12+” on iOS and “Teen” on Android, meaning that it was deemed to be suitable for teenagers.

There are a lot of moving parts to this story. First, it is true that there have been a limited number of reports from some parents in the U.K. who said that their children had been reciting phrases from unofficial online videos that featured Huggy Wuggy. One story told of a child who tried to jump out of a window after watching the videos, while another said that children at a playground had recreated a game based on the clips.

However, following our research, we concluded that the police warning about Huggy Wuggy led to some misinformation and confusion. For example, Huggy Wuggy does not sing songs in “Poppy Playtime,” nor did MOB Games create official videos of the character singing. One of the main songs that was referenced by blog articles was created by a fan of the game. The video’s creator told us that the upload settings for the clip would not have allowed it to appear on YouTube Kids.

We found no evidence that showed the videos in question had been available on the TikTok for Younger Users experience or on YouTube Kids. This does not mean they never appeared on the platform; it simply means there’s no direct record that would confirm it happened.

While we did locate some tutorials on YouTube Kids that showed how to draw the Huggy Wuggy character, we did not see any of the “very distressing” videos mentioned by the lone police report. It’s entirely possible that some parents saw the Huggy Wuggy drawing tutorials on YouTube Kids and wrongly believed, without evidence, that that meant the “very distressing” videos in question were also available on the platform. (YouTube Kids is designed for children under the age of 12. Meanwhile, TikTok has a “Teen” setting as well as a “TikTok for Younger Users experience” for children under age 13.)

A spokesperson for TikTok told us by email there’s no record that the videos in question had appeared on the TikTok for Younger Users experience. Further, a spokesperson for YouTube told Sky News, “These videos are not available on YouTube Kids.”

On top of all of this, some of the American blog articles that reported on the police warning from the U.K. appeared to rush out their stories without first looking for the facts. These articles looked to have inflated the issue into a larger and more scary-sounding controversy, perhaps simply to bring in clicks from frightened parents.

How This All Started

On March 22, 2022, a mother posted to Facebook that she received an email from her child’s school that warned about Huggy Wuggy. The post and other misleading accounts falsely claimed that Huggy Wuggy “sings worrying songs about hugging and killing.” To be clear, Huggy Wuggy does not sing songs in “Poppy Playtime,” nor has MOB Games created any official videos that show the character singing songs.

The post said that scary videos featuring Huggy Wuggy were “infiltrating firewalls and filters” and landing on TikTok, YouTube, and even the YouTube Kids app. There’s no evidence that videos found a way to get past “firewalls and filters.” (The usage of the word “firewalls” here did not make sense.)

Her post included a screenshot of the school’s message to parents. It read as follows:

Safeguarding ‘Huggy Wuggy’

Morning,

It has been brought to my attention that a character named ‘Huggy Wuggy’ is being viewed by our children online, some as young as Year 1. The character can be easily viewed on YouTube channels and is a teddy bear with razor sharp teeth that sings worrying songs about hugging and killing. On one of the videos, the bear asks the viewer to take their last breath. It is a very deceiving character, as hugs should be seen as something kind and loving, and because of its name is able to infiltrate firewalls and filters. I just wanted to inform parents so you are aware and can be vigilant around what your children could be watching.

Many thanks,
Safeguarding Lead

Days later, Dorset.live reported on how Dorset Police had issued its warning about Huggy Wuggy, falsely claiming that the character was “singing songs about killing.” It specifically mentioned the YouTube Kids app:

Dorset Police have shared a warning following reports that Year 1 pupils have been exposed to the terrifying clips, which sees the creature singing about “hugging and killing” and asking viewers to “take their last breath.” The worrying trend has been branded the online equivalent of the “Killer Clown” craze, which swept across Britain several years ago.

Chris Conroy, cyber protect officer for Dorset Police said: “There are videos people have made, songs people have made, and it’s popping up all over YouTube and TikTok using this quite graphic imagery of this bear-like character with razor sharp teeth. It’s based around jump scares and things you certainly wouldn’t want children exposed to.”

Huggy Wuggy is a character in a puzzle game which sees players attempt to escape their stalking villain in a toy factory. The game is available on platforms such as YouTube and Roblox and contains disturbing content that is unfiltered due to there being no age rating.

Mr. Conroy added: “If you were to use even YouTube Kids for example, it may slip through because there is nothing obviously sinister about the name of a video. It really comes down to paying attention of what your children are doing and making sure they are not just trusting YouTube Kids videos are safe because unfortunately with videos like this, things do slip through the cracks.”

It’s true that videos of Huggy Wuggy are available on YouTube and TikTok. Those apps are made for teenagers and adults. However, to say that the “very distressing” videos may “slip through the cracks” and land on YouTube Kids “because there is nothing obviously sinister about the name of a video” did not appear to follow how YouTube’s upload process works. When uploading YouTube videos, creators must select whether the video is intended for kids. There’s a specific setting (field) where creators specify this information. There’s no evidence that videos marked as not for children are suddenly becoming available on YouTube Kids.

Further, the article appeared to claim that the game was available to be played on YouTube. This was misleading. YouTube is a video platform, not a video game platform.

After the police warning was reported by Dorset.live, an American blog then published the headline: “Police Issue Warning To Parents About Disturbing Huggy Wuggy Video.” Another American blog reported: “‘Huggy Wuggy’ TikTok Videos Prompt Police Warning to Parents.” The ball kept rolling and more American blogs continued to report on the story, all based on the one police report out of the U.K.

Then, on April 5, a warning was tweeted by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit in the U.K. It said: “Beware of ‘Huggy Wuggy’ TikTok and YouTube craze. Huggy Wuggy is being viewed by children across the country the character is armed with sharp teeth and sings songs where the contents is very distressing. Keep an eye on what your children are viewing online.”

That tweet also appeared on its official homepage. Again, Huggy Wuggy does not sing songs in “Poppy Playtime,” nor did MOB Games create any official videos of the character singing.

‘Till You Breathe Your Last Breath’

One of the songs and videos that was most referenced by these reports featured footage of Huggy Wuggy walking down a creepy hallway in “Poppy Playtime.” It had the lyrics, “I could just hug you here forever, forever, till you breathe your last breath together, together.”

MOB Games did not create this video. The Huggy Wuggy character did not sing this in an official capacity. The video, which was published in November 2021, came from a self-described “video game singer” and fan on YouTube named TryHardNinja who has no affiliation with the “Poppy Playtime” creator, MOB Games. It appeared to be an endearing musical creation of sorts dedicated to the video game character:

After Dorset.live reported about the police warning and American blogs filed their stories, TryHardNinja addressed the misleading rumors about his song in a comment under the video:

A somewhat misleading police warning about Huggy Wuggy and Poppy Playtime made the rounds about TikTok and YouTube Kids.
The comment was posted on April 5.

It read as follows:

Hi everyone. I have noticed that there are a few misleading stories and posts that are driving traffic to this video recently. I completely understand your concern but the articles aren’t correct. Huggy Wuggy is and was always a monster in a horror game. If anyone was unfortunately lead to believe otherwise, it is not true. Also I don’t have any part in the game’s or the character’s creation. This is an unofficial song inspired by the character and has never been in the game or part of the official story. The articles that say that this is what “Huggy Wuggy sings” are factually incorrect. This is something I made up inspired by the lore of the game. It is accurate to something he might sing based on his backstory in the game.

Most importantly, I have marked this video “Not for Kids” upon upload and it does not appear in the YouTube Kids app. There is no “bait and switch” in this video to try to mislead kids into thinking they are clicking on a video of a cute character to be surprised by a indie game monster. Huggy Wuggy IS a scary monster from a game I didn’t make and that’s what the song is about. The video solely exists on the general YouTube platform which by default isn’t intended for a very young audience.

There are many videos of Huggy Wuggy on YouTube Kids but this isn’t one of them. I personally don’t believe those videos should be there as they actually are being served to kids and include this horror game character but I have no control over what others do. This is the only content I have control over and I have already made sure it’s not on YouTube Kids.

Thanks so much for your feedback but there is nothing more that I can do to properly categorize this video. Deleting this video will not change the game, the thousands of other videos or Huggy Wuggy in any way. I hope this adds context to the misleading articles and posts.

By email, TryHardNinja said that he had been searching for his “Free Hugs” video on YouTube Kids for around a month since some of the rumors started swirling. “I have never been sent screenshots or any evidence to suggest it ever was [on YouTube Kids],” he said. He also told us that, during the YouTube upload process, he specified in a field in the video’s settings that it was “not for kids,” meaning that it would not have been available on YouTube Kids.

‘Squeeze You Until You Pop’

In our correspondence with TryHardNinja, he noted to us that there was an official video from MOB Games where Huggy Wuggy gives off a goofy chuckle. The lyrics in that video were, “His name is Huggy, Huggy Wuggy, when he hugs you he’ll never stop. Your friend Huggy, Huggy Wuggy, will squeeze you until you pop.”

However, again, we found no record of this short video being available on the TikTok for Younger Users experience or YouTube Kids.

This story will be updated if any further information comes to light or if any corrections need to be made.

Sources:

Edgar-Spier, Melanie. “Petrifying Huggy Wuggy Bear Is Singing Songs about Killing.” Dorset.Live, 1 Apr. 2022, https://www.dorset.live/news/dorset-news/dorset-police-warning-huggy-wuggy-6895429.
 
“Huggy Wuggy.” Villains Wiki on Fandom, https://villains.fandom.com/wiki/Huggy_Wuggy.
 
Mehta, Amar. “Huggy Wuggy: Parents and Schools Concerned about Viral Videos.” Sky News, 5 Apr. 2022, https://news.sky.com/story/parents-and-schools-concerned-about-viral-huggy-wuggy-youtube-videos-12579453.
 
MOB Games. Poppy Playtime OST (05) – Huggy Wuggy. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/CI_ktOR2Rv8.
 
“Safety Resources for Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers.” TikTok, https://www.tiktok.com/safety/en/guardians-guide/.
 
TryHardNinja. HUGGY WUGGY SONG “Free Hugs” (Poppy Playtime). 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joj3kizsN-0.