8 Simple Steps Parents can Take to Make YouTube Safe for Kids
Written by Julia Storm
Every parent knows that in this day and age YouTube can provide quick, easy and free content for kids – but it can be a potentially dangerous rabbit hole. The iGeneration wants to watch short relatable content and have it available at their fingertips. Whether you are a parent who loves sharing new tech with your kids, or a parent who shies away from screens, YouTube is here to stay. So teaching kids how to use it wisely should be a top priority.
We’re all well aware of the inappropriate and often unsavory, and potentially dangerous content that shares real estate with your kid’s favorite Minecraft celebrity, so let’s review eight simple steps you can take to make Youtube less of a minefield for your young viewer:
1. Keep Viewing in a Common Area
First and foremost, always have your kids watch in a room that you can see them in. Don’t let young children take Youtube into their bedrooms where you can’t keep a subtle eye on the content they’re watching. And make sure you can see the screen – not just the kids.
2. Watch with them on Occasion
Yes, YouTube can offer you a nice break as a parent, but every now and then you’ll want to take a little time to check in and watch a bit with your child. This offers you some insight into what they like watching and let’s them feel that you are interested in the content that they enjoy. Keeping in touch with what they like opens up opportunity for conversation and bonding.
3. YouTube Kids
For kids under age 9, I would highly recommend replacing your YouTube App with YouTube Kids. YouTube kids has curated content that has been vetted (through an algorithm) to be appropriate for kids. The interface is simple and intuitive and makes finding the content they love much easier.
Does inappropriate content ever slip through? Yes. It is an algorithm after all so it’s not completely foolproof. However they do a pretty good job of keeping sexual content, violence and foul language at bay.
4. Create an Account
Once your child is ready to graduate to YouTube from YouTube Kids, the first thing you want to do is either have them watch through your personal account or create a new “family” account. You’ll need an account to save favorites, subscribe to channels and enforce parental restrictions. If you have content on your personal account that’s not appropriate for your child’s age then a family account is the way to go. Be aware that if you have various devices (eg. phone and ipad) you’ll have to be signed in to that same account to get the saved settings to come up.
5. Turn on Restricted Mode
Once signed in, go into your settings and scroll to the bottom of the page. You will see a drop down option for “Restricted Mode.” Turn this to “on.” This will ensure that a lot less inappropriate content gets through in your child’s searches.
6. Subscribe to Favorites
Subscribing to your child’s favorites saves you and your child a lot of headaches. If you’ve approved a channel that they love, go ahead and subscribe to it. Having a “go to” list that your child can click on to to find their favorites means less time spent searching for content and spiraling down a rabbit hole. Most of the inappropriate content kids get into online comes from blindly searching!
7. Turn off Autoplay
Many parents tell me stories about walking away while their child is watching a perfectly suitable video only to come back 15 minutes later and see them watching completely different (and often questionable) content. You might not be able to stop this completely once your child is savvy enough to do searches, but until then, you can turn off Autoplay. Autoplay is what makes the next video in the queue play automatically once your chosen video has ended. To turn it off go to the top of the queue where it says “Up Next” and you’ll see a little Autoplay switch. Turn that to “off.”
8. Find and Express an Interest
Of course none of these tips are 100% foolproof and nothing can replace a parent’s genuine interest and watchful eye. Taking some time to learn about the Youtube celebs and content your child is into provides a great opportunity to bring up the topics of age appropriate content, media literacy, ethical behavior, sharing personal information and much more. Unbeknownst to them you’ll actually be using YouTube to teach them how to be savvy digital citizens while they think they’re just watching some goofy kid doing skateboard tricks!
Julia Storm, MFA is a Digital Media and Families Specialist focused primarily on preparing elementary school aged children to be resilient, conscious and ethical users of media and technology. Julia’s ongoing research on the latest scientific and psychological findings from around the world (and from the local community) have all come together in her ReConnect program. Through ReConnect, Julia works with parents, children and schools to help them understand, navigate and thrive in the digital world. Her workshops and presentations have helped hundreds of families feel more in control of their screen use and find balance in their day to day media diet. www.reconnect-families.com
The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out our children’s series, “Ruby’s Studio” along with our beautiful children’s books, music, and more. We want to be a truly helpful parenting tool… For you!
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Posted in: Expert Advice, Screen Time
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