YouTube Safety Mode

[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.)

Enable YouTube Safety Mode

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).

  1. Click the Menu icon (3 lines) in the upper left to reveal the menu.
  2. Click the Settings icon to reveal settings.
  3. If the Safe Search Filter setting reads “No filtering”, click that and change to “Strict”.

Strict safe search filtering on YouTube app

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:

Video unavailable in Safety Mode

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.

YouTube content warning

The Verdict

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.

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Comments

  1. A Person says

    This safety mode thing doesn’t turn off and it blocks videos that are not inappropriate so don’t use it. Period.

      • Tricia says

        I wish I would have known that before I enabled safety mode. Now I can’t turn it off and all I want to do is watch a video from our youth pastor’s wedding. :(

      • Jean says

        I have been able to turn off Safety Mode in YouTube on the computer in my web browser, and also on the YouTube app on an iPad. I’m sorry to hear that others have had issues with this. I did look it up on YouTube help and see that this is a known issue. There might be some suggestions here: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/youtube/2P-ihzworHU. You can try in another web browser as the setting is browser-specific; you can make sure you don’t have any other program blocking it such as K9 web protection; you can try using https in the web address.

  2. youtube user says

    i dont even have a youtube account or page or anything that requires you to sign into youtube but safety mode was activated on youtube anyway! i dont know what is going on and i cant turn it off! why?

    • Jean says

      I’m not really sure, but unless it is locked by someone else’s Google account (assuming you are not using your own) you should be able to unlock it a the bottom of the YouTube page.

  3. neil cuthbert says

    hi Jean
    very useful article, but like some comments above, despite my safe search being off on my ipad, it still remains in safety mode…v strange

  4. Average Joe says

    YouTube saftey mode also will filter videos that are clean, just because they don’t have a YouTube partner rating. This can be super annoying if the feature is locked.

  5. Robin says

    Turning this on did not filter videos on our youtube account or on the youtube videos that were searched when we are not signed in(even though safety mode was turned on for both). I didn’t click on the videos….should I do that? I really don’t want to see any of the ones I’m trying to block. Our youngest daughter has unfortunately seen awful videos on youtube. Not sure if these videos can even be blocked..

    • Jean says

      Hi Robin,
      The safety mode is not perfect and will not catch every video that you object to; unfortunately there are plenty that will slip through. It really depends on the content of the videos. And on the flip side of that, sometimes a perfectly acceptable video will be blocked! You should see a warning when you search that some videos were blocked due to safety mode. Check at the bottom to make sure it is turned on.

  6. Carolyn says

    I locked the safety mode, but when I checked to see how easily I could unlock it, my profile name with my password already filled in came up. I don’t know how to fix it so that the password comes up blank. I don’t want my daughter to be able to just click “sign in” and unlock the safety mode.

    • Jean says

      Hi Carolyn,
      That is probably a setting in your web browser. You’ll want to change the settings so that you have to type in the password each time. For example in the Chrome browser, you would go to Settings – Show Advanced Settings – Passwords and Forms – Manage passwords. Delete the entry for Google/YouTube. Or uncheck so that none of your web passwords come up automatically. (Make sure you remember them first!)

  7. Chet L says

    I’m so mad at this stupid Safety mode thing right now.
    The message clearly says “Safety Mode is enabled by your Network Administrator”, but it works on other devices using the same network administrator. I’ve been dealing with it for weeks now, I still can’t find a solution.

    • Jean says

      Hi Chet, sorry to hear you are having trouble with it. Others have mentioned similar problems, however I have always been able to turn off Safety Mode. I wonder if you are trying to do this on a computer in a workplace or other non-home setting? If so there could be restrictions enabled at a higher level. I don’t think your own home computer would provide a “network administrator” setting unless you have set things up that way.

  8. says

    I found this while searching for a way to “unlock” my Minecraft videos for a friend whose son has previously been able to follow my channel, and is now locked out by this idiot “Safe” mode.

    It seems, upon further research, that I’m not the only one having problems with it. A lot of Youtubers are complaining that it’s filtering out their perfectly harmless videos based on words like “swing” and “jump” in the descriptions.

    Gotta say I’m NOT at all impressed with this product, and will not be using it on any of my computers, especially now that I read that there are so many folks having trouble turning it off. There are many very good nanny and filter software packages out there, and, of course, there’s the good, old-fashioned way I deal with Youtube (and other media) with my kiddos- supervision.

    If anyone has suggestions for adjusting video titles and descripts to dodge the filter’s overzealous censorship, I’d love to hear them. :-/

  9. says

    Please Take off the safety mode…I in my house, my parents don’t have the safety mode set that way and it keeps sayings that there is a “Safety Mode is enabled by your Network Administrator” which is bull crap! what has happened to youtube…why cant they just deal with it a certain way without ticking everyone off. This is so stupid and a joke to youtube watchers. Can you please figure out what is going on because they are ruining youtube for the rest of us!!!!!!!!!

  10. Eric Serlin says

    I cannot locate the “Safety Mode” on YouTube for both my mobile devices, iPad or iPhone6. I have searched but to no avail. Please assist me in this matter.

    Thank you,
    Eric Serlin

    • Jean says

      In the YouTube app, you will only find “SafeSearch filtering”, not “Safety Mode”.
      For the YoutTube website vieweing in the Safari browser, you go to the settings area (click three lines in the upper left, then click the gear icon) and there is a Safety Mode setting, at least there is as of this writing! (And logged in with a Google account)

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