YouTube gives children access to whatever content they want whenever they want it – typical of the digital age we live in.
A recent report said that YouTube has taken “centre stage in children’s lives” with half accessing it every day and almost all using it at least occasionally.
Is YouTube Safe for Children?
If the correct parental controls are set, YouTube can give children access to lots of useful information and help introduce them to new interests.
However as YouTube is open to the world, your child really canaccess anything, including inappropriate material (such as sex and violence). This may be on purpose – for example, teenagers may be trying to find pornographic material. It may also be accidental, or out of curiosity – we recently heard a story of a group of children who had their first sex education lesson at school, and quickly went off to look up all of the new words they had learned.
Children are also able to share videos of themselves which may be inappropriate or contain sensitive information – this could even be accidental, such as uploading a video of themselves dressed in their school uniform, which would make them easier for a stranger to identify.
As with any online social media, children can also be exposed to indecent messages and cyberbullying through the video comments.
How to Protect Your Child on YouTube
- Set up a family account – older children may simply go and make their own account behind your back, but for younger children you can share an account where you can monitor the content they access.
- Turn on Restricted Mode – if you scroll right to the bottom of any YouTube page you will see a drop down menu to turn restrictions on. This can be password protected, but keep in mind that this is NOT 100% effective. It will only block videos that have been marked as inappropriate by the uploader and will only work in that browser.
- Turn Autoplay off – you will see this in the top right corner of the list of videos you are currently watching. This stops children accidentally coming across inappropriate videos.
- If you already have parental controls set, test them out by typing in the words your child might try to look up
- Talk to your child about the risks involved, explaining why they are dangerous – for example, why you shouldn’t share certain information online, why they need to be careful what they search for
- If your child wants to upload their own videos to share with friends, get involved – it will help you understand what they enjoy about the process and give you a chance to monitor their behaviour as well.
- Monitor what your child is watching – ask them about what they have seen, watch together and look at their history and recommendations
- Suggest content for your child, rather than them relying on recommendations from friends or searches (you could also create a playlist for them)
- Consider subscribing to their channel so you can see what they upload
- Ads are a good sign! They mean the video has been checked against guidelines
- If you’re worried, look into the channel’s creator and read the comments
- Think about what you don’t want your child to see and how this changes as they get older
YouTube Kids is an app designed for children, with controls that are much easier for parents to use for restricting content. You can limit content to preschool or school age, turn the search function off (to stop children typing in search terms that may return inappropriate material), and set a passcode so your child can’t change these settings. There is also a time limit option, no comment sections and no video uploading.
YouTube Kids is a really good option for younger children but is unlikely to appeal to older children, particularly those who are already familiar with YouTube.