As adults, most of us have enough spidey-sense to know when a website crosses the line, even though our lines may vary. YouTube is hardly the Deep Web, but the site poses a number of challenges, particularly in its appropriateness for children. Being largely user-generated and monitored, unless a channel trips the Terms of Service filter, risky content can stay under the radar for a considerable amount of time and be discovered by anyone with an inquiring mind and an active internet connection.
The computer-literate children of today know how to use electronic devices seemingly from the womb and state-of-the-art tech is commonplace in the classroom. YouTube becomes their playground, full of wonderful things to discover and some not so wonderful. Whether or not they are looking for it, sexually-explicit content and violence are easy to trip over. There are at least 8 things you can do to make YouTube more kid friendly, without involving the FCC.
8 Ways To Make YouTube Safe for Children
Google has issued guidelines on keeping children safe online, and these are definitely worth reading. If you are concerned about your children’s access to unsuitable content on YouTube, there are a few tweaks you can make, and a few apps you can use, to make their experience a lot more family-friendly
#1 Enable YouTube Safety Mode Across All Devices
All the way at the bottom of YouTube’s homepage is a little button you may not know existed. Enable it and you can block videos that contain inappropriate content that has been flagged. It also enables Google SafeSearch, which blocks potentially explicit search results on another level. This is the first line in defense on YouTube and will enable the mode for the entire account on any device.
#2 Create Child-friendly YouTube Playlists
It’s easy to get lost in the jungle, so create playlists that are kid-friendly. The bigger they are, they more useful they are. A good 20 video or so playlist could create an hour of uninterrupted content assuming the kids don’t click any related links in the sidebar. After an hour of YouTube they should be more than ready to go outside and play, that’s plenty for one day.
#3 Use HomeTube on Mobile Devices
HomeTube is an app I wrote about back in September that really locks down YouTube on mobile devices and controls the viewing experience. With proper setup it can be used to pre-select viewing content and create an airtight viewing experience. HomeTube is only available on Android devices at the moment.
#4 Install YouTube Center Extension on Chrome
On a shared account, sometimes ads can be inappropriate for children, so YouTube Center can aid in removing those as well as removing the endscreen from a video, which is full of related videos that sometimes aren’t so related.
Unfortunately, the powers that be have removed YouTube Center from the Chrome Store. I imagine this has to do with the absolute power it gives users in how they use YouTube, down to removing ads. There is a great thread on Reddit for how to get this extension and the options in it can really help make YouTube a much safer experience.
#5 Hide YouTube Comments Extension
Let’s be honest, offensive YouTube comments are sort of the hallmark of the site. Making inappropriate comments is a favorite pastime for YouTube comment trolls. Remove them with this app and keep them away from your kids’ eyes.
#6 Avoid YouTube Altogether & Use Another Site Instead
If controlling YouTube is proving to be too difficult, just block it, and use a site like Kideos instead. Kideos curates YouTube content and links to genuine YouTube videos, so the creators still get credit. They have their content sorted for ages 0-10, so there is plenty of age appropriate content to discover.
#7 Block Certain YouTube Channels
If there is a particular channel that you don’t like, cut it out entirely. I wrote up some detailed instructions (with video) on how to block a YouTube channel and it would help for reducing the chances your child runs across some of the more eccentric personalities on YouTube and the content they offer.
#8 Monitor Your Children’s Viewing Habits
Nothing beats good parenting. Not only should you talk about safe viewing with kids, but watch YouTube WITH them whenever possible, much like you’d watch television. There is a lot more content on YouTube to both enrich their lives and teach them about things you don’t necessarily want them to know yet. The best way to prevent unwanted videos from landing on their screens is to take the hands on approach.
YouTube still hasn’t done enough on their end to make YouTube safe for Children. It is as wild as the rest of the internet. Following these tips can help ensure that Thomas the Train doesn’t get your children off track (NSFW link).