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How to Set Up YouTube Parental Controls

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

YouTube

It’s hard to watch just one video on YouTube. Autoplay means that when one video ends, another begins. And then another. And another. and another. It’s true for you and it’s true for kids. And no matter how okay you are with the great kid-friendly videos you can find on YouTube, you’re not able to watch every video that pops up after or those that your kid stumbles on accidentally. That’s a problem because there’s some pretty aweful stuff on the site, from videos of scantily-clad preteens that attract pedophiles to videos that promote self-harm.

Considering how much YouTube content is unfit for young eyes but easily accessible with a simple search, there’s no telling what weird horrors your kid could encounter. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are ways to lock it (and your browser) down and restrict what your kids can watch. Here’s how to set YouTube parental controls, as well as a few other tips for blocking mature content from your kids.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online

Use YouTube’s ‘Restricted’ Mode

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.” Of course, it’s not foolproof and questionable content can still get through, but it’s the best line of defense. And the parental control mode is easy to turn on if you have a Google account. The only thing to remember is that it’s browser-level protection and must be turned on for each browser/computer your kids use.

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Here’s how to do it:

  1. Access YouTube.com and sign into 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.”
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You’re done, at least for this browser. 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 Restricted Mode is enabled on both the device’s browser and respective YouTube app. For mobile browsers, follow the procedures outlined above. For YouTube apps, the premise is the same:

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.

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.

Again, sign out if you have kids with above-average intellect.

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 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

Locking down YouTube 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 usually connect to your wifi network and create a forcefield around the joint, blocking specific sites, keywords, and content. Here are parental control devices to check out.