When I was growing up, television was where it was at. We couldn’t wait to get home from school and turn on the “boob tube.” Today, kids aren’t as interested in television. Instead, it’s all about YouTube.
In theory, children are supposed to be 13 before they can sign up for a YouTube account. However, many parents allow their kids to skirt this rule and make accounts before then. A survey done by Common Sense Media showed that children ages 8 and under spend an average of forty-eight minutes a day on mobile devices and two hours and nineteen minutes in total screen time.
YouTube has some great content. You can find pretty much anything you need. But as most people know, YouTube has its dark side as well. It’s not difficult to find stolen videos or videos with porn, hate speech, or profanity.
YouTube has taken some steps to try and prevent inappropriate content from reaching young people on its platform. They created YouTube Kids which sets up filters that catch videos kids should not see. They have also taken ad revenue away from channels that target their adult content videos at kids, taking away the incentive to do that type of marketing.
If you have young children (under twelve), you may be able to accomplish your goal of protecting your kids from this content by setting up a family YouTube account. You do this by creating a new Gmail account and setting up the accompanying YouTube Channel.
A family account allows you to make playlists of approved videos and subscribe to family-friendly channels. If your kids watch videos on this account, they will show up in the history list on the left so you can monitor their viewing.
To keep this account as safe as possible, here are some other layers of protection you can add.
- Turn off the Search option and pause the Watch History. These actions stop YouTube from gathering information from the videos your child watched.
- Turn on Safety mode or Restricted mode. If your family accesses YouTube on several browsers, you need to do this to all of them. You need to scroll to the bottom to find this option.
- Lock the safety mode by protecting it with your login credentials.
- Help the cause by flagging inappropriate videos. YouTube does have actual human beings that help monitor these notifications.
- Also, when you report a video, it will be automatically blocked from your channel.
- Turn off autoplay. The next video in the list could be inappropriate. It’s best to just stop YouTube from automatically starting videos.
Personal Account Safety
During the tween years, your child may start to balk at having to use a family channel or being limited only to playlists you set up. They can still use YouTube safely on their own channel if you enable one of these ideas.
- Use a networking service like OpenDNS (by Cisco) to add an extra layer of content filtering and security.
- Monitor using a web-filtering software like Norton Family Premier or McAfee Security’s Safe Eyes. These programs notify you when your child is watching inappropriate videos and allow you to block the objectionable ones.
You cannot blame YouTube for all of the content your child sees that you would expect them to block. You are the most crucial filter your child has. It’s your responsibility to communicate expectations about using the platform with your child. Put these systems in place to let them know you are keeping tabs on their viewing behavior.
- Conduct random phone checks. Look at their viewing history. If it’s empty, be suspicious. They are probably deleting their history to avoid getting caught watching something they shouldn’t.
- Make sure to enable restricted mode on every app and browser your child uses.
- Have conversations with your kids about what to do if they see something inappropriate and what their consequences are for not following your rules.
- Know their username and password.
Uploading to YouTube
The biggest difference between the “boob tube” we were addicted to as kids and the “YouTube” of today is the ability to upload content. Many kids want to start making their own videos at young ages, but uploading content unsupervised can lead to devastating consequences. If kids upload video, they run the risk of giving away their location, identity, and other personal information.
- If they want to upload videos, work with them to do it safely and privately.
- Post privately at first. Private posting allows people with the link, like family members, to see the video but does not make it available to the public.
- Kill the comments on videos, at least until they are older when you can use them as a teaching tool.
Do your kids use YouTube? If so, are you monitoring their use? If not, consider the risks and start checking now.