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YouTube

YouTube is a free video sharing and social networking app and website where users can view, comment, make and share videos on a range of topics. Videos uploaded to the platform are easy to share via other forms of social media and can also be embedded in other websites and content. With approximately 120 million daily active users consuming more than a billion hours of video every day, YouTube is one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world.

Official age rating

The minimum age for YouTube account is 13.

This applies to both viewing content and setting up a YouTube channel. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 are only allowed to open an account with parental permission.

As with most other social media platforms, YouTube does not have any rigorous age verification methods.

All accounts default to a public setting, where content can be viewed by any other users on the platform. Setting an account to private is recommended.

Find out more about age ratings in our A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games.

How children and young people use the app

Young people can engage with this app in two keys ways: as a viewer of content and as a creator of content.

Viewers mainly watch and share videos on topics which interest them. This can be fun and entertaining for young people, especially if they can connect with other users in the comment section or in the channel’s general fan-base.

Creators set up their own YouTube channel and use this as a platform to share videos which they have made on topics of their choice. This gives young people a creative outlet to curate content with the potential incentive of becoming famous or wealthy from being a YouTuber, as many others have already done.

Potential risks

Content

With such a wealth of videos available to choose from on YouTube, the risk of younger viewers stumbling across inappropriate material is quite high if the necessary filters have not been enabled. Whilst the minimum age for an account is 13, the reality is that most of the content is aimed at older users. Alongside the risk of watching inappropriate videos, there is also the possibility of witnessing inappropriate comments which can be rude, bullying and hateful. By restricting who your child can access on the platform (by enabling ‘Restricted mode’), your child is less likely to experience language or behaviour that is not suitable for their age. Whilst community guidelines are in place, the platform relies on users to report comments they deem inappropriate.

Connecting with others

Once a video has been posted, other users can comment on it. It’s important your child understands that these comments can count as chatting online. Speak to your child about the risks of connecting with strangers and explain the importance of not sharing any personal or identifiable information on their profile or within chats. Remind your child to tell you if they have been asked more personal questions or to chat privately using a different app.

When users post video content on YouTube, the content is open to criticism from other users. The comment function on YouTube can make users susceptible to harassment and abuse. Whilst the app has community standards that all users must adhere to, make sure your child knows how to report and block users who behave inappropriately.

Videos can also be liked or disliked by viewers when they are posted – if your child receives dislikes, they may find it very upsetting. Make sure to speak to your child about how likes aren’t necessary reflective of the quality of their videos and that it should not devalue the way they see themselves or the content they’ve created.

User behaviour

If your child has their own YouTube channel, it is important for you and them to be aware of what they post and the impact this will have on their digital footprint. Have a conversation with them to help them understand what is and is not appropriate for them to share and discuss the various ways they can protect themselves by sharing in private rather than public forums. Ensure your child knows it can be difficult to keep ownership of a video once it has been shared online, as content can easily be copied and reposted without their knowledge and can then become difficult to remove from the internet.

Design, data and costs

YouTube is a free app, which means it generates revenue from advertising. Most videos begin with an advert and some channels will also include sponsored content. Despite vloggers having to disclose when a video features gifted products, this form of advertising may be difficult for viewers to understand Have a conversation about how advertising works your child before they begin exploring the app. Users who set up their own YouTube channels will also have to agree to a lengthy set of terms and conditions, which will not be drafted in a child-friendly way. Speak to your child about the role of ‘Terms and conditions’ (T&Cs) to help them understand what current and future rights they might be giving away.


Tips for keeping your child safe

  • When uploading content onto the platform, the default setting is public, which means any user on YouTube can view the video. Set their video uploads settings to private rather than public. This way they need to approve all other users who wish to view their content.

    To reduce the risk of your child seeing inappropriate videos, tell YouTube what you don’t want to see. Select the three dots next to the ‘Up next’ video title and select ‘Don’t recommend channel’. This will remove this channel from your feed.

    To set videos to private:

    • On the YouTube account, select ‘Settings’ then ‘Privacy’.
    • Select each category that you wish to make private then choose ‘Save’.
  • Switching on ‘Restricted mode’ is recommended, which helps to filter out mature videos. Disabling the ‘Autoplay’ feature, to stop videos playing automatically after one has ended, is also suggested.

    To enable ‘Restricted mode’:

    • On the YouTube account, select ‘Settings’ then toggle the ‘Restricted mode’ option.
    • Note: ‘Restricted mode’ needs to be set on each individual device, rather than it being account-wide.

    To disable ‘Autoplay’:

    • On the YouTube account, select ‘Settings’ then toggle the ‘Autoplay’ option.
    • Deleting a YouTube channel will permanently delete the content from the platform. To do this, go to your channel, select ‘Advanced’ and ‘Delete channel’.
  • You can report and block users who may be bothering you or behaving inappropriately on the platform.

    To report a video:

    • Below the video you wish to report, select the three dots icon and choose ‘Report’, following the onscreen instructions to complete.

    To report a comment:

    • Go to the comment you wish to report, select the three dots icon and choose ‘Report’, following the onscreen instructions to complete.
  • The YouTube app has a ‘Time watched’ section within your account, where you can monitor your usage, but also set different tools to help manage your YouTube time.

    To enable ‘Time watched’:

    • On the YouTube account, select the ‘Time watched’ option and use the toggle buttons to set reminders for ‘Breaks’ and ‘Bedtime’.

Key features and terminology

  • Channel

    As with television, YouTube is made up of different channels. A channel is an account holder’s personal space where they can share the content that they have produced.

    Comments

    The comment section on YouTube allows users to leave comments on the videos they have watched, which can be read and responded to by the account holder who shared the content.

    Vlogging

    This stands for ‘Video blogs’, where users create and share videos on a range of popular topics, such as gaming and beauty. High-profile vloggers are often paid to use their influence to promote products or brands.

    Thumbnail

    Video ‘Thumbnails’ let viewers see an image of what each video contains to help them select the most appropriate video to watch. It is important to note that even if a video is blocked to a user because they are under-18, they are still able to see a thumbnail image of the video, which may contain an image unsuitable for children.

    Tags

    Tags’ are descriptive keywords that you can add to your videos to help viewers find your content.

    YouTube Live

    There is a designated area on YouTube where viewers can watch, make and upload live videos. This content is shared in real time without editing, but it is monitored in the same way as all other content on the platform.

    Info Cards

    These are in-video notifications that help promote a creator’s brand and their other videos. A teaser box appears during a video, and when clicked, will take the viewer to more content by the same creator.

    Incognito mode

    This function allows users to search and view whatever they want without it appearing in their search or viewing history. Everything you do whilst in this mode is private.

General tips

YouTube Kids is an additional app to the main YouTube app, built with children in mind. This app provides a supervised space for younger viewers to explore a diverse, but smaller selection of age-appropriate videos.

YouTube have recently launched the ‘Supervised accounts’ feature, which allows parents and carers to set up managed accounts for their children under 13. Children with these accounts will not be able to upload videos or comments and they will have filters in place to restrict content.

Help your child subscribe to channels you feel comfortable with. This will produce a feed of safe videos for your child to browse in the Subscriptions area of YouTube.

Be mindful that your child may use ‘Incognito mode’ to hide their viewing history from you if you regularly check their viewing and search history. Talk to your child and take an interest in their viewing habits to help reduce the likelihood of them hiding their viewing history.

To reduce the risk of your child seeing inappropriate videos, tell YouTube what you don’t want to see. Select the three dots next to the ‘Up next’ video title and select ‘Don’t recommend channel’. This will remove this channel from your feed.