YouTube: Tips and tricks to keep your children entertained and safe

By Andy Robertson on

Girl playing iPad

Internet Matters’ YouTubing tips

  • Have a shared family account for YouTube
  • Turn the Safety Mode on
  • Vet the content
  • Subscribe to channels that you feel comfortable with then create a feed of safe videos
  • Watch and enjoy YouTube shows together with your child
  • Keep YouTube screens out of bedrooms and in family spaces

Entertainment for families no longer means sitting in front of the television, watching appropriate programming at set times in the day. Now, there are multiple ways to watch your favourite shows, including online. And one of the most popular ways is through YouTube.

YouTube has become synonymous with online video, even though it is far from the only host of clips. It is now not only where we go to watch footage of cats playing the piano or the latest pop videos, but a valuable resource of entertainment for children.

There’s only one issue though, with so much content available – much of which you don’t want your younger children to see – how do you find the correct channels and shows. And how do you ensure your children are safe while watching them?

We’ve put together some guidelines and tips on how to ensure your kids enjoy YouTube content in the safest way possible.

Getting started with YouTube

Youtube

It’s important to have a shared family account for YouTube so that you can easily track what videos are being watched and suggested. You can then turn the Safety Mode on via the Safety button at the bottom of the YouTube page. You can also click the Lock Safety Mode option to avoid it being turned off.

Responsible video creators on YouTube can flag their content as only appropriate to certain ages. This will restrict access to the video if your account settings indicate you are not old enough.

It’s worth noting though that, at the time of writing, these restrictions are not applied when you are viewing a video that is embedded on a third-party web page or elsewhere. In that context anyone can watch the video, so be aware of where your child is accessing the content.

Know your YouTube channels

An approach that has been successful in our houses has been to restrict our children to watching certain YouTube channels. If they want to start watching a new one we watch some videos ourselves first to vet the content.

Recognised brands are useful here as they carry with them more rigorous standards in terms of appropriateness — although at the same time can be more commercial. DreamWorks TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, Jim Henson TV, Reading Rainbow, National Geographic Kids, and Thomas the Tank Engine are good examples. Then there are other now well-known independent YouTubers like Vlogbrothers and Stampylonghead.

It’s important to not only check out recent videos but also browse the channel’s back catalogue. Even now mainstream YouTubers like Stampylonghead retain videos in their back catalogue with swearing. These older videos will often be suggested by YouTube for young viewers to watch next if they are already watching the channel.

Subscribing to channels that you feel comfortable with then creates a feed of safe videos for your children to browse and watch in the My Subscriptions area of YouTube in the web or app platform.

Third-party apps for safer YouTube viewing

There are also a range of apps that provide carefully checked lists of videos that are safe for children of different ages. Some of these include; Kid-safe Tube TV, Kids Video Player for YouTube, YouTube Videos for Kids, Playlist for YouTube andthe list goes on.

However, be aware that these apps and services vary in quality. A more comprehensive and usable solution is the YouTube Kids app. This not only offers better search of safe videos but strong parental controls to limit viewing time too. It also groups content together into more traditional channels like Shows, Music, Learning and Exploring.

Currently this is only available in the US, although a UK release is promised shortly.

Further protections against YouTube content

If you want some extra protection you can use web filtering software such as Symantec’s Norton Family Premier (for Windows and Android) or McAfee Security’s Safe Eyes (for Windows and Mac). These are an extra way of ensuring your children don’t come across content that is unsuitable.

Common sense media

While these suggestions will you manage good content on YouTube for your children, there is no substitute for watching and enjoying these shows together. One of our children, a seven year-old, was on cloud nine when we suggested we spend half an hour watching Stampy the other day — he enjoyed sharing it with us and we learned a few interesting things about Minecraft.

Another simple and positive step is to keep YouTube screens out of bedrooms and in shared family spaces. It can be a juggle to accommodate this activity downstairs but it not only eliminates any secretive viewing but also creates a context for children to discuss and question content they don’t understand.

By sharing the highs and lows of YouTube viewing, you and your children can build both understanding and trust. The settings and tools here provide a framework to ensure that continues and helps avoid some of the unexpected pitfalls. On balance though we’re happy that YouTube is a part of our children’s viewing habits.

Additional Resources

Learn how to set up parental controls on YouTube from mummy blogger Adele Jennings

Andy Robertson is a tech journalist at Pocket-lint.

Image attribution: Toca Boca under Creative Commons agreement

YouTube Kids

The child-friendly version of YouTube app is now available to download. It filters out inappropriate content and hides comments on videos giving parents peace of mind and a child a safer online viewing experience.