Kids go crazy over YouTube. It’s where they head for news, entertainment, humor, and even knowledge on topics ranging from multiplication to Minecraft. But for all the fun stuff on YouTube, the inappropriate content – from ads to negative comments to swear words and hate speech – concerns many parents. Now thanks to Common Sense, the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology by empowering parents, teachers, and policymakers unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to make this media a positive force, you can read reviews of YouTube’s most popular channels, and learn more about the video service, including ways to make it safer, what to do if your kids wants their own YouTube channel and how to find quality content. There’s no way to filter out all of the bad language, age-inappropriate videos, or negative user comments on YouTube. Google, YouTube’s parent company, has a guiding philosophy of an open web, where pretty much anything is allowable -- unless it’s illegal, harmful, or extremely offensive. You can always opt to use other, more tightly curated video apps (including YouTube Kids or the subscription-based YouTube Red, among others) instead of the almost-anything-goes YouTube site. But if you or your kids want to stick with YouTube, try these built-in features to make it a little safer.
• Use Playlists. When your kids log into YouTube, they’ll see the playlists you’ve created and can watch them instead of watching whatever comes up randomly or by searching. Playlists also reformat the Up Next section, so your kids will only see the next video on the list and not an indiscriminately selected related video.
• Subscribe to channels you like. Subscribing to your favorite channels adds them to your feed, so kids can easily click on them when they log in. Subscribing also helps YouTube determine other, similar videos you might like.
• Enable Restricted Mode. In your YouTube account settings (the little gear symbol), turn on Restricted Mode at the very bottom of the page. That should cut down on some of the age-inappropriate stuff.
• Turn off Autoplay. The related videos next to the main video you’re watching will play automatically unless you toggle off Autoplay. Turning this off prevents a potentially age-inappropriate video from playing.
• Use a video blocker. Downloadable video blockers are created by third parties. You can add them to your browser and configure them to block videos by channel, subject matter, or keywords.
It may seem foreign to parents, but for kids, video is a fun way to communicate. All the coolest apps – Snapchat, Instagram, Musical.ly, Messenger – let users share video clips. So even though you may have concerns about the risks of broadcasting on the Web – and they are legitimate – your kids may see it as a way of expressing themselves, learning digital video skills, sharing with friends, and experimenting creatively. It’s important to balance your concerns with the benefits they can reap.
Your kid’s age will determine how to proceed.YouTube is supposed to be for users over the age of 13, due to the fact that the parent company, Google, collects and markets. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act exempts kids from data collection. But, as we all know, plenty of kids have YouTube channels. It’s not illegal for kids under 13 to create social media profiles on sites that collect user data so long as the parent is aware of the account, knows user data is being collected, and has approved the kid’s account.
OPTIONS IF YOUR KID IS UNDER 13:
Use a parent’s account. If you have Gmail, you have a YouTube log-in. Simply go to YouTube, log in with your Gmail address, and go to the account settings. Pay special attention to the upload defaults (where you can make your videos private) and the comments, which you can approve before they go live or turn off altogether. If you use your account, you’ll do all the uploading, but your kid can still have lots of creative control in the design of the channel, the descriptions, and, of course, the videos.
Create a Family Link account. If you have an Android device, you can use Google’s Family Link app that lets you create supervised account for kids under 13.
Use a different website. YouTube is the most popular video site, but other good options offer built-in safety measures for kids.
There’s a lot to be wary of on YouTube, and it can be challenging to find YouTube channels that aren’t full of behavior you don’t want your kids repeating.Luckily, that’s not the case for some of the most popular. See commonsensemedia.org to find out who are the best celebrity role models.