BrightCanary

How to Set Parental Controls on YouTube

By Andrea Karin Nelson
January 4, 2024
Children looking at tablet

It will come as no surprise to parents that YouTube is all the rage with kids. In fact, recent research suggests that nine out of 10 kids use YouTube, and kids under 12 favor YouTube over TikTok. With all of YouTube’s popularity, how can you make the platform safer for your child? Read on to learn how to set parental controls on YouTube. 

Why parental controls matter

As the name implies, YouTube is a platform for user-generated content. While this creates an environment ripe for creativity, it also means there’s a little bit of everything, including videos featuring violent and sexual content, profanity, and hate speech. 

Because YouTube makes it easy for kids to watch multiple videos in a row, there’s always the chance your child may accidentally land on inappropriate content. In addition, the comments section on YouTube videos are often unmoderated and can be full of toxic messages and cyberbullying. 

Due to the risks, it’s important that parents monitor their child’s YouTube usage, discuss the risks with them, and use parental controls to minimize the chance they’re exposed to harmful content. 

How to set parental controls on YouTube

YouTube offers a variety of options for families looking to make their child’s viewing experience as safe as possible. Here are some important steps parents can take: 

Create a supervised Google account for YouTube

A supervised account will allow you to manage your child’s YouTube experience on the app, website, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. 

Select a content setting

There are three content setting options to choose from: 

  • Explore: Content rated for viewers 9+. This category also excludes live streams, with the exception of Premieres
  • Explore more: For viewers 13+. This setting includes a larger set of videos, including live streams. 
  • Most of YouTube: For viewers 13-17. This option has almost everything on YouTube, but excludes content marked as 18+ by either channels or YouTube’s systems or reviewers. 

Set parental controls

Along with content settings, here are some additional YouTube parental controls to explore: 

  • Block specific channels: When monitoring your child's YouTube usage, if you encounter content you prefer they avoid, you have the option to block that channel. 
  • Review your child’s watch history: When you can't supervise their viewing at the moment, you can check what your child has been watching.  
  • Control video suggestions: If you don’t like the videos YouTube’s algorithm is suggesting for your child, try these steps to reset their YouTube algorithm:
    • Clear history
    • Pause watch history 
    • Pause search history
  • Disable Autoplay: This setting prevents YouTube from automatically playing the next suggested video.
  • Set time limits: If you need a little help enforcing screen time limits, this option shuts down the app when your child reaches their max. 

For step-by-step instructions for setting up parental controls, refer to this comprehensive guide by YouTube. 

Where parental controls on YouTube fall short

While YouTube offers an impressive array of parental control settings, you have to manually review your child’s content and watch history in order to catch any concerning content. 

BrightCanary is a parental monitoring app that fills in the gaps. Here’s how BrightCanary helps you supervise your child’s YouTube activity:

  • The app provides summaries of what your child is watching and searching for, so you don’t have to watch each video on your own.
  • Advanced technology automatically scans your child’s video activity and flags anything concerning, so you’ll know when you need to step in.
  • You can either view all of their YouTube activity, or just review any videos flagged as concerning.
  • You can monitor searches, videos, and posts — more coverage than other parental control apps on Apple devices.

YouTube vs. YouTube Kids

For parents looking for additional peace of mind, YouTube Kids provides curated content designed for children from preschool through age 12. 

For households with multiple children, parents can set up an individual profile for each child, so kids can log in and watch videos geared toward their age. YouTube Kids also allows parents to set a timer of up to one hour, limiting how long a child can use the app. 

Parents should be aware that switching to YouTube Kids isn’t a perfect solution. There’s still a chance that inappropriate content may slip through the filters. 

In fact, a study by Common Sense Media found that 27% of videos watched by kids 8 and under are intended for older audiences. And for families concerned about ads, YouTube Kids still has plenty of those — targeted specifically toward younger children. Keeping an eye on what your child is watching and talking to them about inappropriate videos and sponsored content is still a good idea even with YouTube Kids. 

It’s also worth noting that kids under 12 who have a special interest they want to pursue may find YouTube Kids limiting. A child looking to watch Minecraft instructional videos or do a deep dive into space exploration, for example, can find a lot more options on standard YouTube — plenty of which are perfectly appropriate for kids, even if they aren’t specifically geared toward them. It’s cases like this where parental controls and active monitoring with BrightCanary are especially useful. 

The takeaway

YouTube is a popular video platform with plenty to offer kids. It’s not without risks, though. Parents should monitor their child’s use and take advantage of parental controls to ensure a safe, appropriate viewing experience.