Younger children can outsmart even the most tech savvy parents when they’re determined to watch something they want to. Keeping parental controls in check with all the screens floating around these days can be challenging.
Even if your child isn’t interested in anything risqué, you’d be surprised at how inappropriate the autoplay and suggested videos can be.
It’s important to do a little “screen cleaning” from time to time. Now that summer’s winding down and our days will have more structure, it’s a great time to take stock and reset what our children are able to access.
DO SOME DETECTIVE WORK
Before clearing everything out, check out search histories and channel subscriptions. Get a feel for what they’re drawn to. Look for any troublesome content and see if there is anything you might need to address or discuss with them.
Then clear those search histories, unsubscribe from channels, delete comments. If there is suggested content that you don’t like, go through each item and click “not interested.” This allows you to sort of steer future suggested content. This can be done on YouTube and most streaming services.
TURN ON YOUTUBE’S RESTRICTED MODE
Within each YouTube account, you can go to the settings and turn on the “RESTRICTED MODE.” This will filter out inappropriate content. Nothing is 100% effective, but this is an important first line of defense. When it’s on, it also prevents you from being able to read comments.
**Please note that you have to do this with every single YouTube account on every single device on every single browser and app. Phones, tablets, TVs, smart hub devices; on each of these you must check each app, Safari, Chrome, etc.
LOCK OR DELETE INAPPROPRIATE APPS
If you have a smart TV, it is possible to lock or even delete apps such as YouTube. For a Samsung TV, you can create a pin and lock whichever apps you do not want your children to access.
FireTV is a bit more complicated, however it allows you to delete the app from the television and prevent those without the pin to download any new apps. Ironically, this YouTube video explains it better than I ever could.
If you have a different service or device, simply google “how to delete YouTube from (fill in the blank)” and you will find instructions or a tutorial. For example, a quick search revealed it’s really easy to delete YouTube from your Nintendo Switch.
BLOCK OR LIMIT YOUTUBE AND OTHER APPS ON YOUR CHILD’S DEVICE
If your child has their own device, there are multiple options to prevent them from accessing sketchy content. Time limits, screen locks, removing apps, preventing the installation of new apps, blocking YouTube and other pages from browsers are all possibilities.
LIMITING GOOGLE’S SEARCH OPTIONS
Did you know that you can filter explicit content from google searches? It’s called safe search. It’s extremely easy to implement. However, once again, you need to do this on each and every device and browser that you have (or that your child is able to access).
WHAT IS SAFE TO WATCH?
YouTube Kids is a popular option, but it is not without serious flaws. Parents need to be vigilant about monitoring and setting up controls within that app.
There are other favorites such as PBS Kids and ABC Mouse. As they age out of those, there are lots of options for tweens as well.
BE AWARE OF WHAT THEY’RE WATCHING ELSEWHERE
Every family has their own comfort level on what is OK for their children to watch. It’s important to communicate with other families about what you do and do NOT want your child to see or play. It’s also more than OK to check in about what parental controls are in place at friends’ homes. Even the most vigilant caregivers might not be up on the latest ways to make sure children are not accessing inappropriate, violent, or explicit content. A gentle, non-judgmental inquiry might help others in learning how to set up a better system to protect (somewhat) innocent eyes, ears, and minds.