YouTube Finally Turns off Autoplay for Kids. Here’s the Catch

Autoplay has been turned off, but only in specific cases. Here's what parents need to know to take advantge of the feature.

A kid sits on his tablet watching YouTube with headphones on

New safety measures for kids are finally coming to YouTube. These changes will make YouTube viewing a little less annoying for parents, and a little bit safer. But there’s a catch — the new features are aimed squarely at users under 18 and accounts on YouTube Kids. The most important feature turned off? Autoplay. Here’s what to know.

Autoplay is when YouTube videos continuously keep playing (like those episodes of your kid’s favorite YouTube TV show). Under new rules, autoplay will be turned off by default for kids’ accounts and YouTube Kids.

While this is a good step forward and one that is way too late, the problem for many parents is that the new rule is a very limited feature.

After all, autoplay will only automatically be turned off for people logged into YouTube Kids accounts, or for people who are logged into their YouTube accounts and are under 18. Not the general public, or, say, parents who pass their kids their phones.

Otherwise, autoplay will be on, unless a user goes in and turns it off themselves in their account settings. Any parent can tell you how often they hand their phone or a tablet to their kids for them to watch YouTube; the likelihood of a parent being signed into a child’s YouTube account on their phone or the like is slim. Parents might as well just turn off autoplay on their own devices.

The removal of these “addictive features” on the app does still come at great relief from parents and advocacy groups lobbying for change. Justin Ruben, co-Director of ParentsTogether, a family advocacy non-profit, has been pushing YouTube to change the autoplay feature and agrees these steps are not yet enough.

“Autoplay is a manipulative tool used by YouTube to addict users and keeps them on the platform, and kids are especially vulnerable to this,” Ruben said in a press release. “Turning off autoplay is an important step in the fight to keep kids safe on the Internet, and YouTube should extend it to all children’s videos, even if they’re watched on a parent’s account on YouTube.” Ruben is right.

According to AdWeek, YouTube announced safety measures for users under 18 coming to YouTube and YouTube Kids. “In the coming weeks, the default upload setting for YouTube users between the ages of 13 and 17 will gradually be adjusted to private uploads, meaning that content uploaded can only be seen by those users and whoever they choose,” the publication reports.

Users in the age groups will still be able to turn their videos open to the public by changing default visibility settings, should they choose. As an added level of protection, YouTube will send reminders of the privacy settings that are set on the account.

The upcoming changes will also include reminders for kids to take a break from the app and nudges that it might be time for bed, which will be the default for users 13 through 17.

Additional changes are coming, the platform says, including more controls for parents on the app. The company is also cracking down on “overly commercial content, such as videos that focus on product packaging or directly encourage viewers to spend money.”