With 1.9 billion monthly users watching more than 5 billion videos every day, YouTube is clearly incredibly popular with users of all ages. Most of the content is still user-uploaded, but companies and media organisations are increasingly looking to take advantage of the popularity of the platform. As there is easy access to comedy, music, sports and celebrity videos, it is easy to see why young people are drawn to the site, but there are a number of risks to be aware of.
Viral ‘Challenge’ Videos
Children and teenagers are susceptible to peer-pressure and many try to impress their friends by taking part in the latest viral challenge. Worryingly, some of these ‘challenges’ can be dangerous and many youngsters are unaware of the risks they are taking. Due to the speed these videos spread across the internet, by the time the risks have been highlighted, it can be after it has been repeated thousands of times already.
YouTubers are now some of the best-known celebrities in the world, but not all are suitable for children to watch. This could be due to the language they use, the content they discuss, or the age-inappropriate games they demonstrate. Ask your child questions about who they watch and what they are doing in the videos, then follow up by watching some yourself to check you are comfortable with the content.
Many young people have genuine ambitions to become a YouTuber and this is now considered a viable career option. Users can be eager to develop a wide following as quickly as possible and upload many videos without considering whether it could be embarrassing or risqué in the future. If your child is already posting content to YouTube or considering setting up a YouTube channel, more information and guidance can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y9aaxafy and https://tinyurl.com/yb98j84w.
Furthermore, young people are often unprepared for some of the vitriolic comments they receive. It is possible to block users to prevent them commenting again.
With videos for users of all ages, there is obviously content that will be unsuitable for children. YouTube’s terms of service mean that although unlawful or harmful content will be removed, content considered offensive by many may not fall foul of their rules.
Restricted Mode enables you to choose whether to limit content on YouTube that might not be against YouTube Community Guidelines but may be unsuitable for your children.
When YouTube Restricted Mode is switched on, mature content and age-restricted videos won't show up in search, related videos or playlists.
With a YouTube or Google account, it is possible to lock restricted mode. Users should be 13 or older to have a YouTube account. Although restricted mode can be locked in a browser, it needs to be re-enabled each time a mobile device is used.
By creating a YouTube Family Account, it is possible to keep track of the history to see what your child is viewing and sharing.
YouTube (being Google-owned) has introduced its own tool to monitor how long users have been on the platform. There are options to set time limits and what happens when that limit is reached.
Conversations and a Family Agreement
Having regular open conversations with children and teenagers about their online life demonstrates that you are interested and provides opportunities to step in when something is of concern. With young internet users, it is also sensible to discuss and make a family agreement so your child knows the boundaries. There are many examples, but these resources from Childnet are excellent: https://tinyurl.com/y9pqmghx
Google created YouTube Kids to be a safer, easier to navigate platform with additional filters and parental controls. Whilst inappropriate videos can occasionally slip through, additional safety features such as the Timer, Watch History, Search Control, Blocking and Video Reporting make it a worthwhile consideration for parents with young children.