Andy Robertson has three children and has written about technology for families for 15 years. He is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC and recently wrote the Taming Gaming book for parents. The book is supported by a Family Video Game Database.
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.
When used safely and responsibly, YouTube provides a wealth of opportunities for children to learn, be entertained, be creative, and play. However, 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? How do you ensure your children are safe while watching them?
Getting started with 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. I recommend turning Restricted Mode on or use ‘Supervised Experiences’ which is currently in the testing mode and only available in certain countries/regions.
‘Supervised Experiences’ is for parents who want to allow their child to transition from YouTube Kids to the main YouTube platform. You can do so by creating a supervised account.
Know what YouTube channels your children watch
An approach that has been successful in our houses has been to restrict our children from 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. However, at the same time can be more commercial. Peacock Kids, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom & Friends, and National Geographic Kids are good examples for children under 10.
Check out recent videos but also browse the channel’s back catalog. Although, these older videos will often be suggested by YouTube for young viewers to watch next if they are already watching the channel.
Tip: Subscribe to channels that you feel comfortable with. This creates a feed of safe videos for your children to browse and watch in the ‘Subscriptions’ area of YouTube.
How does YouTube help protect kids on the platform?
YouTube Kids – is a separate app made for children under 13 which allows a safer and simpler experience for them to explore. The app also has a parent-supervised experience to help guide your kids on their journey. Check out the YouTube Kids app parental control guide for more information.
Mature content or ‘Not made for kids’– content creators can include an age-restrict option on their content not made for viewers under 18. Personalised ads will be removed on content that is made for kids on their ‘watch’ page, however, ads are shown based on the context of the video but less personalised. Monetised features have been removed like Super Chat or the Merch Shelf – which requires user information.
Trusted Flagger program – removes harmful content from the platform. Between Jan -Mar 2021, they have removed a staggering 9 million videos that violated their Community Guidelines.
Machine learning – their machine learning systems identify videos that may put children at risk. They also apply a few protection tools, such as restricting live features, disabling comments, and limiting recommendations. YouTube also works with NGOs to combat child sexual abuse imagery (CSAI) by reporting this type of content to the relevant law agencies.
Reporting – when a video/channel is reported to YouTube, they will investigate this and if it goes against their guidelines or policies, they will terminate the account in question. If they find any sexually inappropriate content featuring minors, not only will they terminate the account, but they will report the illegal activities to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Setting parental controls
Watch the video from mummy blogger Adele Jennings where she talks about YouTube parental control settings. Also, visit the parental controls hub for the practical steps.
Safety and digital wellbeing options for under 18s
As of 10 Aug 2021:
YouTube announced additional protections for people under 18 on YouTube and YouTube Kids, which will be rolling out over the coming weeks:
Updating default privacy settings – YouTube will gradually change the default upload settings to the most private option available for users between 13-17 years old on YouTube. If they want their content public, they are able to do so in the settings.
Digital wellbeing – In addition to their current digital well-being tools, YouTube will switch bedtime reminders as a default for all users between 13-17 years old. They also will turn off auto-play as a default. A user can always change these features in the settings.
Auto-play on YouTube Kids – The autoplay option will be available on YouTube Kids and YouTube will be turning autoplay off by default in the app. YouTube will also be launching additional parental controls in the YouTube Kids app, including the ability for a parent to choose a “locked” default autoplay setting.
Safeguards and education about commercial content – YouTube do not allow paid product placements in YouTube Kids, but they will begin to remove overly commercial content from YouTube Kids, such as a video that only focuses on product packaging or directly encourages children to spend money.
Internet Matters’ YouTubing tips
Have regular conversations with your children about their on and offline activities and know where and how they can get help if they should see anything that upsets them.
Does your child have a YouTube channel? If yes, do you watched their videos? Do you know what they are posting?
Watch and enjoy YouTube shows together with your child to help them make sense of themes they don’t understand and gauge what content will be beneficial for their overall wellbeing.