My daughter showed me a video on YouTube recently, posted by a 6th grader at her school. It was a parody of a popular song – completely harmless and kind of funny. But I had to wonder – do the boy’s parents know that he has an active YouTube channel with over 1,500 subscribers and over 200,000 video views? This had me thinking about YouTube safety, so I thought I’d share a few tips.
1. Enable YouTube Safety Mode on computers
Go to the bottom of any YouTube page and turn Safety Mode on. (Learn how). Safety Mode won’t catch everything – even YouTube acknowledges this – but it will prevent some unsavory content from younger eyes. For example, with Safety Mode turned on you cannot watch the video titled “Call Me Maybe (Dirty Parody)”. The other nice thing about Safety Mode is that user comments are not immediately visible. You have to specifically click to view them. This is my favorite feature of Safety Mode. Sometimes the video itself is fine, but the comments are rude, mean, and totally inappropriate.
2. Disable YouTube app on mobile
These days more and more kids are getting their web and video fix on their phones or gadgets. Keep in mind that there is no Safety Mode on the YouTube mobile app, for example on an iPod touch or iPad. If you are not comfortable with your child viewing YouTube without Safety mode, then disable the YouTube app.
3. Use a Kid-safe Browser on mobile devices and tablets
Even with the YouTube app disabled, kids can still view YouTube videos using the Safari browser on iPod touch and iPad. Disable Safari (see link above) and then install a kid-safe browser. With most kid-safe browsers, you can block YouTube. Or, you can allow it BUT enable Safety Mode in the browser version of YouTube.
Bonus points for McGruff’s Safe Guard browser. McGruff’s browser for mobile provides an option to allow YouTube in safe mode only. This feature is available if you upgrade to their “silver” level. That’s only 99 cents so probably worth the investment.
4. Kids don’t need a YouTube account to view videos
A YouTube account is needed to upload a video or comment on a video. However anyone can view a YouTube video – you don’t need a YouTube account. You can only have an account if you are 13 or older – by YouTube policy. Yes of course kids or their parents for that matter can lie about age and we all know that happens. Parents – you can decide what’s okay for your kids. Just keep in mind that an account is not needed for simply viewing videos.
If you allow your under-13-year-old to create an account (which I don’t recommend, but really it’s your call) and start uploading videos, you may want to review the settings. For example, a video can be marked private, and only those with the direct link can view it. This could work if you have a creative kid, interested in video creation and editing, who would like to share their work with friends and family. You could also have them upload videos to your account, if you have one. And you can decide to approve all comments first to weed out the crazy haters.
5. As always, talk with your kids!
Okay I don’t really have a 5th tip but I wanted to add that your best line of defense when it comes to appropriate video and web viewing is to talk with your kids about what they are watching online. Review your expectations. Sit down together and watch some videos. And you might want to visit YouTube’s Parent Resource page for more information.