[This is an update to a post originally published in 2011]
In a previous post I wrote about trying to keep kids safe on social networking sites, to the extent that is possible. But what about YouTube? Seems like all the kids these days like to search on YouTube for music videos, cute kitten videos, Minecraft videos, and just about every other kind of video. Some are instructional, some are educational, some are entertaining but many are just not okay for kids.
Can parents prevent their kids from seeing inappropriate content on YouTube?
Well, sort of.
YouTube has a feature call Safety Mode. They describe it here as a setting “that helps screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to stumble across while enjoying YouTube.” It’s not a bad idea to set this on all browsers, computers, and devices that your kids might use. It is not foolproof – it won’t filter out everything – but it is one extra layer of protection.
How to turn on YouTube Safety Mode:
1. Scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page and look for the words “Safety: Off.”
2. Click the word “Off” to turn view the choices. Click “On” to turn the feature on.
3. Lock Safety Mode into place: If you have a YouTube account (often associated with a Google account), sign in and then you can “lock” this feature. (Even if you don’t have a YouTube account, you can still enable Safety Mode; the only difference is that someone else using that computer can turn it off.)
Your YouTube/Google account information (password) is now required to unlock Safety mode. You can even log out of YouTube, and safety mode will STILL be locked.
Be sure to enable safety mode on each computer and each web browser your child might use. (Meaning, if you enable Safety Mode on YouTube in the Firefox browser, it won’t be enabled in the Chrome or Internet Explorer browser automatically).
More information is available here on YouTube Help.
Safety Mode in the YouTube app on mobile devices
For those with the YouTube app on a phone or tablet, there is a setting called “Safe Search Filtering”. This seems to be work the same as “Safety Mode” in the desktop version. The main difference is that the setting CANNOT BE LOCKED. If your child figures out where to find the setting, they can easily change it (whether logged into a YouTube account or not).
- Click the Menu icon (3 lines) in the upper left to reveal the menu.
- Click the Settings icon to reveal settings.
- If the Safe Search Filter setting reads “No filtering”, click that and change to “Strict”.
Does Safety Mode Work?
I decided to put Safety Mode to the test. First I searched for Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone” in a web browser where I had not enabled Safety Mode. The fourth video in the search results was a video titled “Warning: mild nudity” (not a Lady Gaga video at all, just someone’s self-made video of some sort. I didn’t click on it to find out!). Then I tried the same search in a web browser where I had turned the feature on. The “nudity” video did NOT appear in the search results at all. Also at the top of the page I saw the message “Some results have been removed because Safety Mode is enabled”.
From the same screen I saw a link to a video called “Justin Bieber Dies”. So, thinking like a tween, I clicked on it to see what it was. I got the following screen:
Now even if Safety Mode is off – desktop or mobile – you (or your child) will see a warning if they click on a potentially “unscrupulous” video. Here’s the message when clicking on a video titled “Miley Cyrus Bangerz Tour Controversy! (EXPLICIT VIDEO)”, which shows up in search results when Safety Mode is off.
Will Safety Mode protect your kids against everything on YouTube you may not want them to see? No. Will it help a little bit? Yes.