By Alice Williams
Even with new social apps popping up all the time YouTube is still all the rage among youngsters. But sadly, disturbing content on YouTube is also all the rage. And while YouTube Kids is better, it still should not be used with a hands-off approach to content consumption. Explicit and dangerous content fall through the cracks all the time despite YouTube’s efforts at screening.
Dangerous content like the momo challenge and other violent messaging that interrupts children’s shows to promote self-harm make it as important as ever to prevent dangerous and inappropriate content from popping up on your young one’s screen.
So what can you do as a parent? Talk to your kids and let them know they may see things that are inappropriate or things they don’t fully understand, that they should let you know when that happens. In addition, learn which types of content to block and how to customize parental control in the YouTube app. While there’s no blanket solution for the problem, there are lots of ways to protect your child from seeing non-kid-friendly content (at least on devices you control).
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- Use the parental control feature on YouTube Kids
First things first: watch videos only on YouTube Kids. Second order of business is to enable parent-approved content on YouTube Kids. YouTube Kids doesn’t block unwanted content perfectly, so it’s important to implement safeguards just in case.Parental control lets you hand select each video and channel that’s available to your child. If you only want them to have access to 3 or 4 channels, you decide what they can and can’t see.Once you enable parent-approved content, kids won’t be able to search any other videos.
- Watch videos on only official YouTube channels
Instead of typing the name of a video in the search bar and then selecting the first video you find, go straight to the source. Only watch content directly from official, child-friendly YouTube channels.For example, if your toddler’s begging you to put on Baby Shark, head straight to the Pinkfong! Kids’ Songs & Stories channel and watch the video from there. Avoid compilations, remixes, or music videos that don’t come from an account like PBS or Sesame Street.Also, make sure to disable the search function. That way, your kiddos have no chance of accidentally selecting a harmful video.
- Disable autoplay and make a playlist
YouTube automatically plays another video directly after you finish watching one. Although the algorithm tends to pull from similar or related videos, your child could still be blasted with non-kid-friendly content.To disable the autoplay feature, click on the toggle that says “Autoplay” in the upper right-hand corner of the page.Once disabled, you can create a playlist of videos you handpick. That way, if you need to occupy your child for an hour or two, you can feel at ease knowing they’ll watch only the movies you’ve selected.
The good news is, there’s plenty of wholesome YouTube content to choose from. And when you choose videos directly from a kid-friendly channel’s page (a.k.a. tip #2), you know any video available is pretty much safe territory.
- Have your kids watch TV in an open area of your home
These days, you can stream or search from any smart device, no child is immune to becoming hooked to the internet in an unhealthy way.Although it’s convenient to take YouTube videos with you on the go, it makes it harder for you to monitor everything they watch.One way to minimize this risk is to have your kids watch videos on the TV in your family room or open area. That way, even if you’re not watching with them, you’re still within earshot.
- Keep other caretakers in the loop
Your preventative tactics will go to waste if your child watches distressing videos outside your home. Talk with your babysitter, parents, and anyone else that watches over your child frequently. Explain the precautions you’ve taken so you can stay consistent in your efforts to protect your kids.
Talk to Them About Red Flags
Despite your best efforts to keep your child out of harm’s way, dangerous videos and images still weasel their way around the web. It’s important to talk with your child about internet safety, explaining the norms and what to do if they encounter something that is strange, scary, or makes them feel funny.
Teach them what’s inappropriate and warn them of explicit images or videos that could crop up on their screens. And if they do ever come across them, encourage them to tell you right away and remind your kids they will not get in trouble for telling you what they stumbled upon. As a parent, make sure to always report and block any harmful content you see.
If you want to be extra proactive (who wouldn’t?), you can always watch videos yourself before approving them for your child. Watching them in 2x and 3x speed can zoom you through videos so you can still spot any red flags without having to watch the whole thing from start to finish.
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