YouTube Parent's Guide

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Emilie Burke

Social media is a phenomenon that has transformed the lives of many people all over the world. It is the collective name for digital applications (known as apps) that are used to communicate, share and interact with media, and to be entertained. Social media platforms can only be accessed on a digital device that has a connection to the internet, as all of the platforms are online.

 

This means that they can be accessed at home or on the go on a laptop, computer, mobile phone, or tablet. There are many different social media platforms that you may have heard of. One of which is YouTube (which will be the focus of this parents’ guide). YouTube is used by a staggering 78% of the UK population, which shows how popular social media platforms can be, especially among the younger generation.

 

Social media has brought much joy to society. By simply creating a free account, users can communicate with friends and family all over the world, by text, phone, video calls, and through media interaction. During times of uncertainty over the past year, this has certainly been a strong positive of using social media. As well as this, users can learn or be entertained on the platforms from the media that other people share.

 

There are many social media accounts that share tutorials or comical media that can be enjoyed by anybody. In the younger generation, it is even becoming more popular than watching television. Ofcom found that children aged between 5 and 15 years old spend over two hours online per day. However, with this comes the risk of inappropriate content being consumed.

 

Social media has a huge reach, so the content shared by one person can reach millions of viewers. This can present dangers if the content is inappropriate and not flagged by the platform regulators. Another risk is the ability to easily contact users on the platform.

 

Without the correct level of security in place, any user can be contacted by another social media user, which opens up the risk of cyberbullying, grooming, and more. This makes it essential to understand how to use each social media platform, and the dangers of doing so. You can find out about the functions and dangers of the YouTube platform in this guide for parents.

 

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What is YouTube?

 

YouTube is one of the most popular social media platforms used by young people, with over 80% of teenagers and young people using the app regularly. It is a video sharing platform that allows users to either upload videos to share with users, or watch videos shared by others. Unlike other social media apps, it is not compulsory to create an account to use the platform. This means that even if you do not have an account, you can still search for and view videos on the app.

 

The video topics are extremely wide ranging, so there is something for everybody on the platform. Users can watch beauty tutorials, learn how to play an instrument, watch animal videos, funny videos, and more. When you create an account, you can upload your own videos, and subscribe to content creators on the platform to easily find their uploads.

 

You can also be notified of their future uploads so that you do not miss a video. As well as this, you can interact with videos using likes and comments. In the comments sections, viewers with a YouTube account can write, in text form, the comments they wish to share relating to the video.

 

When you subscribe to a YouTuber, you become their follower. There is no limit to the amount of YouTubers that you can subscribe to, and it is common for most people to follow their favourite YouTubers as this makes it easier to find their videos. YouTubers who upload content aim to gain followers with the videos they upload in order to become monetised (which means they can start to be paid by YouTube).

 

The younger generation, in particular, can be extremely influenced by popular YouTubers. Some successful influencers have millions of followers who will watch every single one of their uploads. Whilst some videos do ask users to formally verify their age if the content is not appropriate, this does not happen for all videos. This means that anybody can watch most YouTube videos, which can present many dangers.

 

However, one way that YouTube has responded to protect young users is by making a separate app, called YouTube Kids. YouTube Kids has been created by the YouTube brand, but it is a completely separate app. It helps children to stay safe online with greater oversight from parents.

 

What are the dangers?

 

As with all social media apps, there are dangers to young people who use the apps.

 

With YouTube, there are many dangers that parents should be aware of, including:

 

1. There’s inappropriate content all over the site

 

No doubt about it: You can learn about a lot of things — and how to do a lot of things — on YouTube. Knitting, baking, how to make a killer friendship bracelet — there’s an endless number of legitimate tutorials on YouTube. But here’s the problem: The videos keep autoloading (and autoloading), and, eventually, your child may be face-to-face with something completely unrelated — and inappropriate — to the original search.

 

“A child has the ability to jump from a harmless video, for example, about birds, to a video with adult content all within a matter of seconds,” says psychotherapist and NYC group practice owner Liz Morrison.

 

How does this happen? The content is almost impossible to monitor. YouTube is user-uploaded, so not everything is categorized with the appropriate restrictions. In other words, filters can’t be counted on to safeguard kids every single time.

 

“When kids are exposed to the wide range of content on YouTube, it’s concerning, because the content might not be age-appropriate, which can lead them to seeing something they’re not mature enough to handle,” says Morrison. “There are a lot of scary YouTube videos out there [remember the Momo Challenge?], which, if seen, can affect a child’s judgment, as well as lead to increased stress, anxiety or even feelings of depression.”

 

2. It may impede your preschooler’s development

 

While there are a host of videos on YouTube billed as “educational” for your preschooler, that may not be the case at all.

 

“Studies in preschoolers have shown a relationship between poor impulse control and self-regulation with earlier and longer use of low-quality media,” says Dr. Brandon Smith, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. “It’s also thought that excessive screen time with low-quality media may contribute to poorer language development in certain children.”

 

Not sure what constitutes “low-quality” media? Videos of kids playing with toys and unwrapping trinkets — which, yes, contribute further to the “I want” culture — is a good place to start.

 

And even if you happen upon a truly educational video for your child, such as those on PBS Kids’ YouTube channel, they aren’t without their pitfalls.

 

“Although some videos on YouTube may seem short and harmless, the quick-changing features and short clips may not let your child fully understand the content,” says Smith. “We are still learning about many of the longer-term effects in this area.”

 

3. It can be addictive

 

“Digital addictions” are a controversial topic, but there has been at least one case where it’s believed that compulsive YouTube consumption played a role in a teen’s mental breakdown. But according to social media safety expert Paul Davis, a lot of the onus with YouTube obsessions should be placed on parents.

 

“You’ll get different answers from different experts in their respective fields, but I think YouTube can absolutely be addictive,” Davis says. “The algorithm on YouTube is such that the suggestions off to the right, when watching YouTube on a computer, attempt to take you down an endless path of other videos that have similar content. [And if your child doesn’t click on these videos, a new video will automatically start playing after the one they’re watching.] However, when parents do their job and properly monitor their child’s screen time, I don’t think ‘technology addictions’ are an actual issue. No parent should let their child stare at a screen for hours on end instead of socializing, playing with peers and doing homework.”

 

4. Your child is targeted by ads, ads and more ads

 

As with other forms of social media, YouTube isn’t without its fair share of ads, which can contribute to consumerism (effects of which have been linked to behaviors like narcissism and a lack of empathy). But a new problem that seems to be cropping up is deceptive advertising tactics aimed at young children. For instance, in 2019, the massively popular YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview received a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission for weaving an ad for Carl’s Jr. in a video where Ryan, the star of the channel, is seemingly playing with his toy kitchen without any disclosure that it was actually a paid ad.

 

In addition to consumerism, some ads are downright dangerous, particularly for teens.

 

“Advertisements are popping up more and more on sites like YouTube and Facebook, and research has shown a heavy presence of alcohol brands, as well as e-cigarettes,” says Smith. “The frightening part is teens are easily being exposed to these ads, even if they aren’t watching videos about drinking or smoking.”

 

5. It can create a false sense of reality

 

Something only our kids’ generation can relate to? Making a career out of YouTube. While some people do actually become successful YouTube stars (This year, it was reported that popular YouTuber Jeffree Star has amassed a net worth of $200 million from the platform.), it’s certainly not a conventional or widely accessible career path.

 

“My kids became obsessed with making YouTube-type videos on my phone even though they didn’t post them,” says Cheryl Barry, of New York. “My phone was filled with videos of them playing with toys and talking to the camera. It was weird! When I asked them why they liked doing it, they, in so many words, said it’s what they wanted to do when they grow up. No! I explained to them that being a YouTube star isn’t something to aspire to and how very few people actually become successful doing it. To be honest, I’m not sure the message has completely sunk in, but one thing’s for sure — I never leave my phone lying around anymore.”

 

YouTube safety tips

 


Although there are many dangers that YouTube brings, there are plenty of ways that you, as a parent, can support your children to use YouTube safely.

 

We have included some of the most effective safety tips to support parents to keep their children safe on YouTube below:

 

YouTube Kids - YouTube Kids is an app designed for kids, not the original YouTube app. You can set YouTube Kids up as a parent, which essentially means you can share your kids' accounts and be more sure of what content they have access to. YouTube Kids has built-in filters to ensure that all available content is age-appropriate and safe for your child. You just need to add your email address to create an account.Watch videos with them - One of the best ways to learn how your kids use social media is to do it as an activity with them. Instead of watching TV together, you can have your kids stream their favorite YouTuber to get an idea of what type of content they're watching.

 

Active Subscriptions - If your kids are subscribed to their favorite YouTubers, they're less likely to encounter harmful content. This is because YouTube recommends more YouTubers' content for your child to watch, which means your child is less likely to discover new videos on their own.


View their history – If you have access to your child's YouTube account, you can view their viewing history. This is a list of previously watched videos your child has watched. You can check these to make sure your kids are safe to watch these videos.

 

Custom Recommended Videos – Recommended Videos on YouTube are calculated using an algorithm, rather than manually recommended based on your child's viewing history. This means that the wrong type of content may show up in the suggestion list. If you or your child notices an inappropriate video on this list, you can click on the three dots next to the video in question and select "Not Interested", which will remove the video from the list.

 

YouTube Premium – YouTube Premium is a paid YouTube service that people can subscribe to to have ads removed from the videos they're watching. Some YouTube videos may contain a lot of advertising and may not be suitable for your child at times.YouTube Premium allows users to watch ad-free videos as well as exclusive content.


Private Profile – If your child is uploading content to YouTube, they can make their profile private, meaning only people they invite can view their videos and they will not be made public. This reduces the risk of leaving hate comments on their videos. There is also the option to report and block users who leave hateful comments on videos to ensure they do not do so in the future.

 

Use spyware – Monitoring apps such as SpyX allow parents to remotely restrict inappropriate content on their children's devices. The app can teach you how to set up parental controls on YouTube without stressing out your kids. With SpyX you can monitor which videos your kids watch and block the YouTube app if needed.

 

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What else can you do with SpyX

 

Since SpyX is a versatile parental control app, it allows parents to monitor other internet activities of their children. For example, you can see what your kids watch on youtube, what they share on social media, and who they talk to on instant messenger.

 

Apart from the aforementioned amazing features, SpyX can also block incoming calls and limit suspicious contacts. It also allows viewing chats, getting real-time location, setting geofences and monitoring internet usage (webpages visited, Wi-Fi networks connected and total time online).

 

In conclusion :

 

Kids can visit YouTube to learn new things, listen to music, watch cartoons and enjoy fun videos. However, all of these benefits can be lost in an instant if your child encounters something that negatively affects their mental health.

 

To prevent this from happening, you can consider using the SpyX parental control app to give your kids peace of mind while watching videos on YouTube. If you encounter any problems while using SpyX, please contact us for customer support

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