Technology Tuesday: Safeguarding Your Kids on YouTube

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Every time we speak on technology, we’re asked about YouTube.  Kids of all ages are investing significant amounts of time and energy on this platform, watching everything from cartoons to comedy sketches to vlogs to other kids playing video games.  It’s hard to know how to protect kids…and sometimes hard to know what you might be protecting them from.

Thankfully, there is a version of YouTube called YouTube kids, with built in protections.  But we wanted to give you a little more information on some additional ways you can safeguard your little ones.  And, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be posting some important information regarding YouTube and the teenagers you love.

For now, here’s a few things you need to know: According to USA Today, YouTube is submitted 400 hours of new video every minute, and it’s curated by algorithms, rather than humans.  Google responds to videos after they’re flagged with complaints, so children may see things before they even have an opportunity to be seen by a real live human and taken down.  

Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Enable the restrictive filter.  Click on the YouTube icon and then click settings.  According to Google, this makes for a more family friendly experience.  There is also something called “safety mode” at the bottom of YouTube’s home page.  It blocks any flagged, inappropriate content.
  2. Disable recommended videos.  You can do this in both YouTube and YouTube kids.  
  3. Purchase ad blocker.  It costs $10 to purchase YouTube Red, which removes the ads.  Or, there are several free ones on the internet.
  4. Use the YouTube kids app.  The videos chosen are based on the user’s age and was designed to be a safer place for kids under the age of 12.  But, some questionable content has been known to filter in…or not be filtered out.  You can also go to Settings to enable restrictions in the app.  You can turn off search and only give your kids access to limited videos, as well as set up specific profiles.
  5. Disable search.  Many kids are using YouTube, just like Google, as a place to ask questions.  Turning off search keeps them from finding their way to answers we wouldn’t want for them to find.  
  6. Create a custom passcode.  This way, your child can’t get into the settings menu and enable search.
  7. Create Playlists.  You can pull approved video content into playlists that can never be susceptible to unwanted content.  
  8. Use another app.  PBS Kids or Nickelodeon have content that is not uploaded by users but created by the producers of those networks.  

You can also play outside.  Throw a football.  Walk your dog.  Connect in real time.  In fact, you can require that your child hang out with you for 10 minutes for every 30 minutes or hour they’re on YouTube.  Most importantly, we want to be talking to the kids we love about their choices online and in real life.  What are they watching?  Why do they love it?  We want to be a student of what they love and continue to find ways to connect with them that build into their character and creativity, rather than just their entertainment quota.