Have a young YouTuber on your hands? You’re not alone. Kids age 11 and under make up the fastest growing audience for digital video, while more than 80% of teens aged 14-17 report using the video sharing site. This isn’t that surprising. YouTube is loaded with great content that entertains, educates and inspires. The problem is that it also has super mature and sometimes downright racy content that is completely inappropriate for younger children. So can you truly keep your kids safe while they’re on YouTube?
We turned to children health experts to get their insights on how to best manage kid’s YouTube time and the content they are exposed to.
Toddlers: Limit YouTube to Specific Situations, Not Times
Limiting YouTube to certain times seems like an intuitive way to manage their exposure, but it can be a hassle to manage on a day to day basis. The last thing you need is another job to add to your already full plate.
One way to put the schedule on autopilot is to allow YouTube time during certain activities that have a set beginning and end time.
Child health expert Dina Kulik uses haircuts as the perfect time to allow YouTube usage.
“My sons, age 5, 3 and 1, get very minimal screen time, maybe 30 minutes once every 6 weeks when they get their haircut… I ask my patients about screen time at regular health visits, emphasizing no more than two hours of screen time after the age of 2, and none before age 2.” – Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics Staff Physician, The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto
Other activities you can pair with Youtube are: Trips to the doctor, bank, or grocery store.
This turns these chores into treats for your kids while also guaranteeing that you are present for their usage. This is perfect for younger kids, giving them time on the video sharing app while keeping them safe on YouTube.
Your kids might be too old or you just might be too far down the rabbit hole to get them to cut back on their YouTube usage to less than an hour per month, but there are some steps you can take to keep the content they’re consuming clean and age appropriate.
Stay-Safe Strategy: Limit very young children’s exposure to the YouTube Kids app. Although it does have ads, inappropriate content is filtered out, the comments are hidden and an easy-to-use interface focuses on kid-friendly content.
YouTube Kids has been a lifesaver for parents who are worried about questionable content popping up out of nowhere during a YouTube viewing session.
School Age: No Headphone Zone
Is your 7-12 year old always watching YouTube in another room with the headphones on? This could potentially be a red flag.
Secrecy is never a good thing when it comes to your young child using YouTube. Being as present as you can will help you minimize the chance of negative content getting in front of your child.
In the school-age zone, kids are starting to watch videos a few hours a week. Limiting them to just special occasions won’t work. You’ll have to get a bit more creative.
Parenting expert Devorah Heitner has a really smart hack for parents:
“My 7-year-old son is allowed watch YouTube on his iPad, but not with headphones on. And he only can do this if I’m in the room with him. That way I know the sounds and I don’t have to watch him play. I realize I have one child; this strategy probably wouldn’t work with more than that.” – Devorah Heitner, founder of Raising Digital Natives and author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World.
If this strategy isn’t realistic for you, consider locking in YouTube Restricted Mode.
Stay-Safe Strategy: Use Forcefield to lock in YouTube Restricted Mode on your kids’ mobile devices. This filters out adult-oriented content on the YouTube website.
Lock-in YouTube Restricted Mode on your child’s mobile devices by going to your Parent Dashboard. Under Browsing Rules, select Forcefield Blocking ON. This will automatically enforce YouTube Restricted Mode on your kids’ mobile devices anytime they access YouTube. (Note: This only works if they are accessing YouTube from the Forcefield browser; not the YouTube app.) .
Tweens: Nix the Late Night Sessions
There are many reasons to keep your kids off their devices at night. Studies have shown that using a device late at night leads to less sleep and more tiredness during the day. Make sure they don’t have access to YouTube or other apps on their mobile devices at night.
Teens: Embrace it as the Ultimate Resume Booster
Despite our talk so far about the shortcomings of YouTube, there can also be immense benefits if you use the platform correctly.
For college-bound kids, posting videos on YouTube offers an incredible way to bring their accomplishments to life says Josh Ochs, author of Safe, Smart & Social. “Positive videos can turn a student’s Google results into a three dimensional version of their college resume,” says Ochs. “YouTube can help your child’s online reputation.”
Not only will the videos themselves serve as a showcase, but the skills they will gain in editing, promoting and graphic design will be very valuable to them going forward.