I am a big fan of YouTube and all the goodness it has to offer. Not only is it home to endless entertainment, it is also a fantastic source of education. I have used YouTube to learn how to French braid, help my kids learn to tie their shoes, and to learn how to tie a tie, among other basic life skills. So I love it when I can help my kids find a cool math tutorial or learn a fun history lesson via YouTube as well. The potential for education is pretty much limitless.
But so is the potential for danger. Because for every fantastic, helpful piece of content available on YouTube, there’s also a highly-inappropriate, potentially damaging one. These inappropriate videos are very easy to accidentally access with search or “related” content showing up next to videos kids are watching or showing up after they have watched them. So—IS there a way to have our kids experience the pros of YouTube without the cons? Well, it turns out there are several ways. None are totally perfect, but they will certainly help reduce the amount of monitoring you have to do and will greatly decrease your kiddo’s chances of seeing something inappropriate on YouTube. I’ve done some research and here are some options for how to safely use YouTube.
1) YouTube Kids app
I am sure I was not the only mama to shout “HOORAY!” when Google announced they were releasing a YouTube kids app. I followed that up with a quick “It’s about time!” This app makes it easy to make YouTube safe for your kids if they are watching YouTube on a mobile device or tablet using the app. Here’s the lowdown on this app, including how and why it’s safe for your kids. First, it has a kid-friendly design that makes it simple for them to navigate and get to what they want—eliminating any search “oopsies.” Second, it is loaded with ONLY family-appropriate content and the categories are few and narrow: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Now, since your definition of what’s appropriate for the whole family may not align 100 percent with Google’s, there are still plenty of parental controls so that you can truly fine-tune your child’s YouTube experience by limiting access to certain videos. Parents can also set viewing limits with a timer and control sound settings as well.
2) Safety Mode
If your kids use YouTube on a laptop or desktop computer, one option to help protect them from unsavory content is “safety mode.” Safety mode on YouTube can be accessed simply by scrolling to the bottom of any page on YouTube and clicking the “on” button.
Safety mode filters out any adult content or content that other YouTube users have reported as inappropriate. The only real con to it is that the filters aren’t 100 percent perfect. It’s definitely a huge improvement on “regular” mode, but I’d give it a good test run yourself to see if it works to your satisfaction before you let your kids use it without supervision.
3) Put the word “quiet” in front of any YouTube URL
Say what? This kind of blew my mind. If you take a YouTube URL, let’s say this one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gN9zeOq6lHA and add “quiet” to the beginning of the URL like this: www.quietyoutube.com/watch?v=gN9zeOq6lHA, it will you show you the video on a completely white background with no “related content” on the side. (Side note: This is my 15-year-old nephew setting the world record on the pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube puzzle; isn’t he amazing?) The only downside to this is that “related content” will still show up in the video box after the video is done playing. HOWEVER, if you want to make sure sure sure that doesn’t happen, and you can handle adding a little more to the URL, you can take care of that problem by adding ?rel=0 to the end of the URL. So to get a video that shows NO related content at all and is 100 percent safe your URL would be: www.quietyoutube.com/watch?v=gN9zeOq6lHA?rel=0—here’s how it looks:
After playing around with this method, I can’t really see any downside to it other than it takes a little work on your part to put in the proper URL. But what’s a little effort when it comes to our kids’ safety?
These days the Internet is a really important part of our kids’ education—like it or not! Since YouTube is so useful for kids, I’m pretty excited about these ways to keep it safe, too. Have you tried any of these methods? How do you ensure your kids are safe from inappropriate content when using YouTube?