A few months ago, there were several incidents where children were watching inappropriate things on YouTube. Sure, that might sound like an everyday occurrence, but I’m talking about really little kids. Small children who thought they were getting a video of their favorite superhero or cartoon character, only to be traumatized when the video showed said superhero getting brutally murdered. Yes – it’s cartoon murder, but for young kids, that doesn’t necessarily make a difference. When this happened, a lot of parents were up in arms because it was YouTube that was recognizing these videos as appropriate for children. You can’t blame the parents for thinking that the technology would only show appropriate content. But, at the same time, parents need to understand what their kids are watching.
All of that said – YouTube Kids has rolled out a new feature that lets parents handpick the videos and channels that their children have access to. The new parental controls are available worldwide on Android and will launch soon on iOS. To enable the feature, open YouTube’s settings, go to the child’s profile and choose “approved content only.” You can then start selecting videos or channels you want your kids to have access to by tapping the “+” button. Kids won’t be able to search for content if this mode is enabled.
In late November, the company introduced, including a tougher application of community guidelines and blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors. The rollout of the new whitelisting feature on Thursday lets parents have more direct control over what their kids see on the app. YouTube first in April. Alas, it’s September. Better late than never, I guess.
What I do like is that YouTube also launched a new experience for kids ages 8 to 12 that includes additional content like popular music and gaming videos. YouTube Kids defaults to the “Younger” version, which includes sing-alongs and age-appropriate educational videos, but parents can select the “Older” version when they’re setting up a new profile or updating an existing one. Parents can swap between these two features, as well as parent-approved content whenever they want. In fact, YouTube has started to roll out the new “Older” experience in the United States and will soon expand it worldwide.
I think that sometimes this feature gets used by parents to entertain their children – and that’s not a judgment at all. I absolutely understand how difficult it can be to look after a child while trying to run a household. I have the utmost respect for parents who seem to be able to do it all and make it look easy. That said, I think that both sides need to take responsibility. Parents do need to have an understanding of what their children are watching. Or at least I think they would want to know. But YouTube has a responsibility to make sure that when they offer features that are supposed to block certain content – that they actually work.
I look forward to seeing how this is working in the weeks and months to come. Hopefully, we will hear positive news in relation to these new features.