12 Dec YouTube Restricted Mode and Parental Controls
Parents Have a Love/Hate Relationship with YouTube
I speak to a group of parents almost once a week and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t asked about YouTube.
It’s one of the most difficult online experiences for parents to control. YouTube (owned by Google) does have Restricted Mode, which is their version of parental controls that is supposed to block most objectionable content, but it functions differently on different devices, which can cause frustration.
I’m going to start off with a bold statement. Most kids spend far too many hours watching videos, particularly on YouTube. The emerging science around what are being coined as Glow Kids is frightening (kids who grow up immersed in digital devices). The constant stimulation of screens is disrupting their attention template, making it difficult for kids to focus, imagine, self-reflect, and simply be still with their thoughts.
Not only that, but with over 300 hours of videos being uploaded every minute of every day, YouTube can’t hire enough people or create an algorithm smart enough to clear out the filth. Only hours after YouTube boasted about removing 8.3 million objectionable videos during the first quarter of 2018, Buzz Feed found thumbnails boasting bestiality.
In the rest of this post, we would like to practical, age-specific advice to parents about YouTube for each major childhood stage.
How to Use YouTube Parental Controls During Each Age and Stage of Life
YouTube isn’t 100% horrible. There are so many good, even amazing videos out there (just ask my kids how much they love the Dude Perfect guys!). But, to keep it under control, parents need to be observant, engaged, and informed during each age and state of a child’s life.
Related post: 3 Reasons to Keep the App Store Turned Off
YouTube Suggestions for Pre-School (6 and under)
Kids ages 6 and under should not be watching YouTube. Instead, if they need to watch something, it should be YouTube Kids (but again, keep it to a minimum). The “Kids” version of YouTube has had a few hiccups, but overall, they’ve continued to stay very clean. But, honestly, I just don’t understand the craze behind watching other people unwrap toys (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you will).
**Warning – “regular” YouTube (the non-Kid version) has become flush with videos posing as children’s videos that are instead R-rated. For example, people dressed as Disney characters doing inappropriate things, like the Peppa Pig example below.
If YouTube freaks you out altogether, there are other options.
- One of our favorite video apps for young kids is Jellies, which curates age-appropriate videos with real people (not an algorithm). This is a great alternative to YouTube Kids.
- Another one recently suggested to us by a teacher who uses YouTube often is ViewPure.com.
The great thing about both of these is that they scrub the ads out. In June 2018, Newsweek reported that YouTube showed horrific demonic movie scene advertisements in front of Minecraft and Disney Frozen videos. Not cool.
YouTube Suggestions for Elementary School (ages 6-10)
Only allow YouTube to be accessed on a public, non-portable internet-ready device, like a Chromebook or a laptop computer.
YouTube Kids still works well for this age group. This is also an age group that might start using a laptop to be online, which means they could “surf” to YouTube.com. If this is the case, then you might choose to blacklist www.youtube.com through a filtering service like Mobicip or Covenant Eyes.
If you don’t blacklist the site, then for a desktop or laptop, we recommend locking YouTube’s Restricted Mode. This will need to be done on every browser on the laptop computer, which you can see by watching this video:
**Important October 10, 2017 update – YouTube now offers a “new look” experience for desk/laptop computers. Unfortunately, this “new look” removes the ability to lock Restricted Mode. WHAT?! Fortunately, our friends at Parents Who Fight have shown us a workaround to keep Restricted Mode locked. You basically click on your profile, scroll to the bottom, and select “restore old YouTube” and then follow the directions in the video above. I swear no one at Google/YouTube has any kids at home.
For Chromebooks: if you’re enabled Google’s Family Link services, which is decent for kids under 13, on the Chromebook, then YouTube is locked and the child can only access YouTube Kids. Some parents find this to be too restrictive, but a parent can simply have their own login on the Chromebook, and anytime YouTube is desired, make sure Restricted Mode is enabled (following the instructions in the video above), and the child is supervised. Otherwise, no YouTube for elementary kids!
Related post: Google Family Link Explained
YouTube Suggestions for Middle School (ages 11-14)
Now things are starting to get interesting. Your tween or early teen is constantly craving video content. That means parents need to work extra hard to keep it clean.
For computers (desktops and laptops), follow the instructions in the video above.
For Chromebooks: read the note above under “Elementary School” but maybe you’ve determined that Family Link is too restrictive for your junior high child. If that’s the case, then use Mobicip to monitor the device and the apps on the Chromebook. Mobicip is not foolproof (kids can remove the Mobicip extension) but it’s much better than a wide-open Chromebook.
YouTube Controls For Android Devices: a combination of Mobicip to block inappropriate YouTube thunbnails (only $39.99/year) and Bark to monitor for inappropriate keyword searches ($9/month) is great. Lock in clean DNS to force Restricted Mode for YouTube everywhere, and you’re golden.
YouTube Controls For Apple Devices: Covenant Eyes can lock YouTube Restricted Mode no matter where they watch videos. So can Mobicip and a clean DNS solution like Clean Browsing. Clean DNS is probably the most under-utilized, free parental control out there. Read more about it!
Related post: How to lock in Restricted Mode on any device. For free.
Alternatively, you could choose to avoid all of those solutions above and just push them to watch YouTube.com through Safari with Content Restrictions set, and just review their browsing history. But, let’s be honest – you don’t have time for that! So, use something above.
YouTube Suggestions for High School (ages 14-18)
At this point, what you do totally depends on the type of kid you have. Read the above age suggestions where I’ve explained all of the different ways to use YouTube other than through the app.
If you decide your high school student is ready for the YouTube app, then you should also have plenty of “look ‘em in the eye” moments to talk through what junk they might be seeing. Remember, YouTube has pornography.
How to Use YouTube’s New “Take a Break” Time Limits
In May 2018, YouTube released a new feature that can be set to send you reminders for how long you’ve been binging on videos. Oh, the irony of depending on the app we built to remind us how to best use the app! Here is how to enable this helpful feature:
How to Protect Your Privacy
- Manage who can see your preferences.
- On the web: in the settings tab select “Privacy.” Check the box next to each category (Keep all my liked videos private, Keep all my saved playlists private, Keep all my subscriptions private) you want to remain private. Click “Save”
- On mobile: tap on your avatar, select “My channel,” tap on the gear icon, then toggle on or off the categories you want to remain private in the “Privacy” section.
- Manage ad personalization.
- On the web: go to myaccount.google.com. Click “Manage your data & personalization.” Scroll down to “Ad Personalization” and toggle it to off.
- On mobile: in the YouTube app, tap “Library” –> “History” –> three button menu —> “History controls” –> “Manage all activity” –> three button menu in the search bar –> “Other Google activity” –> scroll to “Google Ads Settings” –> “Manage Ads Settings” –> toggle off.
- Manage watch and search history
- On the web: on the YouTube homepage click “History.” Hover your mouse over any video you want to delete or click “Clear All Watch History.” If you want YouTube to stop remembering the videos watched, then click “Pause Watch History” on the right side of page. You can do the same for your search by clicking “Search history” and following the steps for watch history.
- On mobile: in the YouTube app, tap “Library” –> “History.” Tap the three button menu next to any video to delete it. To clear watch and search history, tap the three button menu in the upper-right and tap “History Controls.” There is an option to “Clear watch history,” “Clear search history,” “Pause watch history,” and “Pause search history.”
- Manage privacy of your videos
- Before uploading, check through your videos to be sure that private information is not made public. For example, showing your car’s license plate number, your house number, private information on pieces of mail, etc.
- On the web: go to your “Creator Studio uploads page.” In the “Visibility” column, hover your mouse in that column for the video you want to change. You can choose “Public,” “Private,” or “Unlisted.” A private video can not be seen unless you share the URL with someone. It won’t show up in searches, be posted to your channel, appear in your feed, be shared, or commented on. An unlisted video won’t show up in searches, post to your channel, or show up in your feed, but it can be shared and commented on.
- On mobile: tap on your avatar –> “My channel” –> tap three vertical dots next to the upload you want to change –> “Edit” –> “Privacy” –> select “Public,” “Private,” or “Unlisted.”
Bottom Line: YouTube Restricted Mode and Parental Controls Aren’t All that Great.
There’s just too many ways to unlock them. This is Google’s fault. It would be an amazing Christmas present for parents this year if Google fixed this (fingers crossed!). Until then, find a parental control solution that works (click on Mobicip for younger kids and Covenant Eyes for older kids in the images below), follow the steps above for your situation, and you CAN protect your kids from a lot of the junk.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. We constantly test products to make sure we only recommend solutions that we trust with our own families.
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, porn survivor. Current marketing manager for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I love guiding parents to teach their kids how to use technology well while protecting them from the bad stuff.