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Tech Talk: ensure that YouTube is safer for your child!

24 November 2015

Unlike video games, movies, TV shows, and other media, YouTube channels pose a challenge for parents because anyone can create them, they crop up seemingly out of nowhere, they don't follow programme schedules, and they're cast out among thousands of other videos. Children love discovering new videos on YouTube, and that often means exposure to undesirable material, even when they're not seeking it out. With some simple tools, you can help your child regulate their habits and increase the chances that their experience will be positive.

  • YouTube Children
Watch with your child. Simply ask your child what they're watching and join them. In general, children are tuning into certain channels or following specific YouTube personalities because they're entertained by them.
Watch by yourself. If children don't want to share, get the name of the channel they're watching and watch it later. Watch a few videos by the same creator to get a feel for the content.
Be 'sleuthy.' If you're concerned about the content your child is watching on YouTube and you've tried talking to them, there are ways of tracking their viewing habits. If they have a YouTube account (which only requires a Gmail address), their YouTube page will display their recently watched videos, recommended videos based on their watch history, and suggestions for channels similar to the ones they've watched. Even if your child deletes their "watch history," the recommendations all will be related to material they've watched.
Subscribe. Encourage your child to subscribe to their favourite channels rather than hunting around on YouTube for the latest ones from a specific creator. Subscribers are notified when a new video is uploaded, plus all their channels are displayed in My Subscriptions that you can easily access.
Look at the suggestions. The suggested videos listed on the right-hand side of the page are related in some way to the main video. Evaluate them to see if they seem age-appropriate, and that will provide an indication of the appropriateness of the main video.
Read the comments. YouTube comments are notorious for being negative, but it's worth reading them to get a sense of the tone of the discussion. If your child posts video clips on YouTube it is a really good idea to ensure that they deactivate comments for this very reason.
Turn on safety mode. Be aware that YouTube is officially only for teens 13 and up, and what the site considers age-appropriate may not match your values. But YouTube offers a filter called Safety Mode that limits the inappropriate content. The tutorial in two weeks will show you how to implement this. It is well worth the few minutes it takes to set this up.