Keeping Young Children Safe on YouTube

Over the years, YouTube has skyrocketed in popularity. It now has over one billion users daily, and many of these are children. These days, parents are concerned about their children being exposed to YouTube and accidentally coming across a video that is scary. There are also disturbing videos that can seem child-friendly at first, often featuring faked versions of their favorite movie or book characters in frightening or adult situations.

Here are 5 tips to help keep your young child safe on YouTube.

  1. Use parental controls

It’s a good idea to use parental controls on all internet-connected devices in your home wherever possible. YouTube has a Restricted Mode that takes away comments on videos, and doesn’t show videos that feature potentially mature content such as drugs and alcohol, profanity, and violence. Many parents also turn to third-party tools such as Net Nanny, which can add an extra layer of security to your child’s YouTube experience.

  1. Download YouTube Kids

Rather than letting your child explore YouTube, you can try YouTube Kids, a free Android and iOS app that’s specifically created for children. Here, you can block videos or channels, turn search off or on, set a timer, and more. While this can be a better option than traditional YouTube, the algorithm may still be fooled by fake or spoof videos that can appear to be child-friendly content, so be sure to keep monitoring what your child is watching.

  1. Disable search on YouTube Kids

Disabling the search function on YouTube Kids can be an effective way to ensure your child doesn’t accidentally search for a video or subject they shouldn’t see. To turn off the search function on YouTube Kids:

  • Click the lock icon in the lower right of the screen.
  • Enter the passcode, which should be a series of numbers, written out as words. It’s a good idea to create a custom password that only the adults in your household know.
  • Tap “Settings,” go to your child's profile, and turn search off.
  1. Watch YouTube with your child

While it’s tempting and effective to hand your mobile device to a toddler or preschooler in need of distraction, your own attention can go a long way in avoiding accidental exposure to disturbing content. Ask your child to show you their favorite videos or YouTube channels, and watch a few videos to make sure that there is nothing suspect about the content. You can also take this time to show your child what sorts of things to look out for on YouTube, and ask them if they have ever seen anything they didn’t understand or made them feel uncomfortable.

  1. Try another video app or website

There are many sources of child-friendly entertainment on the internet, including Nick Jr, PBS Kids, and more. For child-friendly videos on your mobile devices, visit Lifewire for a list of nine popular video apps for kids. These apps feature many popular videos from sources such as Cartoon Network, Reading Rainbow, and Disney.

What to do if your child sees a disturbing YouTube video

If your child does accidentally see a YouTube video that scares them, remain calm. Ask them to tell you what they saw and how they felt. It may just be a case of a child misunderstanding something innocent, or it could be something more serious. In any case, you should reassure your child if they are frightened. Without scolding your child, explain that this is why it’s very important for them to only watch videos you have approved of already, and encourage them to ask you questions about the world around them before turning to YouTube.