How to Use YouTube's Parental Controls

In case your child's search for funny cat videos takes a wrong turn

Kids looking at a computer screen
Photo: FatCamera / Getty Images

YouTube, the world's favorite video sharing site, can become a parent's nightmare, especially if you have curious kids. As a parent, you have the responsibility to play the role of Internet traffic cop; unfortunately, the Internet is a 50 million lane highway. There's no V-chip for YouTube like there is for the Television, but there are a couple of things you can do to try and keep your kids a little safer.

Please note that there are no guarantees that these safeguards will keep even half of the video trash out there from reaching your children's eyes, but something is at least better than nothing.

Here are some parental controls you can set for YouTube:

Enable YouTube Restricted Mode in Your Web Browser

Restricted Mode is part of YouTube's current parental control offering. Restricted Mode attempts to filter YouTube search results so that the bad stuff is hopefully weeded out. It also prevents your child from viewing material that has been flagged as inappropriate by the YouTube community or has been marked for mature audiences only by the content's creator. Restricted Mode is mainly meant to limit the content of an explicit nature. YouTube makes no guarantees that it will be 100% effective at screening out the bad stuff, but at least it's a start.

To enable YouTube Restricted Mode, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google or Youtube account.
  2. Go to the YouTube.com site in your web browser, if you're not already in YouTube.
  3. Click the Account icon in the upper right corner of the YouTube homepage.
  4. Select Restricted Mode.
  5. Make sure Restricted Mode is toggled On.
  6. The page you were on will reload and YouTube will be restricted from delivering inappropriate content.

    IMPORTANT: In order to prevent your child from just turning safety mode off, you must log out of your Google / YouTube account by clicking your username link in the top right-hand corner of the browser window. This will effectively lock the setting in for the browser you are using, preventing your child from disabling Safety Mode. You will need to repeat this process for all other web browsers that are on your computer (i.e. Firefox, Safari, etc).

    Enable YouTube Safety Mode on Your Mobile Device

    Restricted Mode may also be available on your mobile device's YouTube app. Check the settings area of the mobile app to see if it is an option. The process for locking the feature should be similar to the process above.

    Will YouTube Restricted Mode keep your kids safe from all of the junk that's on YouTube? Probably not, but it is better than doing nothing at all, and it has been my experience that it did manage to weed out some content that would not have been safe for my kids to view.

    You can find out more about YouTube's Safety Mode from the YouTube Safety Mode Support Page.

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