By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Do you let your kids use YouTube? If you’re like most parents, you probably do—after all, nothing keeps a child content like an iPad and some engaging kiddie videos—but how can you make sure your child is protected and watching content that’s age appropriate?
Here’s what you need to know to keep your little ones safe on YouTube.
Several child advocacy, privacy, and consumer groups found that YouTube is raking in “substantial profits” from collecting the personal data from your children. In fact, 23 individual groups have filed a complaint against YouTube through the FTC.
How popular is YouTube amongst children? About 96% of children from age 6 to 12 know about YouTube, and of those children, 83% of them use it daily. So, odds are that your child uses it, too, and it’s your job as a parent to find a middle ground that allows them to enjoy YouTube while protecting them at the same time.
Turn on “Safety Mode”
You might not realize it, but YouTube has a “Safety Mode,” which can help block (most, but not all) questionable content. To find it, scroll all the way to the bottom of the homepage. When signed in, click on “Safety,” and then choose “Lock safety mode on this browser.” This will also turn off all YouTube comments.
Create a playlist
Since Safety Mode doesn’t block everything, you might consider creating a playlist. This way, you can only give your children access to a playlist that you specially designed for them. If you add videos to a playlist, make sure you are watching the videos in their entirety. Sometimes, vulgar or profane information appears later in a video that might start off perfectly innocent. Alternatively, you can subscribe to a known family-friendly channel, such as Disney/Pixar.
Monitor your kids
It’s also important that you monitor what your kids are watching on YouTube. One easy way to do this is to use a program like McAfee Safe Eyes or Family Premier by Norton. These programs notify you when your kids watch something they shouldn’t.
Beyond just alerts, also take the time to look over their shoulder and see what they’re watching once in a while. Look at their account history: are they watching appropriate content? Have they been commenting on other videos? While your child may feel like you’re being overly intrusive, at the end of the day, you can only protect them if you fully understand what they’re doing online.
Engage with your kids
The aim here is not to merely spy on your children. More to the point, it’s about engaging with them—talking to them, asking them questions, being interested and involved. Ask them who their favorite YouTubers are, and watch a video or two with them each week. By retaining an open and honest dialogue, your child will be more likely to talk to you if he/she comes across any inappropriate activity.
Educate your kids
It’s one thing to keep tabs on what your kids watch and even talking to them about their favorite shows, but you also need to educate them on appropriate online behavior. Make sure they know not to talk to strangers in the comments section (Safety Mode will turn off comments and prevent this) as well as post any personal information about themselves, their friends, where they live, where they go to school, and so on. You should treat online safety with the same priority as you would teaching them about never getting in a car with a stranger.
Use the YouTube Kids app
YouTube Kids is designed to be an app that has all adult or inappropriate content already removed. There are still videos that slip through the net, and YouTube is investing in cleaning this up, but for younger kids, they’ll get all the videos they love without the same risk of happening across anything sketchy. YouTube Kids is best suited for younger kids. If your child is older, they may feel like YouTube Kids is too restrictive.
Consider switching to alternative sites
While YouTube is the largest of its kind, it’s not the only site out there with videos. If you’re keen to block YouTube altogether, you can do that with a web filter, and then point your kids in the direction of other sites.
However, the same rules apply no matter where your kids get their video content. At the end of the day, any kid that’s online is at risk unless you take the proper precautions. There is a lot of fantastic educational content online, and YouTube is no different. If you’ve taken the time to filter out the bad stuff and educate them on what’s appropriate, your child can still have a positive experience on YouTube.
Secure their devices
Kids aren’t thinking about security while online. When pop-ups appear, and random links show up begging to be clicked, guess what? They’re likely to click them. When this happens, often those spammy links install viruses and other harmful malware and spyware. So make sure you have an antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, and a firewall turned on; be sure they’re all updated and running the latest security software.
And when on free, unprotected WiFi—like at an airport, hotel, school, or coffee shop, download and use Hotspot Shield to encrypt your connection, protect your data, and make your online activities invisible and shielded from prying eyes. Hotspot Shield is free and is designed for use on smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and laptops.