When I was a child, my mother (my father was more lax on what we could watch) would always (try to) control what we watched on the television. Programs like The Simpsons, Degrassi High and Neighbours were banned from our household, unless we were sneaky enough to switch them on while my mother was cooking dinner. The Simpsons, especially, was always discussed the next day at school, so I was always eager to try and catch a glimpse of the ‘naughty’ episode that night, similar to how KGrace was.
“Television is the menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without.” —Paddy Chayevsky
Now children are moving their attention away from the television and onto the internet, whether it be through their smartphone, tablet, laptop or family computer there is a worrying concern as to how to regulate childrens’ time online to make sure they are not watching or looking at anything ‘harmful’ or as my mother puts it – ‘naughty and damaging’. Things you can find on the internet are a lot more sinister than watching the Simpsons, where sites such as Pro-Ana or YouTube videos filled with expletives and violence, or unsafe challenges can be easily accessed.
While YouTube may be screened for extremely explicit violent and sexual content, it’s still something of a wild frontier, containing a huge volume of garbage that kids shouldn’t have access to. Ken Myers puts it into perspective:
As a parent, I have the responsibility to play the role of Internet traffic cop, unfortunately for me, the Internet is a 50 million lane highway. There’s no V-chip for YouTube like there is for the Television…
YouTube is parent’s nightmare, especially if you have curious kids. So how do parents monitor there children’s time on YouTube? I remember if I was looking at things on the internet I wasn’t suppose to be looking at I would just quickly change the window or close it before my mother saw and then delete the history. So how do parents get around sneaky children or even just the wrong click?
YouTube Safety Tip #1 – Turn on SafeSearch
The Safesearch feature relies on YouTube users to be accurate in their descriptions and titles for their movies. As you can imagine with the millions of hours of YouTube available, the titles and descriptions and maturity ratings are not always accurate.
YouTube Safety Tip#2 – Create Playlists and Mark Favorites
Kids usually have their favorite video. Whether it is PSY in ‘Gangum Style’ or ‘My Little Pony,’ my kids can watch the same video over and over. Jennifer Puckett suggests that if you create a playlist you are letting your kids skip the step of searching for a video every time. You can even create a bookmark for a playlist so that they go straight there instead of the YouTube home site.
YouTube Safety Tip#3 – Report Inappropriate Content
They may or may not pull the video but at least you are requiring a YouTube employee to review the video. If you do this, you are helping the thousands of parents that may have seen the same video come up during a benign YouTube search.
YouTube Safety Tip #4 – Search and Watch YouTube
It is important for kids and teenagers to learn to explore on their own. Sit by them as they search for new videos on YouTube. WebCurfew suggests that you highlight the video results that may not be a good fit for them and that you should tell them how you came to that conclusion. Teach them to understand that YouTube is a great education tool, but they have to be careful of some of the content on YouTube.
YouTube Safety Tip #5 – Be Wary of YouTube Suggestions
The YouTube suggestions will lead kids to unrelated videos from their original search which may include inappropriate videos.
YouTube Safety Tip #6- Gender Neutral
Ensure that your child’s user name is gender-neutral and doesn’t reveal any part of their name, age, hometown, or other identifying information.
YouTube Safety Tip #7- Don’t be a bully
Tell your child not to use profanity or make racist/sexist comments on videos. Don’t let cyberbullying occur on any level.
YouTube Safety Tip #8
Tell your teen to ignore comments that try to provoke a fight
Mobile YouTube Safety Tip
A search around my itunes app store offered up Video Monster. It allows you to dynamically add content to the device, cache or download certain videos and has a passlock to update the playlist.
As you can see, this is way more intense and requires a lot of vigilance on the parents behalf to monitor and regulate a child’s time and what they do on YouTube, compared to just telling them not to watch a certain TV Show. I think it all comes down to respect, clear and open communication and trust to ensure that your child has an enjoyable and safe online experience.
If you have a spare few minutes there is a really interesting article about how un-monitered YouTube use by two 14 year old girls has basically ruined their lives. Click here.
Now over to you: Do you think that the above steps are too intense and harsh on children or are they necessary? If you have children what do you do?