YouTube has been consistently criticized for its lack of a content filter. While it does require a sign-up for video of a sexual nature and flag objectionable content, the content filtering on YouTube has always been easy to get around. In response to this criticism, YouTube has unveiled an optional feature, called Safety Mode, that lets users filter out objectionable content or comments. YouTube acknowledges that while no filter is 100 percent perfect they feel that the Safety Mode will give viewers additional control over the type of content that is being viewed.
Using the Safety Mode will automatically filter out certain keywords, like “naked”, for example. If YouTube is not returning any results because of filter settings, a notice on the top right-hand corner will notify you of the filtering. In addition, if a friend sends you a link to a video that includes blocked content, you will not be able to watch it until you turn Safety Mode off. This filtering also applies to related videos, featured videos, most viewed and videos being watched. In addition, all comments are hidden by default. While you can expand your view, all objectionable words will be replaced by asterisks. It is important to note that adult content is not the only content effected by Safety Mode. Any videos, even newscasts of political protest or war coverage, that contain objectionable content would also be included.
If you are concerned about video content your children may be viewing, you can activate Safety Mode:
- Go to the bottom of any YouTube page and click the link that says “Safety Mode is off.” This turns the safety mode on.
- You will then click “Save”, and you’re done.
- To lock in this setting, sign into your account. You will only be able to turn Safety Mode off if you provide your password.
While Safety Mode is a step in the right direction toward filtering content, as a parent, you need to be proactive and monitor what your child is viewing and posting on YouTube. Here are some tips to keep you in touch with what your child could be doing on YouTube.
- Work with your child. Understanding what is appropriate as well as what you can and cannot post on YouTube is important. Simply forbidding older teens to post content to YouTube may force them underground, where they’ll likely find another computer from which to post content. Make sure your kids feel comfortable coming to you if something, or someone, on the site bothers them. As well, make sure your kids know to check in if they see something that’s hateful, pornographic or violent. This way you can report it if they aren’t comfortable doing so. Remember that YouTube is a self-policing site, so encourage your kids to make it safe for others.
- Set limits. YouTube postings are recommended for people who are at least 15-years-old. YouTube says kids 13 to17 are welcome with permission from a parent or guardian. However, as the parent, you must decide when you think your kids are ready for it. You need to understand that kids do not always exhibit the best judgment in cyberspace, no matter how good their judgment is in the real world.
- Make rules and enforce them. While you work on teaching your kids to be good citizens in the real world, help them understand that the same rules apply in cyberspace. Help them see that posting videos that are offensive, hurtful or demeaning, in any way, is not what they are really about, and should be avoided at all costs.