You’re concerned about YouTube. But what can you do about it? Plenty, in fact.
It seems every day brings more disturbing headlines about YouTube, and what our children may be exposed to, quite unintentionally.
YouTube ads pulled over 'paedophile ring' operating in comments section of videos of kids (ABC News, Feb 2019)
YouTube trolls target children by uploading animated shows with spliced-in clips promoting self-harm (The Independent, Feb 2019)
A pediatrician exposes suicide tips for children hidden in videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids (Washington Post, Feb 2019)
YouTube failed to take down live videos of child exploitation after they were flagged to moderators (Business Insider Australia, Dec 2018)
It's sickening, all right. But what’s a parent to do, short of banning YouTube entirely? Here are seven steps to consider.
Activate ‘Restricted Mode’
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to activate YouTube’s Restricted Mode for all your children’s viewing. Restricted mode will block videos that feature vulgar language, violence and disturbing imagery, nudity and sexually suggestive content, harmful or dangerous activities.
Well, that’s theory anyhow. The reality is that even YouTube itself acknowledges that their algorithms “sometimes make mistakes.” The platform also employs a team of human reviewers who check all videos submitted by users as appropriate for Restricted Mode.
But keep in mind that over 400 hours of content gets uploaded to YouTube every minute. With over a billion users worldwide, YouTube is constantly fighting a battle - a losing battle - against trolls and hackers.
With Family Zone, Restricted Mode is activated automatically, across all devices and all browsers your kids use. Otherwise, you’ll need to do this manually, device-by-device. And of course, without Family Zone controls, a determined child can simply turn Restricted Mode off.
But as we’ve seen, Restricted Mode is only a first line of defense. Here are some others:
Only allow YouTube Kids
The platform's kid-targeted portal aimed at preschoolers to tweens will restrict more content than Restricted Mode. But don't get the idea this is a set-and-forget fix. If only! The truth is, YouTube Kids has drawn plenty of media attention for both inappropriate content and also for fast-food ads and other undesirable branded content. Some hackers have clearly targeted YouTube Kids because it's aimed at kids, sadly enough.
Make a report
If you have a YouTube or Gmail address, you'll be able to report inappropriate content directly to YouTube. You'll find step-by-step instructions here. When Restricted Mode is activated, you can flag inappropriate content immediately with an on-screen option.
Watch with your kids
Wherever possible, keep a watching brief on your kids’ screens whenever they are viewing videos on YouTube. Never allow viewing in bedrooms or other private spaces. Oversight, oversight, oversight. This is really the only failsafe, and it can't be said too often
Talk about it
Have regular, open-ended conversations with your kids - from toddlerhood on up - about their online lives, and make sure they are comfortable about coming to you whenever they see anything upsetting or confusing online.
Consider other video platforms
Yes, YouTube is free - but you may decide the risks pose too high a cost. Kids’ content on Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and other streaming and download services cannot be hacked the way YouTube can, and with parental oversight and control, are a much safer bet. And remember DVDs? They’re still a thing too!
Use parental controls to set strong boundaries
The research is clear - and really, isn’t it only common sense? - that the less time kids spend on screens, the lower the risk of online incidents. Strong parental controls like Family Zone empower the grown-ups to set study-times and sleep-times to ensure that screens are properly managed to keep kids as safe as they can be. Maybe you want to turn YouTube entirely (or any other video and streaming service) - or simply restrict kids to certain usage times? With Family Zone, you can do that too.