“Is YouTube safe for my child?” To answer the question right out of the gate, yes it is and no it isn’t.
Ultimately, YouTube is neutral in almost every way. We’re not talking about a television network that seeks to target specific age demographics and gears programming toward that demographic.
We’re talking about a crowd-sourced platform where just about anyone can upload their own work (or work stolen from others).
It’s the equivalent of literally hundreds and hundreds of different television channels, each of them setting out to find their own very specific audience.
And when it comes to the videos your child may come across on YouTube, there aren’t many limits to what they might see.
And yes, YouTube, as a company, does make a serious effort to limit or ban content that is outwardly violent or sexual, but it’s a huge site, and you can’t always count on the company’s censors to track down harmful videos in time.
As you might have guessed, the premise of this article is that you should take a vested interest in the entertainment your children are consuming.
Where to set limits and how are entirely up to you, and you could even consider including your child in this conversation. Limitations don’t always have to be mandates handed down from on high.
And when it comes to the internet, we haven’t quite figured out a full-proof way to keep kids from seeing disturbing or confusing images.
But we do know that speaking with your children about how to handle uncomfortable situations and emphasizing the importance of communicating with you, their parent, can be a huge help.
With all that said, let’s take a quick look at a few different things to keep in mind if your child enjoys using YouTube on a regular basis.
You’ll also find a few helpful ways to make sure that what they’re seeing on the site is truly meant for children.
Turn Off Autoplay
First and foremost, you should disable the Autoplay feature on YouTube. If you’re accessing YouTube through an established account, the site will remember your preference for future visits.
This feature isn’t very old, only having been introduced a couple of years ago, but it can open the floodgates for some very strange content, often without your knowledge.
YouTube uses complex algorithms to choose other videos related to the one you’re currently watching.
Sometimes these suggestions can be a great way to find new content that you’ll enjoy.
But unfortunately, there are also individuals who devote their time to creating meaningless and strange video content that tricks the site into thinking it’s related to what you’ve been watching.
It’s all in the pursuit of views and monetizing those views to make some money on the side.
And when it comes to child viewers, they are far less likely to be able to tell this content apart from videos actually aimed at children.
Just take a look at this TED talk from 2018. It examines the ways in which more adult videos can sneak into lists of suggested videos.
Disabling the Autoplay feature will help lessen the chances that these videos will appear in front of your children, but it’s far from a catch-all solution.
The Importance of Vigilance
As we mentioned above, one of the most important steps you can take to make sure that your child isn’t seeing any adult content on YouTube is to pay attention to what they’re watching.
And no, it’s not a realistic expectation to stand over your child’s shoulder every moment to see what kind of videos they’re watching.
Children are smarter than you might think, and as they grow older, they’ll find ways around supervision.
However, it is incredibly easy to check the viewing history of a specific YouTube account. Every video ever watched is logged away and easily accessible.
All you need to do is check this watch history on a regular basis to make sure that there haven’t been any strange new additions.
If you see a video on the account history that sounds or looks a bit suspicious, we recommend watching it in full to make sure that there’s nothing potentially harmful about it.
And if it appears that your child has been purposefully watching videos they know they shouldn’t be, then it’s time to sit them down and have a conversation about whey they’ve been doing this.
And if they ask for an explanation of why they can’t watch certain videos, keep your answer simple and easy to understand.
YouTube has recognized the issue of children seeing content that wasn’t meant for them. For many years, the situation was left alone, and the site counted on parents to make sure that their kids weren’t finding anything unsavory.
But times have changed and YouTube now offers a completely different version of their site, called YouTube Kids.
You can take a guess at what changes this version of the site makes.
For one thing, YouTube Kids can only be used as an app, not in traditional internet browsers. They may release a filtering add-on for browsers in the future, but for now, the app is the only option.
All the apps do is guarantee that the content they can access is 100% meant for young viewing audiences.
Channels and videos have to be vetted before they can appear on YouTube kids, and that means you’re not alone in your fight to maintain your child’s viewing safety.
The app also offers ways to set limits for total viewing time each day. Just as children should have limits to their television consumption, they should have limits to their YouTube time.
Alternative Kids’ Apps and Streaming Services
And lastly, we just wanted to mention that there are a number of great video and entertainment apps made specifically for children.
Take some time to sift through them on your app store of choice and find one or two that you think your child might enjoy.
You can also consult with your favorite parenting websites or periodicals for the apps they recommend.
It’s also never a bad idea to check the ratings for specific apps to see how other families feel about them.