[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? Kids search 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 Restricted Mode (formerly called 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 see on 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.
Another benefit: in restricted mode, user comments are hidden. This is a helpful feature. Sometimes the video itself is fine, but the comments are rude, mean, and totally inappropriate
How to turn on YouTube Restricted/Safety Mode:
1. Scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page and look for the button “Restricted Mode: Off.”
2. Click the button to view the choices. Click “On” to turn the feature on, then click “Save”.
3. Lock Restricted Mode into place: If you have a YouTube account (usually associated with a Google account), sign in and then you can “lock” this feature. (You can still enable Restricted Mode without a YouTube account; 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 Restricted mode. You can even log out of YouTube, and safety mode will STILL be locked.
Be sure to enable restricted mode on each computer and each web browser your child might use. (Meaning, if you enable Restricted 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.
Restricted Mode in the YouTube app on mobile devices
For those with the YouTube app on a phone or tablet, there is a setting called “Restricted Mode Filtering”. This seems to be work the same as “Restricted 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 Account icon in the upper right, then click Settings .
- Click Restricted Mode Filtering to reveal the two choices – “Don’t filter” or “Strict”.
Does Restricted Mode Work?
I decided to put Restricted Mode to the test. I set the YouTube app on my iPad to Strict filtering and kept the YouTube app on my iPhone to No filtering. I did the same search in both apps. (I searched for “Big Butts”). The search results differed. There was more nudity in the results on the iPhone with no filtering.
On the iPad app using strict filtering, there were still plenty of results for the search term, but with generally tamer results. There were some results that kids might find enticing enough to click on, such as “Frozen Elsa’s Big Butt! w/Spiderman” and that struck me as just plain strange. (But evidentially it’s quite the phenomenon.)
This search is just an example. Feel free to test out some other search terms and compare.
So even with restricted mode, you (and the kids) may encounter content you deem distasteful/inappropriate. If so you might want to consider the YouTube Kids app. The same search in the kids apps resulted in this:
Will Restricted Mode protect your kids against everything on YouTube you may not want them to see? No. Will it help a little bit? Yes. I recommend using YouTube Restricted mode wherever your younger kids watch YouTube.