Why is it so difficult to screen and filter what our kids watch on YouTube? I’ve been complaining about this forever, lamenting about the amount of garbage that’s out there, and the lack of content moderation. In fairness, it’s pretty much impossible to expect YouTube to be able to screen all of the millions of videos posted every day, but in that case YouTube should really make it easier for parents to block and screen stuff on our end.
My kids watch a lot of videos I fear will melt their brains – other people playing video games, for example, or compilations of dance clips from TikTok. Then there is the really inappropriate stuff with bad language, music videos that aren’t meant for kids, things they probably shouldn’t be learning about from strangers on the Internet.
So why don’t I just ban them from watching YouTube altogether, you ask? Because there is also an overwhelming amount of really great content available for them on YouTube. Stay with me, and I’ll share a list of our favorite wholesome, entertaining YouTube channels!
So I set out to find out how to leverage more control over the content my boys are consuming on YouTube, and I was shocked and dismayed at how complicated it is. It should be a simple matter of block this video, block this search, block this channel. But for whatever reason, YouTube doesn’t make it that easy.
The first step is to connect your child’s Google account to YouTube, if he or she has one. I was able to connect the Google account my son has through school. (If your child doesn’t have a Google account, you can easily create a free one here.)
Next, create a YouTube channel for them. I know, I know. I myself thought this was an unnecessary step, because I don’t really intend for my son to become a YouTube content creator, but alas, having a channel allows you greater governance over suggested content. Make sure you are signed in with their Google account when you create the channel, and note that if you are using a school Google account, you may not have control over editing the name of the account. My son’s YouTube channel is now his first and last name.
Now, if your child’s account has anything in the feed or watch history, you can begin to remove things you don’t like. Click on the three dots beside or under the video, and then select “Not interested” or “Don’t recommend channel.” My rule of thumb here is if it looks like the channel is full of stuff I just don’t want my kid to watch, I choose “Don’t recommend channel.” Next, go to Watch history and click the X to “Remove from watch history.”
You can also clear the search history, or remove certain keywords from the search history, although if your child can spell and type this won’t stop them from just entering the search terms again.
Finally, you can enable Restricted Mode. But in my humble opinion, Restricted Mode is lousy. It blocks content that is 100% safe and appropriate (for example the live stream of the jellyfish tank at Monterey Bay Aquarium?!), yet on Restricted Mode my 5- and 8-year-olds were watching a “kids say the darndest things” compilation video in which a little girl talks about how mommies poop babies out of their butts. *eyeroll* And know that if you decide to go the Restricted Mode route, that feature is enabled at the device level, so you will have to toggle it on on every single device your child watches YouTube with.
The filtering method I’ve described here is not perfect, and it’s not permanent. You’ll still have to go in from time to time, and weed out anything in the suggested feed or watch history that you don’t want your kid to see, and I have yet to find a way to block them from searching out certain channels or videos. If you know a way, please share.
Oh and as promised, here are our 10 fave “everybody’s happy” YouTube channels:
- Mark Rober science and engineering made fun
- Nick Zammeti colorful woodturning and epoxy art
- Highlights for Kids
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Virtual Field Trips
- Sprice Machines elaborate “simple” Rube Goldberg machines
- National Geographic for Kids
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
- Space Videos
- Scrumdiddlyumtious recipes and cooking hacks that are just fun to watch