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How to Set Up YouTube Parental Controls

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

If your kids love YouTube—and whose kids don’t?—it’s important to establish a kid-safe environment for them to browse and watch videos in. YouTube parental controls built into the site are an essential tool for modern parents, as knowing how to put parental controls on YouTube can save you a lot of headaches down the road.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online

Our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to set up YouTube restrictions and provide a few other tips for blocking mature content from coming across their screens. And while they aren’t perfect, they do put a kid-safe YouTube within reach.

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 foolproof, and some questionable content can still get through, but it’s probably still your first line of defense. It’s also easy to turn on if you have a YouTube account, but you do need to remember that, because it’s protection 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, a clever kid will quickly figure out how to undo all your hard work and turn Restricted Mode off. Just saying.

Update YouTube Permissions on Phones and Tablets

Since you’re also likely to hand over a 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 ‘Restricted Mode’ Filtering.
  4. Turn ‘Restricted Mode’ on.

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.

Again, 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. You can also adjust the age settings within the app to let older kids see stuff you might not want a younger kid to encounter just yet.

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 bottom right corner.
  3. Select ‘Search Settings.’
  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 wifi, blocking specific sites, keywords, and content. Here are some parental control devices to check out.