YouTube has announced a new feature they’re calling Safety Mode.  Safety Mode is essentially a new content-filter to help with the potentially mature content that doesn’t quite meet the established “offensiveness” standards.  That’s a fancy way of saying that Safety Mode will help you block out content that is objectionable to you but not so objectionable as to be age-restricted.

Here’s the official word from the Google Support page:

“Safety Mode gives users the option to choose not to see mature content that they may find find offensive, even though it’s not against our Community Guidelines. When you opt in to Safety Mode mode, videos with mature content or that have been age restricted will not show up in video search, related videos, playlists, shows and movies. While no filter is 100% accurate, we use community flagging, hide objectionable comments and porn image detection to identify and hide inappropriate content. Safety Mode on YouTube does not remove content from the site but rather keeps it off the page for users who opt in.”

So essentially this is a way to block R-rated material that previously wouldn’t have been placed behind the “Adults Only” curtain–Google’s blog throws out the examples of news footage containing violent political protests or war footage.

Safety Mode is an opt-in service, which means you have to be intentional and go out of your way to participate.  You just need to click a link that is at the bottom of all pages to opt-in.  These settings can be locked on the browser using your YouTube password, which means you can protect your family from this kind of “grey area” content as well.  To lock your browser into the “On” setting for Safety Mode, follow these instructions:

  • Sign In to your YouTube account
  • Click Safety Mode at the bottom of every page to open the preference setting
  • Click On and Save and Lock to opt-in and lock this browser
  • You are now in Locked Safety Mode!

To opt back out:

  • Open preferences and Click Unlock Safety Mode.
  • Enter your YouTube password to unlock Safety Mode.

These settings, once you opt-in, will also affect searches you perform on the site as well as the results you get for your queries.  Check out the demo video from YouTube:

I think this is a fantastic move.  For too long, content on YouTube has been classified as only one of two things:  appropriate for all ages or appropriate for adults only.  It’s like having only two ratings for Hollywood movies: X and G.  There was a lot of content that wasn’t technically either of those things, but rather fell in between.  Adding a third layer of control and protection makes tons of sense–especially considering how many young people are daily YouTube users.  Heck, adding a fourth and fifth layer of control would probably help even more. It’s good to see YouTube giving us more and more control over the content we see and how it’s presented to us–user customization is a good thing for everyone.

It should also be noted that, at present, I am not getting the Safety Mode Opt-In link at the bottom of video pages, though not for a lack of trying.  I’m not sure if this is a staggered roll out, or if the announcement was released before the actual service was ready… but as of right now, I’m not able to use Safety Mode.  I’m sure it’ll be just a matter of time before it’s working for all audiences.