It’s not news that kids love to watch YouTube videos. Preschoolers to teenagers watch everything from modern and retro cartoons and video bloggers to pop stars and prankster videos. Parents should understand that videos on YouTube are mostly unregulated, with no quality-control in place. In addition, complicated algorithms target viewers with age-specific advertising.
This Tech Crunch article asserts “This is effectively — if not yet literally — media programming by SEO-optimized robots.”
The article asserts how, today, content is now often created purely to generate ad revenues, with search and recommendation algorithms that almost act like the “clickbait” ads you see on the internet. Kids are drawn to certain types of visuals, like YouTube’s toy unboxing videos and other visuals of toys kids might want.
Of course, beyond ads tied into pushing kids toward a type of toy, there are plenty of healthy and even educational content for kids on YouTube. Parents should be sure to review parental controls on their iPads and notebooks. Parents can even control how many hours in a day your kid can be connected to the Internet. Here’s a quick how-to video on setting up parental controls.
Also, here are a few tips pulled directly from Common Sense Media for monitoring your child’s YouTube use.
- Watch with your kid. Simply ask your kids what they’re watching and join them. In general, kids are tuning into certain channels or following specific YouTube personalities because they’re entertained by them. Many kids naturally want to share the videos they like.
- Watch by yourself. If kids don’t want to share, get the name of the channel they’re watching and watch it later. Watch a few videos by the same creator to get a feel for the content.
- Be a sleuth. If you’re concerned about the content your kid is watching on YouTube — and you’ve tried talking to her — there are ways of tracking her viewing habits. If she has a YouTube account (which only requires a Gmail address), her YouTube page will display her recently watched videos, recommended videos based on her watch history, and suggestions for channels similar to the ones she’s watched. Even if your kid deletes her “watch history,” the recommendations all will be related to stuff she’s watched.
- Encourage your kids to subscribe to their favorite channels rather than hunting around on YouTube for the latest ones from a specific creator. Subscribers are notified when a new video is uploaded, plus all their channels are displayed in ‘My Subscriptions,’ making it easier, and faster, to go directly to the stuff they like. Consider choosing subscriptions together, and make an event out of watching the newest uploads with your kids.
- Investigate the creator. The name of each video’s creator appears beneath the video window and usually has a bit of information about the person behind the video and/or the channel itself. Google the creator’s name to find out whether he or she has a Wikipedia page or another Web presence. You might find out that your kid’s favorite YouTube personality has an impressive reach.
- Look at the suggestions. The suggested videos listed on the right-hand side of the page are related in some way to the main video. Evaluate them to see if they seem age-appropriate, and that will provide an indication of the appropriateness of the main video.
- Consider the ads. If an ad plays before the video, that’s actually a good sign. To qualify for advertising and earn money (the goal of most YouTube channels), a creator must apply to be a YouTube partner by sending in some sample videos. YouTube rejects videos that don’t meet their terms of service and community guidelines — vulgar or stolen content, in other words. Yes, that means your kid sees more ads, but the trade-off seems worth it (and you can always mute the commercials).
- Read the comments. YouTube comments are notorious for being negative, but it’s worth reading them to get a sense of the channels’ demographic and the tone of the discussion. Channel creators can moderate their comments to reduce the amount of negativity. Well-groomed comments are a good sign.
- Watch the trailer. Many creators make highlight reels and trailers — basically video ads for the channels themselves (which usually appear first on the channel page). Definitely watch them if they’re available to get an overview of the host and the content.
- Turn on safety mode. Be aware that YouTube is technically only for teens 13 and up, and what the site considers age-appropriate may not match your values. But YouTube offers a filter called Safety Mode that limits the iffy stuff. Simply scroll down to the bottom of any YouTube page. See where it says “Safety”? Click it on. (It will remain on for logged-in users on the same browser.)