Is YouTube Kids Really Safe?

Is YouTube Kids Really Safe?

YouTube was officially launched on February 14, 2005, and the debut video was posted two months later, on April 23. In almost two decades, the platform has become one of the most popular websites. YouTube currently has over 2.5 billion users who watch roughly 5 billion videos daily.

The diverse range of video content types, such as entertainment, music, sports, news, and vlogs, makes YouTube attract everyone from children to adults. Apart from this, the platform is free to use and accessible across every device, including smartphones, tablets, computers, laptops, and even smart TVs.

YouTube is a dynamic resource for education, creativity, and entertainment for kids. However, access to the stream of expansive videos does come with certain risks. YouTube’s safety practices have progressed over the years. But with 3.7 million videos uploaded daily, many may be unsuitable for kids.

Yes, parents can report and flag the content, and the videos are removed afterwards. However, it is a laborious activity, and with a busy routine, parents cannot be present every time the child logs on to YouTube. With growing concerns of parents that their children can view age-restricted or disturbing content, YouTube introduced an alternate platform focused on kids.

What is YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids is a version of the video platform designed specifically for children from 4 to 12 years old. It was launched in 2015 so kids under 12 could easily browse and view videos online. Apart from filtering out indecent videos and adult content, the app allows parents to control further the content their children can access.

You can customize the experience according to specific age ranges. This lets you approve or block content depending on whether it suits your kids. The age ranges are defined as:

  • Preschool ( 4 years old and under)
  • Younger (5 to 8 years old)
  • Older ( 9 to 12 years old)

The age-based setting limits children from accessing specific videos according to their age.

However, this feature is not perfect and needs to be developed further. Except for this feature, a timer setting lets you limit how long your kids watch videos.

YouTube Kids can be accessed by downloading a dedicated app. The app is free to download without a subscription, but it will show paid ads. Only with a YouTube Premium subscription can you ensure that YouTube Kids runs without ads. A web version does exist, but it includes a rather lengthy setup.

Analyzing the Safety of YouTube Kids

Generally, YouTube Kids is advertised as the safer option for children, but most videos are sourced from the main YouTube platform.

The algorithms filter out inappropriate content for kids. However, the way they work is complicated and does not always work.

Furthermore, content management heavily relies on viewers flagging content, which is reviewed and removed only if it violates the terms of service.

Youtube Kids Algorithm

The content reviews and algorithms ensure that the content creators meet YouTube’s standards, but there is no mechanism to approve the content before it is uploaded. This opens a door through which videos with nudity or disturbing content make their way to YouTube Kids.

There have been several instances where adult content has been seen and reported on YouTube. In 2017, the New York Times published a report stating that many children’s cartoons have offensive and violent content. Parents can report and block age-restricted content, but that only happens after the children are exposed to those videos.

Authentication Mechanisms

YouTube also lacks a mechanism to authenticate content for kids. Content creators can upload a video and mark it as ‘YouTube Kids content’; they only have to turn off the comment section and limit certain ads.

Many parents think that having YouTube Kids will lessen their worries. But apart from the mature videos that may slip past the kid-friendly filters, you must keep the child’s screen time in check. Experts state that inattentiveness, stress, and sensory overload are increasing in children who watch YouTube videos for hours.

Long Term Affects

Children have short attention spans, but the colorful characters, flashy graphics, and rhythmic music give them a thrill of instant gratification. This releases a steady amount of dopamine, which plays a part in controlling concentration, learning, mood, and sleep. But also promotes reinforcement where kids desire to do something over and over.

Watching cartoons or other content becomes a regular habit to get rid of boredom. However, this stops the kids from looking for other ways to spend their time, such as indoor or outdoor physical activity.

How to Monitor Your Child’s Access and Activity on YouTube

The YouTube Kids algorithm actively filters mature content, but removing all the videos is challenging, given that millions of videos are uploaded daily. Even with the app’s parental control settings and security features, children are exposed to inappropriate content.

Right now, there is no certain way to ensure that the content children watch is 100% safe and suitable for them. Here are the ways to monitor your child’s activity on YouTube

Disable Search Feature

You can select “approve content” on the app, disabling the kids from searching for specific content. This ensures that children watch videos you have approved and from the content creators you know. You can enable this feature by editing the child’s profile settings section in the app to ‘Approved Content Only.’.   

Set Screen Time Limits

You can use parental settings to set a timer whenever the child opens YouTube Kids. There is no limit on the minimum time, but the maximum time is 1 hour. Once you set a time of 30 minutes, a notification will appear on the screen showing the child about the remaining time. When the 30 minutes are up, the app will close itself.

View Watch History

One of the best ways to monitor kids is by viewing their search history on the app. Once YouTube Kids is installed, the app will not only record every video the child sees but also track the search queries.

Co-watch YouTube with the kids

You can make the child watch the videos in the common area and sit beside your kids. This approach will not only let you know the content they like but also allow you to ask them questions and even add funny comments to cheer them up.

Install a Monitoring App

With a vast number of videos available on YouTube on almost every topic, your child can view inappropriate videos either intentionally or through search options. You can adjust the parental control settings, but tech-savvy kids can easily evade them. A monitoring app is the ideal solution to keep tabs on kids at all times.

XNSPY is one such parental monitoring app that provides dedicated YouTube monitoring along with other versatile features.

The app allows you to monitor your child’s YouTube activity by its ‘screen recording’ feature. It records not only the type of video the child searches and views but also their comments, shares, and likes. You even get insights on the accounts and feeds they have subscribed to, as well as any downloads and uploads they make.

The screen time feature of XNSPY lets you check the total time your child spends on YouTube.

If they are spending more time than necessary, you can restrict their app usage and even block their access to the app altogether.

Final Thoughts

The online space, like the physical world, is challenging for children to navigate. They need guidance and support to make the journey rewarding and pleasant. Almost 720,000 hours of videos are uploaded daily on YouTube. This provides ample entertainment and learning for the kids, but there is every chance they may view content unsuitable for their age.

YouTube Kids is a dedicated app that allows kids to learn and have fun with a safety blanket. However, research and practical examples suggest that even with parental controls and safety features, kids can still view adult and disturbing content.

The best approach is to carefully select and adjust the safety features of YouTube Kids and review them regularly. You can even install a monitoring app on the child’s phone to track their YouTube activity.