Time to own up mommas! Who here has at one point or another surrendered their smartphone or tablet to their kiddo to get a moment of peace and regain some form of sanity? *Slowly raises hands. I’m sure I’m not alone in admitting to it. No matter how much we have heard or read that screens and gadgets are bad for our kids, let’s face it. This is a losing battle, and while we may succeed in banning them from screens the first few years of their lives, sooner or later, they will have to face it. They will discover the Internet along with all the toy-unboxing videos on YouTube, and all the future viral songs after that never-ending Baby Shark song.
While we may have accepted that our kids are bound to use YouTube sooner or later, more danger awaits in some YouTube Channels. Recently, “fake cartoons” have been on the rise in the platform. Fake cartoons are crude and unofficial renditions of popular kiddie characters such as Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, or even some Disney characters in err inappropriate and even dark storylines. Examples of these cartoons and videos show Peppa Pig having all her teeth taken out (ouch!) and Spiderman and Elsa having an affair (gasp!). These videos are labeled according to their popular characters, so they can easily slip into our kiddos’ YouTube feed.
So what do parents have to do aside from hunting down these crazies who upload such videos? Here are a few ways you can keep your kids safe on YouTube:
1. Always be on the lookout
Yes, it can be easy to resort to iPad nanny especially when we have a full plate, but we should still be mindful of what our kids are doing or watching on our smartphone or tablet. On YouTube, kids tend to pick out thumbnails they like the look of – you can check it out as well and be wary when the cartoon or drawing does not look anything like the official character itself (Peppa is a darker pink or Paw Patrol is rendered differently).
2. And be thorough
Aside from checking the thumbnail, it’s also better to skim through the video yourself. You do not have to watch the whole video, but you can skim your cursor along the time bar at the bottom of the video to check the clip’s frames. This way, your child will not fall victim to “YouTube poop” – which is the practice of embedding inappropriate content within what initially looks like innocent material in order to trick viewers into watching.
3. Make sure your YouTube is on restricted mode
YouTube has a built-in restricted mode that uses video titles, descriptions, metadata, community reviews, and age-restrictions to identify and filter possibly inappropriate content. And although it is not foolproof, making sure that this is on is a great start to ensuring that YouTube is safe for your kid.
4. Make a playlist for your kid
Making a playlist of pre-approved videos is another way to supervise what your children are watching. You can start by subscribing to playlists of trustworthy, kid-friendly channels – this way, newly available videos from said channels will be automatically added to your child’s playlist.
5. Set up and use a family account
Since YouTube uses a Google account, you can set up a shared account for your family so you can monitor what your children are doing on the Internet. This way, you can also see the videos persons who are using the said account are watching.
6. Use a different platform
Yes, there are a lot of kid-friendly channels and content in YouTube, but technically, it’s not really built for kids (according to their terms of service, it’s not for anyone under 13-years old). So you can try out other apps and sites that are more kid-friendly. You can check out Common Sense Media’s list of alternatives here.
We are not saying that YouTube is entirely bad, or that we should completely ban our kids from using it. Instead, we should always be mindful of what our kids are exposed to and are using, and take the necessary steps to safeguard them.