YouTube can be a source of entertainment and fun for kids, as long as you take a few safety precautions.
When you put on a kid-friendly TV channel, like PBS Kids or Disney, you can be fairly certain of what type of content your kid will watch. But due to lots of factors—like autoplay, recommended videos, kid’s content filters, and comments—it’s easier for kids to accidentally see inappropriate content on YouTube if they’re not being monitored.
Keeping kids safe on YouTube is a hands-on task for parents. To keep your kid’s YouTube viewing experience age-appropriate, do some research about the platform and be actively involved in what your kids are watching on YouTube.
Tips to Help You Keep Kids Safe on YouTube
Follow these tips to help keep kids safe on YouTube.
1. Use YouTube Kids (or create a separate YouTube account for kids)
YouTube offers a kid-friendly version of the platform called YouTube Kids that has several safety filters designed to keep kids from seeing inappropriate content. For instance, you can see what your child has watched and set a timer to lock the app when your kid’s screen time is up. If you sign into YouTube Kids with your account, you get more controls and can block videos or channels you don’t want your kids watching.
If it’s not possible to use YouTube Kids, create another YouTube account for little kids, separate from the account you, other adults, and older kids use. Why? Because the types of videos you watch will likely show up in the recommended videos and homepage when your kid is watching YouTube. That could mean that inappropriate content, whether swearing or violent news stories, has a higher chance of being displayed on your kid’s screen. To avoid this, create a separate YouTube account and only use it for your younger kid’s YouTube time.
2. Turn off autoplay
Autoplay is a feature that automatically starts playing the next YouTube video once the current one is done. Consider turning the feature off so that you have more control over which videos your kid watches. If autoplay is off, you (or your kid) will have to manually select which video to watch next. This can help prevent your child from stumbling across a video that isn’t age-appropriate for them.
3. Turn on restricted mode
Restricted mode (formerly called safe mode) is a YouTube setting that lets you screen out mature content that you may not want your kids to see. It also hides comments from view, which helps prevent your kid from stumbling across inappropriate language or content in comments on an otherwise appropriate video. YouTube explains how to enable restricted mode here.
4. Watch YouTube together
If you’re concerned about what your older kid is watching on YouTube, ask to watch with them. Get to know the channels and YouTubers they like, and talk about the content. Help your child understand that they don’t have to keep their viewing habits a secret from you—and let them know that if they see something that confuses or upsets them, they can always talk to you about it.
It’s especially important to supervise what younger kids are watching on YouTube and to choose which videos they watch. Even with YouTube Kids, it’s a good idea to be close enough to see and hear what your kid is watching to ensure it’s age-appropriate.
5. Review watch history
If you’re not always able to be in the room with your kids while they’re watching videos, you can review what they’ve watched in the watch history section of YouTube. You can see the history by going to youtube.com/feed/history while logged into the YouTube account, or you can view recently viewed videos in the YouTube app’s Library tab.
6. Limit YouTube time
Help your child form good technology habits by setting time limits for YouTube, as well as for TV and other screen time activities. Help kids understand how to use technology and apps deliberately rather than as mindless entertainment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages two to five have only an hour of supervised screen time each day.
Read more about forming good technology habits here.
If your kid is watching YouTube on an iPhone or iPad, you can set screen time limits for the app that will require a passcode to unlock the app. You can also use parental controls on most phones and tablets to set time limits and set passwords to access the app.
7. Swap out YouTube for educational apps
Introduce your kid to other engaging, educational apps to give them an alternative to watching YouTube videos. Plenty of apps for kids are just as exciting as YouTube and give your kid hands-on learning experiences.
Ninja Math is a fun way to learn basic math skills, and Starfall is a great app that helps younger kids learn to read. Or look for YouTube alternatives, the PBS KIDS Video app, which lets you watch episodes of your kid’s favorite PBS KIDS shows, like Curious George, Sesame Street, Wild Kratts, and more.
Keeping Kids Safe While Watching YouTube
YouTube can be a convenient way to keep your kids entertained—as long as you monitor the content they’re watching. YouTube’s privacy and safety rules are constantly changing. Just this month, YouTube has rolled out new COPPA child content rules that will affect what types of videos are filtered for kids on the platform. Keep yourself educated on the latest safety tools on YouTube and YouTube Kids so you know what your kid is watching and how to keep their screen time age-appropriate.