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YouTube is a highly popular site and contains every type of content imaginable — from entertainment to education — their 1.3 billion users spend an average of 40 minutes on the site, contributing to the 5 billion videos watched each and every day.
These statistics not only include adults and teenagers, but also young children that watch content using the YouTube Kids app. That being said, is YouTube Kids safe for your child?
YOUTUBE: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
The topic of children having access to and using electronic devices has always been the subject of a number of heated debates.
In the past, parents used television as their go-to “electronic babysitter,” but in this day and age where mobile devices are seemingly everywhere, it’s no surprise that YouTube has almost completely replaced television in many households. If you ask children what their favorite TV show is, they’ll likely name their favorite YouTube channels instead!
According to a study published on the JAMA Pediatrics Medical Journal, letting preschool children play on iPads and watch television harms their development. The study found that children under 2 who were exposed to the most screen time showed poorer motor and interpersonal skills. Another recent study by Ofcom found that 45% of children under 5 use YouTube. They spend an average of 76 minutes a day online, which bumps up to 256 minutes when gaming and television are included.
It’s truly alarming when you realize how much time children are spending consuming content online. This can discourage children from socializing with others, watch time addictions, and other serious mental and emotional development issues.
Additionally, children can be very impressionable, making them an easy target for creators with bad intentions. For example, there have been reports of horrifying incidents where parents discovered short clips being inserted into existing YouTube videos instructing children how to harm themselves and others.
DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER!
While there are some places on YouTube you definitely want your kids to avoid, there’s also a treasure trove of educational and entertaining content that can be beneficial for your child’s growth and development. However, to get the most out of YouTube and keep your kids safe at the same time, you have to play a more active role in monitoring and regulating your child’s activity on the platform.
Thankfully, YouTube introduced YouTube Kids in 2015, a kid safe YouTube alternative specifically geared towards younger audiences. The app aims to limit content to only show family-friendly videos and channels.
The app features larger colorful images and icons, and includes parental controls, which allows parents to disable the search function entirely, set a timer to limit their child’s on-screen time, and filter out certain types of content.
The comments section on YouTube Kids has also been disabled to prevent children from talking with strangers, seeing inappropriate comments, or falling victim to a cyberbullying attack.
HOW TO SETUP & CONFIGURE YOUR YOUTUBE KIDS ACCOUNT
Before getting started, please keep in mind that YouTube Kids is only available in certain countries. To find out if it’s available in your specific country, check this list first.
#1 – To start using the YouTube Kids app, you’ll first need to download the app on the mobile device you plan on allowing your child to use. The app is available for free on both the iTunes for iOS users, and the Google Play store for Android users.
TIP: We highly recommend purchasing a stand-alone device for your child, preferably a tablet with a large enough screen to minimize eye strain.
#2 – Once the app is finished downloading, you’ll need to set up a new profile. When prompted, enter your birth year and you’ll see a warning screen disclaimer pop up letting you know that while the app was designed to exclude inappropriate content, there’s still a chance they may see something they’re not meant to watch (more on that later).
#3 – Next, sign in using your Google account, and accept the Terms of Service by entering your Google account password.
#4 – Create an account for your child* and make sure to not use their full name. Use either their first name, nickname, or another random alias.
*If you have more than one child, you can sign up for additional profiles. You can change the settings at any time by clicking the padlock icon at the bottom of the page.
When you input your child’s birth year, the app will try customizing content according to their age, and you’ll be presented with 3 options that affect the types of video content shown to your child:
- Younger (8 years and under): Allows kids to search and explore songs, cartoons, crafts, and more, but will place limits on search results.
- Older (9 to 12 years old): Allows kids to explore additional video content relating to science, gaming, and music. It also displays expanded search results compared to the ‘Younger’ option.
- Approve content yourself* (RECOMMENDED): Only allows access to content that a parent has pre-approved; children are restricted from using the search function.
*When videos get uploaded to YouTube Kids, algorithms automatically begin analyzing the video for any inappropriate content. However, despite having a team that manually reviews videos, the overwhelming amount of content that gets uploaded on a daily basis makes it difficult to catch everything, and sometimes bad content will slip through the cracks and make its way onto YouTube Kids. For this reason alone, we highly recommend using the ‘Approve content yourself’ option.
RESTRICTING CONTENT ON YOUTUBE KIDS
Here’s a step-by-step guide to changing the settings to allow for content you’ve approved.
#1 – Start by tapping the padlock icon at the bottom of the page:
#2 – Then answer the Parents only question, or choose the SET MY OWN PASSCODE option:
#3 – Select Settings and then choose your child’s profile. Then enter your password to access your child’s account:
#4 – Select the Approved content only option to enable it:
#5 – Review the information in the ‘Getting Started’ pop-up, then click on START:
#6 – Next, search for content that you want to add. For this example, we’ll show you how to find our channel, TucuTube Kids TV.
Type in tucutube and click enter:
#7 – Since our channel is relatively new and not indexed, you’ll need to click on Change it back as it defaults to search for the term ‘youtube’ instead.
#8 – Tap the (+) icon on any collection, channel, or video to approve (i.e. whitelist) content:
#9 – If you don’t see a subscribe option like in the example above, click on any video, then on +CHANNEL to subscribe:
#10 – Once you’re finished whitelisting content, click on DONE to exit. All of the content you pre-approved should now be displayed:
Remember that you can always edit your pre-approved content by tapping MANAGE under the ‘Content level’ section in your kids profile. You can also choose PREVIEW to view what your child will see on their end. More tips are provided in the bonus section at the end of this article.
Voila! Your child can now start using YouTube Kids safely!
BONUS TIPS: YOUTUBE PARENTAL CONTROLS
Here are a couple more bonus tips to make YouTube Kids safe for your child:
- Visit your profile on the regular YouTube app or website, and subscribe to any channels you’ve whitelisted for your child to keep an eye on the content being uploaded.
- Under Settings, click on PRIVACY and check the following boxes: Keep all my liked videos private, Keep all saved playlists private, and Keep all my subscriptions private.
APP STORE PARENTAL CONTROLS
If you provide your child with their own device, you need to set things up to prevent them from downloading or deleting apps, and making any unauthorized purchases.
Here’s how to setup the app store parental controls:
For iOS devices: Go to Settings > Screen Time. Then tap Content & Privacy Restrictions, and enter your passcode if asked. Finally choose iTunes & App Store Purchases and set to DON’T ALLOW.
For Android devices: Open the Play Store and tap on the Menu option (it’ll appear as three lines at the corner of the screen). Go to Settings > Parental Controls, and toggle the switch to the ON position. Then create a content PIN to change settings.
Once the PIN has been set, you’ll be able to setup content restrictions in other areas. Go through each option (e.g . Apps & Games, Movies, TV, etc.) to set the restrictions for each category.
IS YOUTUBE KIDS SAFE? OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
YouTube provides a wealth of educational and entertainment content for adults and children alike, but at the same time, we need to be aware of all the hidden dangers and take a more active role in protecting our children.
If you plan on restricting your child from ever watching YouTube/YouTube Kids, or preventing them from ever using a mobile device, chances are their friends and classmates at school will provide them with access.
The best way to ensure that ALL of our children are protected is by sharing this article with as many parents, grandparents, and teachers as you can. The more people are aware and educated on this problem, the better we can protect all of our children from viewing content that can negatively impact their mental health and emotional well-being. Thank you in advance!
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