In just the past few years, we’ve seen major brands such as AT&T, Nestle, and Epic Games pause their advertising on YouTube following accusations that the platform was being used by predators to find videos of young girls. Google’s recommendation algorithm can sometimes lead users to find videos with inappropriate and potentially predatory comments with only a few clicks. Even YouTube Kids, the app developed by YouTube to keep content family-friendly and appropriate for children, has had problems of its own. Recently, one parent discovered videos on the app which contained instructions on suicide.
With all of these issues, one would think it might be best to keep children away from YouTube altogether. It’s not quite that simple, however: YouTube has become the go-to place for many people to view media, and it has proved to be a useful education tool for students of all ages. With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can make YouTube a little safer for your kids.
1. Watch what they watch while they’re watching it. This is the most failsafe tip, so let’s address it first. The most powerful way to make YouTube safer is close supervision of children while they use it. While television has its own challenges, FCC laws and other standards and social norms at least provide some measure of ‘safety.’ Of course, this isn’t always feasible but if it is, few things short of deleting the app and banning its access are better at keeping children safe online, on YouTube or elsewhere.
2. Help children self-monitor. The YouTube Kids app (which debuted in 2015) has experienced its share of growing pains; parents have repeatedly identified inappropriate content on the app, which continues to be an issue. Given that an algorithm is making the determination with regard to appropriate content, it seems difficult to envision a scenario where YouTube can guarantee that all content viewable within the app is deemed perfectly appropriate. There are ways to configure YouTube Kids so that it provides a safer experience and greatly reduces the chance that your child could come across inappropriate videos.
3. Adjust the content level. There are several settings for type of content that can be displayed for each child in the YouTube Kids app. These range from videos for younger learners to those ready for a less restrictive experience. In order to provide the safest experience possible, you can select “approved content only,” which will ensure that the only videos your child can watch are those you have approved. You can also choose from collections within the app that have been created by the YouTube Kids team, which contain only videos that have been vetted for appropriate content.
4. Disable search and pause watch history. These are two more YouTube Kids settings you can utilize. By disabling search, you can make sure that kids can’t roam through the content on YouTube Kids on their own. Pausing the watch history will prevent the app from being able to recommend videos to your child based on the ones they have already watched, as these recommended videos may not necessarily be appropriate.
5. Add a custom passcode. Even once you’ve enabled some changes to the settings in YouTube Kids, you’ll want to ensure that they can’t be changed back by a child looking for more freedom. While clicking the lock to get to the settings screen does say “Parents Only,” the default option will only require a child to answer a simple math question to get to the settings screen. You should do this prior to giving access to your child so that they don’t set their own passcode and lock you out of the settings.
6. Block inappropriate content. Even with some additional security measures in place to create a safer viewing experience for your child, it’s always possible to come across a problematic video. In this case, you have options within the app to report it and block it so it no longer shows in the app for your child.
7. Use restricted mode. This is an additional setting which can be enabled on the YouTube website and app that can restrict access to potentially inappropriate content. There’s no perfect solution, but this setting will catch a good deal of inappropriate and flagged content.
8. Remove potential distractions. Take advantage of free Chrome extensions that allow you to modify the web-based version of YouTube and remove features like recommended videos and autoplay. DF Tube is an extension that, once installed, will allow you to click on a video and see only that video, without all of the clutter and excess content that YouTube puts onto the screen. The options menu also includes the ability to customize your experience by hiding the various sidebars and comments based on your preferences. The only consideration to note is that since it is a Chrome extension, it will only work within the Chrome browser.
9. Create custom playlists. While this does require you to curate content ahead of time, you can create playlists for your child that contains videos that you approve of them watching. Adding and managing playlists is also a relatively seamless process and can be done simply by searching YouTube for the videos you want and then using the “Save” button to add them to the desired playlist.
10. Utilize content filtering. One step that some parents have taken to monitor device usage in their household is to install a home content filter, similar to the ones used by school districts. Content filters not only allow you to block content you many not want, but also allow you to see what has been accessed on your family’s devices. OpenDNS, SafeDNS, and NetNanny are just a few of the options available to parents. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you may be able to get one with more advanced and customizable features which allow you to create an even safer online environment for your children.
To read more internet safety tips for kids, please click here.
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