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Life Hacks: 

YouTube safety: How to protect your child online

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For the previous generation of parents, keeping kids away from inappropriate content was simple. The TV watershed did most of the hard work, violent or sweary VHS tapes were kept on a high shelf and dial-up internet was so slow that buffering bad videos was barely worth the bother.

Needless to say, the challenge is much tougher for today’s kids who have grown up with Wi-Fi and 4G connections. YouTube is hardly one of the web’s most dangerous destinations, but with over a billion active users it is one of the most popular – particularly amongst kids. For parents, then, knowing the dangers is vital.

While you’re not necessarily expected to know your PewDiePie from your HolaSoyGerman (yes, those are real things), brushing up on YouTube safety is never a bad idea. Here are five tips to get you started.

5 YouTube safety tips for parents:

1. Enable YouTube Restricted Mode

Before you go wading into your child’s viewing history, it’s worth setting up some basic restrictions to keep the bad stuff out in the first place. Your first port of call should be YouTube’s own Restricted Mode, an opt-in YouTube safety feature that will screen out the bulk of the site’s inappropriate videos.

It’s not 100% accurate by any means, but it’s a good start – just follow the instructions on YouTube’s help page to enable it on your various devices.

2. Parent-approved playlists

Discovery is at the heart of YouTube’s appeal, but there’s no reason you can’t offer some guidance too. Particularly for very young audiences, creating some playlists and loading them with videos you trust – educational or otherwise – can help to guide their choices in a good direction.

If you’d rather not sift through videos yourself, YouTube also has a dedicated kids app which limits the site to approved, child-friendly content. That’s available for iOS and Android.

3. Don’t read the comments

YouTube videos are only part of the battle, though, and comments are often much worse than content. YouTube users are supposed to be thirteen before they can upload their own videos, but that’s still very young to be exposed to the internet’s cruelness. Thankfully, you can choose to disable comments as you upload each video – or at least approve them before they appear on your child’s page.

Of course, comments will still appear on videos that your child views, but there is a way to hide them too. Browser extensions like Hide YouTube Comments for Chrome will do the job for a while, or at least until they work out how to bypass them in discreet mode.

4. Block channels

When YouTube’s Restricted Mode fails, you can manually certain channels from appearing in YouTube’s homepage or search. Blocking a channel will also prevent a user from being able to comment on your child’s videos or contact them through private messages, so it’s an efficient way of dealing with online trolls.

To block a channel, just visit the page in question, click the flag icon on their About page and select ‘Block user’.

5. Monitor viewing

Eventually, kids will outgrow your playlists and find a way to access comments and blocked channels, so keeping tabs on their viewing history is advised. Even YouTube itself recommends checking in on your child’s channel – so think of it as sensible parenting, not spying.

Particularly for young children, a good way of doing this is to set-up a family Google account, so that all YouTube videos watched, uploaded or commented on by your kids will be trackable in the channel’s history. This account could also be used to create a shared family calendar and inbox, should you need them.

Image: Denys Prykhodov / Shutterstock.com

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