Social Media

How To Set Up YouTube Controls

Because you can't look over their shoulder all the time.

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A collage of a kid high-fiving a hand coming out of a computer.
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Kids love streaming videos from their favorite social media personalities, but any watchful parent should consider enabling YouTube parental controls. The reason is simple: While there is so, so much good out there, a few taps of your child’s finger can land him or her into some deep, dark corners of the internet wasteland. Thankfully, there’s hope, and it doesn’t involve you lurking just out of frame. When enabled, the platform’s safeguards filter much of the questionable content out, and thanks to its user interface, the steps on how to put parental controls on YouTube is as easy as a swipe or two in the right menus. Ditto goes for how to block content on YouTube. So follow our lead and then relax, knowing that a kid-safe YouTube is on the other side of a few minutes’ work.

We’ll be the firs to admit YouTube’s filters aren’t foolproof. But they hold up remarkably well in weeding out most threats that could flit by when you’re engaged in other activities. The result can save you a lot of headaches (and explanations) down the road.

Use YouTube’s ‘Restricted’ Mode on Browsers

YouTube’s Restricted Mode is an optional parental control that “uses signals such as video title, description, metadata, Community Guidelines reviews, and age-restrictions to identify and filter out potentially mature content.” It’s not as foolproof as some might hope, and questionable content can still get through from time to time, but it’s a surprisingly good first line of defense. (Also, it’s free.) It’s easy to turn on if you have a YouTube account, but remember that, because its protection is at the browser level, you have to turn it on for every device your kids use.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Access YouTube.com and sign in to your YouTube/Google account.
  2. Click the “Settings” button in the left sidebar.
  3. Click the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page that reads: “Restricted Mode: Off.”
  4. Select “On” to lock Restricted Mode on this browser.
  5. Click “Save.”

Rinse and repeat with other browsers and other computers. Also, don’t forget to log out of your YouTube and Google account when you finish. Otherwise, your precocious child may discover how to undo all your hard work and turn Restricted Mode off.

Update YouTube Permissions on Phones and Tablets

Since you’re just as likely to hand over your own tablet or phone, make sure YouTube Parental Control is also enabled on both the device’s browser and the respective YouTube app. For mobile browsers, follow the procedures outlined above. For the dedicated YouTube apps, the premise is the same:

iOS

  1. Click on your account button in the top right corner.
  2. Tap “Settings.”
  3. Click “General.”
  4. Toggle “Restricted Mode” Filtering to active.

Android

  1. Log into your YouTube/Google account.
  2. Click on the “three-dot” icon for “Settings.”
  3. Select “Settings > General.”
  4. Turn “Restricted Mode” on.

Following our previous advice, ensure you sign out when you’re done.

Use the YouTube Kids App

For stricter controls on smart devices, try the YouTube Kids app for iOS and Android phones and tablets. It’s a completely different, kid-friendly interface that gives parents the opportunity to view channels and videos that have been reviewed by real people (not the imperfect algorithm that restricted mode uses) to make sure they’re safe for kids. We especially like this feature, as it taps into a crowdsourced means of viewership rather than a robot. You can also adjust the age settings within the app to allow older kids to view content they might be ready for but a younger child may not.

Turn on Google SafeSearch

Restricting content with the YouTube parental controls is fine and all, but let this be a friendly reminder that kids access mature material all over the internet. Your first priority should be turning on the “Safe Search” filter in any browser your child uses.

  1. Go to Google.com.
  2. Click “Settings” in the top right corner.
  3. Toggle “Explicit results filter” on.
  4. Check “Turn on SafeSearch” and click “Lock SafeSearch.”

Add Some Extra Protection

For added peace of mind ⏤ or if you’d rather not deal with having to change the settings on every laptop, tablet, or phone ⏤ you can also digital-proof your house by installing a “net nanny” router or device. Unlike software that needs to be installed on every computer, these devices work at the network level on any device that connects to your Wi-Fi, blocking specific sites, keywords, and content. While one of our favorites remains the Gryphon system, which even extends protections outside of the home, here are some other parental control devices to check out.

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