Does your child watch a lot of YouTube shows? If you answered “yes” you are not alone. You may wonder: Is YouTube safe for kids?
When I was 13, I spent many hours watching my favorite tv shows. I can remember cuddling with my sister, watching Threes Company and The Facts of Life after school.
Kids today are growing up watching huge amounts of shows too. However, they aren’t glued to the tv. Instead, they are on their devices watching their favorite YouTube stars. Awesomeness TV, PewDiePie, Bethany Mota and Smosh may be unfamiliar names to you, but chances are they are familiar to your child. In fact, a recent study in Variety Magazine found that the top 5 most influential people amongst US Teens are YouTube celebrities.
The problem with YouTube is that videos are not monitored or controlled the way tv shows were when we were growing up. It’s ridiculously easy to click on something inappropriate and can be a challenge to monitor what your child is exposed to.
Furthermore, many kids want their own YouTube channels. My daughter and her friends talk about wanting to make and upload their own videos. Although fun, this poses risks as well.
The good news is there is something you can do.
5 Steps To Use Youtube Safely:
1. Monitor your child’s viewing:
I know as parents we are all super busy, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to check in with your kids’ digital lives. A good starting place is with what they are watching on YouTube. Since a Google Account is required to watch and post to Youtube, it is a good idea to either have your child use your account or to create a family account that notifies you of activity.
Take time to talk with your child about their favorite YouTube channels. Sit down and have them show you some of their favorites so you can get an idea of what they’re watching .
Once you have a feel for a channel, subscribe to it and receive notifications of new videos. This is much safer than allowing your child to use the search feature to find things to watch.
Teach your child to be careful about clicking on “Up Next” videos as they aren’t always as appropriate.
You can also click on “History” at the bottom of the YouTube Home Page to see recently viewed videos and make sure they are suitable for your child.
2. Enable Safety Features:
YouTube has an option to turn on “Safety Mode” at the bottom of the screen. This helps block inappropriate information. It isn’t foolproof. It’s still a great idea to talk to your child about how easy it is to stumble across inappropriate videos and to share with you if they see stumble across something upsetting. Unfortunately there is a phenomenon called “YouTube Poop” where videos start off innocently enough but switch to inappropriate content mid-way. (My daughter and I experienced this first-hand years ago when her beloved Barney blew up mid-video!)
3. Protect Personal Information:
Kids are supposed to be at least 13 years old to have a YouTube account. However, many younger children create them anyway. If your child is dying to create his or her own YouTube Channel, make sure their personal information is protected. They should never post information that would allow someone to find them in real life. This means they shouldn’t say their full name, where they live, go to school, play sports, etc.
Also, talk about the danger of posting videos such as: Do You Think I’m Cute? (Pretty, Fat, etc.) It’s shocking how many tweens and teens post these videos on YouTube. As you can imagine, they are a breeding ground for hurt feelings.
4. Post Privately
When your child uploads a video, they can choose whether it is public (meaning anyone can watch it) or private (where they have to give the link to their viewers.) The second option is much safer since they control who views their posts. Again, this isn’t always fool proof since kids can share links or show them to people who haven’t been approved. This is the perfect opportunity to remind our kids that ANYTHING they post in the cyberworld has the potential to become public information. If they wouldn’t want it on a billboard in front of their school, they shouldn’t post it.
5. Disable Comments:
There are a lot of people who post mean comments after watching YouTube videos. This can cause a lot of hurt feelings. It is very easy to turn the comments off, eliminating communication from strangers or people with cruel things to say.
Just like with most technology, YouTube can be great fun but needs to be used responsibly. Talking to our kids about how to make safe choices and explaining why it’s necessary goes a long way with keeping them safe.
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Do your kids watch YouTube videos?
What challenges have they experienced?
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We can all learn from each other.