Four of the top five most-viewed YouTube channels in the United States are devoted to kids. For many parents, however, the media giant has delivered some extremely unfavorable surprises in recent months. Last fall, parents were alarmed to discover that YouTube Kids — the app specifically devoted to young children — was serving up wildly inappropriate videos that included sex and violence, despite its filters.
Then came news that YouTube’s autocomplete generator was propagating yet another form of highly disturbing content: When users typed in “How to have…” the generator completed the query with phrases such as “s*x with your kids,” as was first reported by BuzzFeed. While the bug has subsequently been fixed, these issues understandably put many parents on high alert.
So what can you do to keep your children safe on YouTube? Here are great ways to protect your kids so they don’t become victims of YouTube’s next “bug.”
Hide Recommended and Related Videos
For most parents, it’s the suggested videos, not the ones their kids actively search, that cause the problems. One mom recalls her son looking for videos about his favorite kind of dog, only to find a recommended right-hand video discussing bestiality. Other parents were shocked to discover that a slew of fake videos were inadvertently served up to their kids under the guise of well-known cartoons.
You can, however, hide those right-hand videos so that your child’s searches won’t take them down the mature-content rabbit hole. On Chrome, install the Distraction Free YouTube extension. Now from any page, you can easily toggle off the sidebar of recommended videos. This hides both the related videos that appear at the end of videos as well as the recommended videos on the right. There’s also an extension for Firefox.
Mute Don’t Block
Have a child who is being harassed on their YouTube channel? Encourage them to mute the offender, rather than block. Users will know if they’ve been blocked and may try to create a new account to find access to your child. Muting, on the other hand, means they will never know that their harmful messages aren’t reaching your child.
To do this, click on the user’s account that you want to block. Once you are on their profile page, click on account that directs you to their Google Plus account.
Once on their Google Plus account, you’ll see three dots. Click on those, and select “mute profile.”
Since all Google Plus profiles are tied into YouTube accounts, muting this person will also keep them quiet on your YouTube channel!
Enable Restricted Mode
Restricted Mode lets kids search for those Minecraft and DIY videos with filters that help screen out mature content. Community flagging, age-restrictions and other signals filter out potentially inappropriate videos. Is it 100% full proof? Nope. Is it exponentially better than nothing? Definitely.
To put your child’s account into Restricted Mode, click on the icon on the top right corner of your screen, which brings up your channel menu options.
From there, look at the bottom of the list and you’ll see a toggle that turns Restricted Mode on and off.
Keep in mind that kids can disable Restricted Mode from their device. With Forcefield, parents can enable Restricted Mode from their own device. Kids cannot disable it from theirs.
Report Objectionable Videos
No, your child can’t un-see a disturbing YouTube video, but you can help ensure that they never see it again, while also decreasing the chances of another child stumbling into it. To report a video, tap on the three dots and tap “Report.”
To turn off search, tap the lock icon in the lower-right, enter a passcode, tap Settings, tap your kid’s profile, and then toggle off Search settings. You can set up separate profiles for each of your kids, which lets you enable search for one but not the other.
This might not seem like a huge problem, particularly if you have a younger child. After all, how many 9-year–olds are actively looking for adult content through a search engine?
It turns out, the adult content is actually searching for them.
A study out of the UK showed that almost 40% of parents reported their kids having stumbled onto online porn accidentally — meaning they were searching something innocent, and BAM.
YouTube has some awesome content for kids, we just need to make sure it’s set up to display the good stuff and filter out the bad stuff.
With a few simple steps, you can have peace of mind when you let you little ones hop on YouTube.