When your child uses YouTube, you’re probably most concerned with the appropriateness of the videos they watch and their screen time limits. While these are both important, parents also need to understand the risk that strangers might contact their child on the platform. Read on to learn what to look for and how to minimize the stranger danger on YouTube.
Online predators are a risk anytime your child uses the internet, with as many as 20% of children contacted by an online predator last year alone. Platforms that allow users to interact are prime places for predators to solicit kids. While YouTube recently removed their direct messaging feature, there are still several other avenues for communication that parents should know.
Here are the various methods strangers may use to talk to your child on YouTube:
When your child comments on a video, other users can then respond to that comment. When this happens, your child will receive an alert in the app and by email, depending on their notification settings. This may not have the same sense of immediacy as a direct message, but it’s still an effective way for strangers to contact your child.
In addition, the public nature of the comments section can give the illusion of safety. But predators are sneaky in the tactics they use to build trust. What begins as seemingly innocent public communication can result in a request for private contact information and rapidly grow into something more concerning.
YouTube Lives are videos that creators record and share in real time. During the live stream, users can interact with the content creator and with each other. This level of contact presents all the same threats as the comments section, with the added risk that immediate back-and-forth communication can quickly escalate.
If your child has their own YouTube channel and adds their email address to their About Page, other users can then reach out to them directly.
Many YouTubers add their social media handles to their About Page so subscribers can follow them on multiple platforms. If your child is an aspiring YouTuber, or simply wants to emulate their favorite creators, they may follow suit. This means strangers are just one click away from finding your child on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, where they can learn more about them (and their whereabouts) and contact them through direct messages.
Here are some tips for minimizing the risk that your child will be contacted by strangers on YouTube:
For users under 18, parents can set up a supervised family account, which allows them to adjust their child’s settings (such as removing contact information and correctly listing their age) and view their comment history.
Children under 13 automatically don’t have access to the comments section of videos and are unable to participate in YouTube Live chats. Here’s how to verify and adjust your child’s age setting on their YouTube account.
If your child is 12 or under, consider YouTube Kids. Not only are the videos curated for younger audiences, there are no comments sections or YouTube Lives.
If your child is old enough to view the comments section, encourage them to select “top chat.” This view will filter out potentially harmful messages. It’s not foolproof, but it can help.
Have an honest, age-appropriate conversation with your child about the risks of talking to strangers online and the ways they may be contacted via YouTube. Encourage them not to engage with people they don’t know in real life and to alert you if anything makes them uncomfortable.
If your child is the recipient of unwanted communication on YouTube, report the comment. (Even better: empower your child to do so themselves.) Reports can lead to a comment being removed or even the deletion of the offending user’s account.
Regularly sit down with your child to look at their YouTube together. Check out their watch history and view some of their favorite creator’s videos together. Use the opportunity to keep an eye on their activity and to establish open lines of communication.
BrightCanary can help make your check-ins easier: as a parental monitoring app, BrightCanary monitors your child’s YouTube searches, videos, and posts. The tool uses advanced technology to summarize your child’s online activity and alert you when your child encounters something concerning, so you can talk about it together.
Like all online platforms that allow users to interact with each other, your child may be contacted by strangers on YouTube. This presents risks, but parents can take steps to lessen the danger and protect their kids.