Guide to YouTube Parental Controls

Thomas Gilham

Children and teens love watching videos online.

It is intriguing to them to watch other kids in their own element, doing their own thing. For many it is more relatable than television, and they like that they do not have to wait a week or months for the next episode or season to run. With a never-ending supply of content at their fingertips, they want YouTube and they want it now.

For parents, this can be a lifesaver sometimes. A long trip to a relative’s home may be the perfect time to let them watch YouTube so you can watch the road. There certainly are tons of educational videos. There are more appropriate videos than we can count, but there are also very inappropriate videos that are very easy to find.

Often, they are found by accident because one little, otherwise innocent, word in a search brings up something unexpected. Fortunately, there are controls available to help parents battle this struggle. Read on to learn how to set-up parental controls on YouTube.

Turn on the Restricted Mode

Your first line of defense will be to set-up the restricted mode. This is a browser-level protection and therefore must be turned on for each browser that they will be using, on each device that they may use. Restricted mode filters out search content that contains mature material. When a user uploads a video, they can flag it as restricted content, but not all users do this. You may still want to put other defenses put into place, but do not skip this one. It will still weed out the majority of inappropriate videos at first search.

You can turn on the restricted mode in YouTube app by following these simple steps.
1. Open the app and sign-in, if you are not automatically signed-in.
2. In the upper-right hand corner, click on the account icon. This may be your picture if you added it, or it may be your first initial.
3. Scroll almost to the bottom and click on “settings”.
4. Near the top, find and click on “general”.
5. Near the bottom find the section that reads “restricted mode”.
6. Click on the button to the right of “restricted mode” to turn it on.

You can turn on the restricted mode on a computer or other device that uses an internet browser instead of the app by following these simple steps.
1. Open the website and sign-in, if you are not automatically signed-in.
2. In the upper-right hand corner, click on the account icon. This may your picture if you added it or it may be your first initial.
3. A menu will pop up and you will see “restricted mode: off” all the way at the bottom.
4. Click to open and it will tell you a little bit about restricted mode.
5. At the bottom of the information section, find “ACTIVATE RESTRICTED MODE”.
6. Click on the button to the right of “ACTIVATE RESTRICTED MODE” to turn it on.

Be sure to take time to do this on all devices. Even if your accounts usually sync between your computer and your app, be sure to open it on all devices to be certain that the restricted mode is activated.

The YouTube Kids App

For younger children, you can install the YouTube Kids app and only allow them to use that version. The content on this app is aimed for preschool-aged through pre-teens. The best feature of this app may be that you can turn off the search feature, because inappropriate content can still slip through. Turning off the search will help eliminate the preview screen popping up with something inappropriate on it. Parents can also block any content that they know they do not want their children viewing, and they can limit the time their children spend on the app. Also, it is always a good idea to set up a playlist of videos that you have watched and approve of so you know exactly what they are being exposed to.

Although the YouTube Kids app is safer than the regular version, there is always a chance that inappropriate content will slip through the parameters you have worked hard to put into place. There are many news stories about seemingly innocent videos for children having a very inappropriate portion added to the middle. Because this happens, we still recommend being vigilant about knowing what you child is watching.

Monitor their Viewing History

Keep tabs on what your children are watching by checking their viewing history. On the regular YouTube app and through a browser, you can view the history by clicking on “library”. It is found on the bottom right in the app. In a browser, it appears in the vertical menu on the left of the screen. From there, click on “history” to see what they have watched. On the YouTube Kids app, finding watched videos is a little bit different. First, tap on “recommended”. From there you will find a section called “watch it again” to see their watch history.

Watch history can be removed, so if your children know this, they may be removing videos. If you know they are spending hours on YouTube and you only see two videos that were ten minutes each, then it is time for a heart to heart conversation. At some point they will likely figure out that can delete videos, so talk them about your expectations of what they should be watching and let them know that you will be checking in often.

Use Google SafeSearch

If your child is searching for videos, they may be searching through Google. No matter how many parameters you set up on YouTube, if they are searching through Google, they can still get inappropriate search results unless you also change the settings for Google. This is a good idea if they will be using the search feature for anything, not just videos. Google SafeSearch is designed to filter out explicit content. As always, things slip through the cracks, so have them run their search words across you first if you are concerned about what may show up. Follow these simple steps to turn on

Google SafeSearch:

1. Go to Google.com. Note: If you use Chrome as your browser, it will look like Google, but you need to actually type in Google.com in order to have the correct screen to access the settings in these directions.
2. Click on “settings” in the bottom right-hand corner.
3. A menu will pop-up. Click on “search settings” near the top.
4. A new page will open. Locate “SafeSearch filters” at the top.
5. Click “turn on SafeSearch”.

Google SafeSearch is also browser-level protection, so you must do this for each device that your children will be using.

It can be stressful letting your children begin to explore the internet, but eventually they do need to learn how to use it and how to use it safely. You can breathe a bit easier when you follow the steps above to help you safeguard your children. Remember that these are specifically relating to using YouTube. Be sure to check out ways to safeguard them against other apps as well. Be clear with your expectations, check-in often, set-up parental controls and let your children enjoy.

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