“Isn’t that your daughter?”
You stare at your friend’s text message with the accompanying YouTube link a little shellshocked.
That uncomfortable feeling of impending dread is washing over you as you click on the link. You almost forget to breathe as the video starts playing and you see your 10-year old parading around for all the world to see.
“Stunned” doesn’t even do it justice…
Obviously, your emotions may be tempered by the degree of what you’re observing in a situation like this. Is your child brandishing skimpy clothing and a bright selection of your personal makeup? Or are they showing off their brand new puppy?
In either case, though, if your child is pretty young, you may wonder how they even managed to upload a video to YouTube. That should actually be impossible since the minimum age for creating an account is 13.
But here you’re staring at the evidence that it is possible!
A whole new can of worms has just opened up. Not only do you have to worry about what your children may be exposed to when looking for videos to watch on YouTube. Now you even have to worry about what they may upload… and who may be watching those videos.
If that scenario sounds familiar, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the measure you’ve taken to making YouTube safe for your children.
Tips for Making YouTube Safer for Your Children
Some of these practices may already be part of your YouTube safety routine. If not, make implementing them your next priority family project.
Basic Safety Practices
Make it a family affair. It all starts with setting up a family YouTube channel by creating a new Gmail account with a shared inbox for all family members. While that will allow even those in your family who are under the age of 13 to watch and upload videos, it becomes a family affair.
Whatever videos anyone in the family watches will show up in the history. Not only does that allow you to keep an eye on which videos your children view, but you can also monitor what they may upload and, especially, what type of information they share.
More importantly, you can use the family account to teach your children how to use YouTube in a safe and positive way. Help them discover that it can be a great source of educational material, as well as good entertainment. And if they want to upload something, help them make the videos and let them see how to use YouTube responsibly.
Turn the safety mode on. Yes, YouTube has a safety mode that can help you block most of the unacceptable content it contains. Of course, that doesn’t release you from your continued responsibility of keeping an eye on matters.
To engage the safety mode, you’ll have to sign in to your account and go to the home page. At the bottom of that page, you can find the safety button. Select “on” and then lock the safety mode for your browser. Taking the time for this step will help give you some needed peace of mind.
Set up different playlists. In addition to using YouTube’s safety mode, you can also create some playlists with those videos you don’t mind your children watching. That’s especially a good idea for very young children.
However, a word of caution, make sure you watch the videos you select all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes a video starts off innocently enough but degrades into something utterly profane.
Add family-friendly channels. Additionally, you may also want to subscribe to different channels you approve. There are many child-friendly ones, such as Disney/Pixar, Sesame Street, Muppet Studio, Cartoon Network, Arthur, Baby Einstein, etc., just depending on your children’s ages.
Have a family discussion about sharing information on YouTube. Your children need to understand what dangers are involved with releasing certain information on the internet. Not only for their and the family’s safety but also for their own reputation’s sake.
Be very clear about what they can share and what shouldn’t go on YouTube. For example, help them to understand why it’s important to be aware what inadvertently may end up on a video taking at their home, such as the house address or the car license plate, etc. Plus, be sure your children know why they would have to ask everyone in the video if it’s ok to post it.
Enable specific safety settings. Two of the most important settings to keep in mind for uploading YouTube videos are to make the video private and to disengage the option to comment.
Keep in mind, even if the video is private, you can still invite family and friends to view it. So, grandma and grandpa will not miss out on your toddlers first singing performance. And by disengaging the comments (or perhaps blocking them until you can review them), you’re obviously warding off any unsavory replies.
Clearly, as concerned parents, you want to do the best for your children. Sometimes, that may mean completely prohibiting certain entertainment for your children. Other times, it means to make yourself familiar with the particular media and learn to make it as safe as possible for your children. You are the one who makes those decisions.
If you would like to know more about how to be an informed and thoughtful parent, please feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to offer my expertise and services.