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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 streaming videos, it’s important to establish a kid-safe environment for them by enabling YouTube parental controls. Once installed and activated, you can relax knowing that the company’s stringent content guidelines are doing the heavy lifting in preventing your child from seeing something he or she shouldn’t. However, if you’re not as well-versed in the deep-downs of the platform, figuring out how to engage parental controls on YouTube can feel like navigating an early Healthcare.gov iteration. Well, we’ve got you. The Fatherly Guide to YouTube Parental Controls will walk you step by step through the maze of toggles and switches while providing a few other tips for blocking mature content from coming across children’s screens. (For those looking to expand their reach, we’ve also create a guide to Netflix parental controls.) While the company’s filters aren’t perfect, they do a damn good job of fencing in a kid-safe YouTube experience, which can save you a lot of headaches (and explanations) down the road.

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online

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 “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.

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 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. 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.