YouTube, as most parents know, is a popular destination for children because of the wide array of kid-friendly videos. Most parents welcome resources to entertain and educate youngsters, especially during unexpected waits, long car rides, or during those times when the youngsters aren’t feeling well.
Unfortunately, YouTube is also home to more than a few very inappropriate viewing options. No matter what your parental standards of “appropriate” are, there’s bound to be something there that you don’t want the kids seeing. If your standards are high, there may be quite a bit of content that you don’t want them viewing.
The Standards (and the Drawback)
Kudos to YouTube
YouTube enforces its community standards, which include banning of nudity, sexual content, violence, and hate speech. They forbid bullying, harassment, “harmful” and misleading content, particularly when it’s targeted at children. That’s all wonderful, and a huge help for parents trying to protect their kids from inappropriate content.
YouTube is a huge site with millions and millions of videos. It’s quite possible to post something against the Community Standards and have it viewed countless times before it gets removed.
And for many objectionable videos, there’s a problem of others copying the content and reposting it after the original is removed. So while the Community Standards are a great place to start, parents should not rely upon them to protect their children.
YouTube Parental Controls
Fortunately, there is an additional layer of protection that parents can pull into place. Be sure to do current research on it, though, because the site is ever changing. As of this writing, the option parents will want to find is the “Restricted Mode.” This activates a filter that prevents most (but not all) content that is considered “mature.” No filter is perfect, and parents will still need to do their due diligence.
And there are differences between browsers and devices about how YouTube is presented. Here are the current instructions for finding and activating this feature, with the proviso that this information may change unexpectedly.
Activating Restricted Mode on Your Computer
Open YouTube and make sure you are signed in (your avatar or profile picture will appear in the top right corner of the screen). Click on your picture and scroll all the way to the bottom of the list. You will see an option for “Restricted Mode”. It is set to “off” by default, but you can toggle it on.
Please note, however, that this setting ONLY applies to the device you are using right then, and also only to the specific browser you are using. If you have creative kids, be sure to change this option on all of your browsers, like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge. The change is only effective on the current browser.
Activating Restricted Mode on Mobile Devices
Open the YouTube app and be sure you are logged in. Click on your icon in the upper right corner of the screen, then choose “Settings” from the list of options. In the YouTube section, move the slider by Restricted Mode to “on.” And again, realize that this setting must be activated on each of your devices and browsers.
What About YouTubeKids?
YouTubeKids is a more child-friendly version of YouTube. It is a separate app available for both Android and iOS devices. You can get information about the app from here. The app is advertised as being safer and simpler for children to use.
It features the capability to set up eight different profiles, a selective blocking system, a search control and a watch history, a timer to control usage, and an expedited reporting system if you do find something inappropriate.
Developers say that YouTubeKids is more completely policed than its parent, using a combination of filters, human monitors, and the reporting system.
While YouTube claims the portal is much safer for children than YouTube itself, reviews and parent comments show that there are still some wildly inappropriate things showing up. Nudity, violence, drug use, and more have all made appearances both in videos and in the accompanying advertisements.
Thus the main drawback is that parents may become complacent. There still is no substitute for monitoring.
The Plus Side
While parents will still need to monitor their children’s video diet, YouTubeKids offers several features that will help families control screen time.
The timer and the capability to set up different profiles for different children (with different rules and standards) could be invaluable in some families. And while some objectionable things slip through, the vast majority of the offerings on the system are at least appropriate for most children’s viewing.
The Bottom Line
YouTube, for the foreseeable future, is a huge repository of more videos than we can count. Most children will be exposed to it sooner or later, either at home, through friends, or at a library or other public computer. Parents must teach responsible viewing, both in terms of quality, subject matter, and quantity.
YouTube offers some tools that can help in this regard, but they need to be accessed to be effective. No matter how you set up your children’s access to videos, you need to take an active role in their consumption of online content. There is no “set-it-and-forget-it” system for YouTube or anything else on the internet.