YouTube ranks among the most visited websites globally, with billions of hours of content available on the internet and new materials uploaded every minute and available with just a tap on your iPhone.
It’s not just grown-ups who love watching sports, news, and meme videos on YouTube. Kids enjoy the platform as well, and a large segment of the content is created specifically for school-age children, from education to entertainment and more.
But as a smart parent in the digital age, you know that YouTube and YouTube videos (like any other corner of the web) have hazards of their own, despite friendly first impressions.
That’s why we’re eager to share with you a list of practical tips to put parental controls on YouTube and make sure your kids have a safer, more secure experience on the website or application.
Let’s get started.
Before we dish out our tips to monitor and filter YouTube content for kids, you might wonder why it’s worth focusing on this platform in the first place.
Here are the three reasons why YouTube is a smart place to apply parental controls:
When it comes to streaming kids’ content online, YouTube is the leader of the pack, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
YouTube is home to thousands of popular content creators for kids, ranging from fun cartoons and skits to games, collectibles, and comedy.
If you’re a parent in the digital age, you know that kids can spend hours at a time on the YouTube mobile app, and while the website does a good job of promoting kid-friendly content, it’s better to be safe than sorry with a set of reliable parental controls.
YouTube is more of a social media platform than it appears.
The platform is owned and operated by Google, which has mastered the art and science of the algorithms that keep us hooked and coming back for more.
Remember, the driving force behind YouTube’s content feed is advertising and promotion, so developers and marketers intend to keep you (and kids) glued to the screen as long as possible.
This means that YouTube can be downright addicting, especially for kids who are still developing their sense of time, discipline, and self-control when it comes to mobile devices.
There’s also a peer-to-peer interactive element to YouTube in each video’s “comments section.” In the comments, users may use inappropriate language and create a less-than-friendly atmosphere for kids – even if the video itself is not adult content and is considered safe.
Language and images are easier to identify and censor than video, despite recent advancements in technology.
While most content filters generally do a good job of pinpointing content unsuitable for kids and creating limited access, some videos with mature content can slip through the barricade and end up on your child’s iOS device, phone, or tablet.
In other words, video is a difficult format to filter for age-appropriate material, which means you’ll have to double down on your efforts as a parent to apply protections and preserve a safe environment on YouTube.
We now know why YouTube parental controls are a key piece of your digital parenting plan.
Here are eight steps you can follow to apply comprehensive controls and cover all bases:
Your first move is to flip on “YouTube Restricted Mode” that can be accessed within the app in order to filter explicit content.
Simply go to your profile image (a circular button in the upper right corner of the interface) and click to reveal a menu with “restricted mode” at the bottom.
Entering this safety mode does a few things right off the bat. It automatically filters inappropriate content for a certain age range – around a grade school level – and disables every video’s comments section.
YouTube accounts for titles, descriptions, community guidelines reviews, and other factors in its restricted mode settings. However, this is just one step of many in achieving a full set of parental controls on the platform.
If you want your child to avoid the main YouTube app altogether, create an account for them on the YouTube Kids platform that’s designed for young people.
YouTube Kids is a far more contained environment with strict standards for what’s allowed. The setup process for this YouTube community is easy for parents and gives you some much-needed peace of mind.
On the flip side, the kids’ app isn’t ideal for kids over the age of 10, meaning middle- and high-schoolers will need to graduate to the main YouTube app where more mature audiences are welcome.
There are also reviews from parents that warn against inappropriate content on the YouTube Kids app despite their efforts to place restrictions that keep it safe. As always, be engaged and monitor what your younger kids are doing on any app or website.
Explore the Google Chrome plugins page to find a range of tools that help you monitor and filter content on YouTube.
Some plugins allow you to block specific search terms, filter content categories, and disable search and comment functions.
These plugins can be very useful in tandem with restricted mode, but building a patchwork of multiple plugins can be annoying to manage over time.
Your best bet to filter content on YouTube is to install parental controls at the network level. This means the filter works on your router rather than a device or app.
This method comes with a few distinct advantages.
Firstly, router-based parental controls tend to be stronger and more comprehensive than plugins or app-based settings. That’s because a broad database informs the software of parent-reviewed filters that constantly update and refresh.
Router-level controls also give you a top-down view of browsing behavior (more on that next), time spent on the app, and awareness of any red flags that require your attention.
Simply setting up basic filters on YouTube isn’t enough as a digital parent.
You must continually monitor search terms, viewing patterns, and other information to tweak your strategy and maintain a safe space for your kids while still allowing them to access educational content.
Plugins and secondary accounts won’t do the trick in this regard – only router-level controls give you this degree of transparency and insight.
If you’re serious about monitoring activity on YouTube for your toddlers, tweens, or teens (and all other apps and browsers, for that matter), a parental controls router should be the basis of your entire strategy.
It’s not a question of if your kid will encounter inappropriate content on YouTube, but when.
Rather than abandoning your parental controls strategy when this happens, the correct response is to flag this content in the app (a flag button is in the video description) and adjust your content filters accordingly.
Yes, you’ll have some close calls here and there, but as you refine the YouTube algorithm and develop your filters and controls, the app will become safer and smarter over time.
Maybe you craft the perfect parental controls plan for your child’s YouTube app or web browser on their tablet, but what happens when they log into the family desktop computer or the portal in the smart TV or game console?
The point here is that YouTube can be accessed across a huge range of devices, and your parental controls policies need to be equally strong and consistent on every single one.
Do your best to map your preferred parental controls across every device on your network, with router-based software at the top to set the gold standard.
There are some moments as a parent when you wish the YouTube app would just disappear!
Rather than deleting the app and causing some serious family drama, you can leverage parental controls on your router to disable YouTube access for certain profiles on your network at particular times.
For example, when it’s time for homework or reading (a physical book, that is), simply turn off YouTube access for your kids with the push of a button.
You can also automate access schedules for certain times of the week and change these schedules for weekends and vacations. The power is in your hands!
When it comes to digital parenting, YouTube is one of those apps that must be addressed from the starting gate. Whether your kid is in preschool, or 13, boy or girl, artsy or sporty – they’re going to be on YouTube.
We’ve mapped out a complete game plan for parental controls on YouTube, from the app and device level to the network itself.
Follow our tips, and you can rest assured your family is safe on YouTube from this moment forward.
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