YouTube has been one of the most challenging areas for parents who are concerned with the content their kids see online. On one hand, there are thousands of worthwhile, funny and educational videos on YouTube. On the other hand, giving a child access to YouTube is like letting them play in a video minefield because of the pitiful filtering options available from the platform. Third-party parental control applications can’t filter YouTube’s content effectively, nor should they be expected to, so the options given by most third-party parental control products were to allow or disallow YouTube. The goal of Sensible Cyber Parenting has never been for families to avoid using technology but to help them use it safely, so the problem with YouTube has been particularly frustrating.
In my opinion, YouTube didn’t take the issue seriously because it didn’t have to. The platform experienced astronomical growth anyway so they didn’t care. Google purchased YouTube in October of 2006, and with their technology and resources, could have incorporated powerful and robust filtering options but they didn’t. Finally, in 2015 they released YouTube Kids but it has been plagued with problems and hasn’t really earned the trust of parents. Even as recently as March of this year it was found to still allow kids access to disturbing content. But on April 25, YouTube announced new and improved options for parents in the YouTube Kids app. They will offer curated collections of channels determined to be safe and give parents whitelist options where they can set the channels that they want to allow. Additionally, setting the search option to off will also keep “suggested videos” from including any videos that are not in the YouTube Kids pre-approved channel list. You can read more details in their announcement linked below. My recommendation is to try the YouTube Kids app but proceed with caution. I applaud YouTube Kids’ efforts, unfortunately they are about 10 years too late.