With the recent round of stories about suicide challenges and other equally unsavory content popping up in the middle of seemingly innocent kids YouTube videos, it's no wonder that parents everywhere are wondering how to keep their little ones safe online.
Many parents are using YouTube Kids, which they assume is safer to hand the iPad over with, but as we've seen by now with scary things popping up in the middle of "Peppa Pig" videos or Anna from "Frozen" violently killing other Disney princesses, it's still not safe enough. So if you're not choosing to chuck all devices out your window (which honestly doesn't sound too bad anymore), there are some things you can do to protect your kids.
First things first: you need to disable search on the app ASAP. Here's how:
1. Click the lock icon on the bottom right of the screen.
2. Enter your passcode/answer the math equation
3. Hit "Settings" and click on your child's profile (which, by the way, you should set up if you haven't yet)
4. Toggle "Allow Searching" to the off setting
Make sure to do this with each child's profile and on every device. Just because you did it for YouTube Kids on your phone doesn't mean it'll reflect on the iPad or the Smart TV.
Now let's take it one step further. Just because you disabled searching doesn't mean a recommended video won't pop up after your kid finishes their show that may contain inappropriate content. That's because it's bots going through and determining which content is kid-friendly and not, and bot are, well, just bots.
So make sure your kids only see playlists and videos curated by actual humans — not bots —by turning on the option that says "Approved Content Only." Directly under this option parents can also select age-appropriate content for their kids by choosing "Younger" or "Older" audience — or better yet, select the option that says your kids can only watch content that you personally approve.
One final step parents can take to safeguard their child's viewing is to select "Pause watch history" at the bottom of the Settings page which keeps the app from recommending new videos to kids.
If your child is mainly using regular YouTube, there are things you can do there too.
The first step is to turn on Restricted Mode on. According to YouTube, Restricted Mode “hides videos that may contain inappropriate content flagged by users and other signals.” Here's how you do it:
1. If you're on your phone, open the YouTube app and tap your picture profile icon in the top right corner.
2. Go to "Settings"
3. Hit the slider next to "Restricted Mode" so it's turned on (it'll look blue) and voila! it's on.
And, as always, be vigilant. Even content deemed safe for YouTube Kids has clearly been shown to not meet those standards, so when in doubt, pre-screen whatever they're going to watch first, or find a non-screen alternative (we know, easier said than done).
Most importantly, if you haven't yet had a conversation with your child about internet safety, now's the time do it — before they've accidentally viewed something traumatic.