I spent a great deal of time outside as a child. Growing up in rural Iowa gave me plenty of space to play. One of the houses that I lived in even had a creek next to it. It was like having the woods in my own backyard. My parents gave me clear rules for playing outside: don’t leave the yard without permission, don’t go in the street, be home by the time the streetlights come on, etc. These rules gave me the guidance needed to have fun outdoors safely. There were still risks, but not enough for my parents to keep me indoors. Parents today have a new wilderness to set rules for: YouTube.
YouTube is popular with kids. Pew Research revealed that nearly 80% of parents with children under the age of 11 allow their kids to watch YouTube at least sometimes. The platform does offer plenty of free, quality content for kids. With this comes plenty of things kids should not be exposed to, though. From Momo to creepy videos with Peppa Pig, kids have seen a lot of things they shouldn’t on the platform. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from researching children’s use of YouTube it’s that YouTube has drug it’s feet to create tools that help parents use the site safely. This has left a lot of the work to parents.
One of the number one things you can do is to set up YouTube Kids or use the YouTube restricted modes available, as displayed in the video above. The video above shows how to set up the restricted settings on YouTube’s main site. Using these tools does not mean that kids will not see inappropriate content. It can still slip through the algorithms that filter content. It does, however, greatly reduce the likelihood that children will see it. In my opinion, YouTube Kids is likely the best option as it offers the most options for parents and lets content get filtered by age group.
Even with all of the tools available for parents for YouTube the systems aren’t perfect. YouTube itself admits that inappropriate content can still makes its way onto YouTube Kids. The best advice I can give is to continue to keep a close eye on what kids are watching. Pre-screening every video is impractical. Creating playlists with videos from trusted channels is a reliable alternative. As obnoxious as kids content can be, an easy step is to require kids to watch videos without headphones so it’s easier to hear if something inappropriate comes on. Have conversations about what content is okay and what content they should click out of, as well.
Using YouTube safely for kids often feels more confusing than creating rules for playing outside safely. These guidelines don’t eliminate all risks of using YouTube just as my parents rules didn’t eliminate all risks of playing outdoors. Using these guidelines allows parents and children to benefit from all that YouTube has to offer with far fewer risks.