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My two kids watch YouTube cartoons, and the younger is a toddler. I try every now and then to see what they are really looking at, but many times they wander to some video I think is not suitable for them, like amateur cartoons with scary faces and stuff like that.

Is there a way to filter unwanted videos suggested from YouTube? I removed adverts successfully using ad blocker software, but I can't do the same with videos.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Nov 28 '16 at 10:25
  • It is worth nothing that a youtube account will age-restrict some inappropriate material if one is logged in with an account in which the age is less than 18. – tuskiomi Dec 8 '16 at 16:49
  • For a technical solution, take a look at keyword based filters which offers almost 100% catch rates. android.stackexchange.com/questions/16698/… – tinker Mar 15 at 7:55

14 Answers 14

105

Watch YouTube with your child, then you will know what they are watching. A toddler can wander onto something by accident and see something they cannot un-see.

Do not let your toddler wander the Internet alone, it is a very dangerous place.

There are no safeguards that are 100% effective at blocking adult material on the Internet, except adult supervision! Some software exists to alleviate some Internet dangers, but there is still no substitute for sitting with your child and watching what they are watching and knowing what they are doing. By doing this you are guiding them and teaching them good Internet habits, and as they get older you will not have to watch them so closely because you know the habits that you have instilled in them.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Once comments are moved, there is no way to move additional comments; tif they are posted here, they will be deleted. – anongoodnurse Nov 23 '16 at 13:32
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It appears there are some parental controls in YouTube. Scroll to the bottom of the page and look for something that says "Safety" or "Safety Mode". Switch it to on. You can optionally lock it for the browser as well. (You may have to be logged in for all of this to work.) That should enable Google's safe search and do some measure of parental controls. It doesn't seem to be very customizable, but I haven't played with it that much. There also seems to be quite a few resources available if you google "youtube parental controls".

If you are watching on a tablet or other mobile device, there is a YouTube kids app (https://kids.youtube.com/). It looks like it has parental controls, time limits, etc. I've never used it, so I can't say how good all that is, I've just seen it show up in an ad once in a while.

  • I came across mobile app googling around, but they are watching it using desktop computer. I'll look for modes you suggested. – Ivan Nov 22 '16 at 13:07
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    "new private window" and this won't work – Sarge Borsch Nov 22 '16 at 21:44
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    That isn't intended to restrict content for younger children; it just removes strict adult/18+ content. Something that may be appropriate for older children but not for younger children may still be shown. – Micheal Johnson Nov 23 '16 at 14:39
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    As a parent I wouldn't think it right to delegate responsibility for deciding what's ok for my kids to watch to YouTube. – A E Nov 26 '16 at 11:44
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    As of now, I'd highly recommend to be careful with YouTube kids. It's now flooded with toy review channels and videos which can introduce and persuade your child into wanting more toys. – Bradman175 May 14 '17 at 13:00
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If your kids are using mobile devices, you may find the YouTube Kids app to be a viable alternative and a quick solution. This is only available on Google Play and the iTunes App Store, so Amazon Fire users are out of luck.

The app itself filters the content to suitable material for kids. You can see more about the app in the YouTubeKids Parental Guide. My 6 year old and 3 year old both use the app and enjoys the content.

We haven't stumbled across anything that we feel is inappropriate, although it is certainly possible for something to sneak through the filters. Plus there may be some content that you may feel is not appropriate for your child that may be acceptable to other parents or for older children. If you do find something you aren't comfortable with, you can still flag inappropriate videos.

The other features include disabling the search features, to limit the videos to just what is shown in the home screen. And my personal favorite is there is an option to enable a timer so you can limit the screen time.

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    We already considered buying a tablet so we'll try this for sure! – Ivan Nov 23 '16 at 13:40
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    Cannot recommend highly enough, but ytkids still has videos that are maybe inappropriate for very young children. Its not total piece of mind, but certainly waaaay better than unrestricted access. – Jared Smith Nov 23 '16 at 14:58
  • @JaredSmith that's reasonable point, I'll incorporate that into my answer. We haven't found any yet, but mine never are allowed to watch unobserved, so we'd see it if someone came up – psubsee2003 Nov 23 '16 at 15:09
  • The biggest thing I've noticed is that dialogue occasionally exceeds the level of meanness and/or romantic discord that I'm comfortable with. YMMV, and it depends on the child's age and disposition as well (e.g. 3yr old vs 10 yr old). I've never come across anything that was starkly inappropriate (nudity, gore, blatant innuendo/sexual reference, etc.). – Jared Smith Nov 23 '16 at 15:23
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    For non-mobile solutions, consider using YouTube TV (see Lifehacker article) or getting a Chromecast or smart TV, and managing the queued videos yourself (from mobile device or computer). The ad content is greatly reduced (eliminated on some older smart TVs), related videos are basically eliminated, and the kids can still play/pause/skip. {note: was going to post as an answer, but insufficient rep} – brichins Nov 28 '16 at 19:47
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The only solution that has worked for us is to have our son, who is 6 years old, logged into my Google account on YouTube so I can follow his history and block any YouTubers that we don't want him to watch. I have not found a way to block an individual video, but you can block a channel.

Go to the Channels page then "About" then click on the "Flag" and click on "Block user".

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    This action is reasonable, but it can only work after the fact once they've seen something questionable. – user11666 Nov 22 '16 at 21:04
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    Also unless you want kids wandering into your email and drive files, you ought to do this on a separate, dedicated account (w/ no-one's real name on it) – aidanh010 Nov 23 '16 at 16:26
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    @DoritoStyle To be fair, this answers the title of OP's question. – Rhymoid Nov 23 '16 at 21:40
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    I think this is the only answer that fits the question. The other people who answered don't get the point. Ivan has no problem with his kids watching Youtube, but some weirdos create videos with characters like Peppa Pig, but where she does really ugly stuff. Those videos are just stupid and potentially harm your kid's brain. That's what "amateur cartoons with scary faces and stuff like that" means. Toys pooping, trains exploding etc. – daraos Nov 25 '16 at 16:25
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    To extend this answer, you could preemptively follow several levels of recommended videos from each starting point/path (videos they like) in search of junk accounts to block. – R.. Nov 26 '16 at 4:47
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There are alternatives for Youtube that only host content that's safe for children. You might try to search for one of those. I know there is the Dutch "kindertube.nl" and I could find links to "toddlertube.com", although that seems to be offline.

Alternatively, there might also be some companies and tv-channels that host some of their content online to watch; that should also be safe. Again Dutch, but "nickelodeon.nl" allows watching their shows from their website.

In this situation you might be better off looking for a dedicated website/program to watch the kind of things you want to see, rather than using the generic app for watching all types of video ever made.

7

I am assuming small children, maybe 6-10 years.

EDIT: I missed the toddler tag. I will let this answer stand as it is for the time when your children are 6-10 years old. I would strongly suggest to never ever let toddlers (1-3) view Youtube alone.

Technical answer: Linux solution

My kids watch Youtube, how to monitor what they see?

I did that myself for a while. I installed a Linux machine which acted as enforced http proxy for her windows machine. To do that:

  • Install Squid on the Linux machine.
  • Configure your internet router so her Windows PC cannot access the internet directly.
  • Configure the Windows PC so it uses the Linux machine (squid) as proxy.
  • Configure squid to log all accesses.

Hence I had a log of all URLs she ever accessed. Then I wrote a little script which parsed that log file, looked at all Youtube URLs, added the titles of the respective videos, and sent all of that to a handy HTML page. We now have a HTML page per day with video title + link, which can be quickly checked if in doubt.

Note that depending on your country you better tell the other person that you are regularly monitoring them...

Note: this worked a few years ago. These days, Youtube uses SSL and the video URLs are no longer visible to a normal proxy. This means that today one would need to get more creative - create a man-in-the-middle situation, or try to configure a true reverse proxy with no SSL "inside". I have not tried this and do not know if it is possible, or how effective Youtube is for enforcing its SSL. So, as of 2016, take this recipe with a bit of salt.

Parental answer: maybe?

I think it is not a good idea to give young children full freedom and then have nagging doubts every day. Especially if I would see my child quickly close browser tabs / clear browser history everytime I enter the room, that would be an absolute no-no.

No matter what kind of content they can find online, the much more important issue is trust between you and them.

It must be 100% clear that they can do what they do because you trust them. So you must have a way to let them know what the boundaries are, and you must feel like your trust is justified. The moment they cannot convince you that you can 100% trust them, it must be over.

So, if you are maybe not so technically inclined, do yourself a favour, and handle this like every other parenting issue. If they are not able to freely and happily chat with you about what they have youtube'd today, then they have no place using YT on their own. If you find them obviously uncomfortable when you enter the room while they YT, then it should be over, really.

I did what I did because I had the Linux box and Squid already in place and was whitelisting the websites she could watch alone (plus the server was on at certain times per day also, so there was no fighting about that either). Youtube came relatively late, and I mainly wanted to check for major problems; I relatively quickly got rid of my special Youtube script because everything seemed to be quite OK, and I saw no reason for further monitoring. She of course knew from the start that I was doing it, and it was no problem for her.

I try every now and then to see what they are really looking at but many times they wander to some video I think it's not suitable for them like amateur cartoons with scary faces and stuff like that.

Well, you have to ask yourself how much "not suitable" that is. Cartoons with scary faces might be borderline; what about videos with mutilations, corpses, racist stuff, subtle psycho horror movies or just random bullsh*t? I would certainly not want them to see that everytime I leave the room.

Check the browser history together

A mixture of both approaches: have regular sitdowns with your children, and go through their browser history together. Let them tell you what they liked best, re-watch some clips together, maybe. If you see some that you find unwholesome, tell them that they should not watch that anymore.

If you do that, and find an erased browser history, you know what that means...

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    It'd be easier to just create a seperate google account and click 'history' on YouTube to see what video were watched. – dreamer Nov 24 '16 at 12:12
  • @dreamer there are people who do not use Google accounts at all... – AnoE Nov 24 '16 at 14:50
  • Nice tech-savvy solution, would you mind publishing that script in Github? Did you also restrict her privileges for installing VPN/proxies programs and web browsers plugins? – CPHPython Nov 24 '16 at 18:55
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    @CPHPython, that was several years ago, I don't have that script anymore, as she has leveled up to a smartphone now, anyway. ;) It was simple: check log line by line, if video URL => get the content (HTTP request), extract title from HTML, write to new file. When she was like 7-13 or so, I restricted her account with some child protection tool (discontinued, can't remember the name). Not primarily due to mistrust, but so we had to communicate whenever she wanted something. And for virus etc. issues. And because I did not want her using chatrooms at that age as a girl. – AnoE Nov 24 '16 at 19:25
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    @AnoE: How do you deal with the fact that Youtube uses SSL and you therefore don't get the URL, but only an IP address in your proxy. Or have you configured a reverse proxy with a local address without SSL? – mastov Nov 25 '16 at 11:39
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You don't specify whether this is on a tablet -- but in case it is:

What we do, with our daughter's tablet, is to use an app called "Kids Place" to "fence them in" within a kid-safe environment. There is a further app called "Kids video" in which you can list specific allowed videos -- from Youtube or locally on the tablet. This works extremely well, and our daughter knows how to access what she wants by herself.

This of course in no way precludes watching YouTube with your child as @Malachi so wisely suggests. You can do both, or either (or neither).

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In addition to the good ideas already mentioned (keep computer in public area, watch with your child when possible, and install a child safety filter), I recommend disabling Youtube on the child's account, and downloading videos you are comfortable allowing the child to watch on his or her own.

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The only answer is to supervise, imo. The TV and computers/tablets are in a common area -- no exceptions. You watch with them or at least you stay in the same area. If they go 'off channel', remove the device.

Sure I get real life isn't like that. It's tough. You have to parent them and still do all the chores and so sometimes that means they can't watch Youtube.

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    a down vote for this doesn't allow for free speech. I have no problem with a comment that says you disagree. – WRX Nov 22 '16 at 20:40
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    Down votes don't obstruct your freedom of speech; your post has not been deleted. On another note, please be nice in your posts and comments. – anongoodnurse Nov 23 '16 at 1:19
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Depending on what browser you/they are using, you can write an Adblock Plus filter to hide the suggestions sidebar on YouTube. This isn't possible with Internet Explorer, but is possible with either Chrome or Firefox.

The filter to use is youtube.com##div#watch7-sidebar-contents - this will remove the suggested videos and "up next" video (make sure that YouTube autoplay is disabled as well). You can also remove the comments section with youtube.com##div#watch-discussion.


EDIT

Note that the filter that I've given will not remove the playlist part of the sidebar if they're watching a YouTube playlist. This will allow them to see what videos are in a playlist, but may also expose them to inappropriate content depending on the playlist in question (a harmless video could be combined in a playlist with an inappropriate video, and sometimes people (or even Google) link to a playlist instead of a single video) - note that removing the playlist display wouldn't stop the playlist from playing anyway, they just wouldn't be able to see the list of videos.

Also note that the filters will need updating if YouTube changes their site.

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You Could create a very huge playlist for them and start it with auto play and with Adfree extension for them and then disable the mouse/Touchpad from the PC. It will be a bit hard to enable it back but you can use an external mouse to enable the touch pad.

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    Disabling the mouse/trackpad may make the child feel mistrusted or at least frustrate them. – Micheal Johnson Nov 23 '16 at 14:37
  • Kids always feel things when you do not allow them to do the stuff they want to do. If we keep thinking about this then we should also not stop them from smoking, drinking, driving and etc. – wonderwall Nov 23 '16 at 23:05
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    There are different ways of doing things though, even though they all impose the same level of restriction. Saying "don't watch any of the videos in the sidebar" implies full trust, saying "we've installed a parental filter and we can see what videos you've watched" implies reasonable trust, and saying "we've removed the input devices from the computer so you can't click on any other videos" implies no trust. There's a big difference in the effect that these will have. – Micheal Johnson Nov 24 '16 at 13:12
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To see what's been watched in the past, YouTube does keep a history of all the videos watched by a particular Google account.

Just make sure that you're logged in to Google/YouTube using the same account as your child and then go here to see the saved viewing history:

https://www.youtube.com/feed/history

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YOU DON'T CONTROL

I see some very dangerous things here that I kind of wonder if many people that are answering here, are even aware of the danger that control brings.

You don't control ether the web or youtube for two reasons.

The first one is, controlling means forbidding and if something is forbidden it becomes interesting and "cool". The more you fight "bad content" the more they want to see it, and they will learn to surpass any kind of filter. In the end you will teach your children to trick you but not why you think certain contend is bad. I remember this with smoking at my school, many of children around me had strict rules with smoking and the parents reacted with huge sanctions when they found out that they smoked. Yet they all did and they soon learned how to get the smell out of their clothes. My parents never forbid it, they told me that they didn't like it because it ruins health and is expensive and they won't help me but if I want, I could do it. Till this day I never even tried a cigarette.

The second reason not to control is, that you are only setting the illusion of control to yourself, but in reality you have none. Kids will always get to see "bad stuff", if not at home, they will see it while with friends or at school (I saw my first porn video at my school yard). The only thing you get with censorship is that you create a bubble for them and if they have to leave it they will fall flat on their noses when hitting reality.

The best way to cope with this is using the browser history to see what they are watching and talk about things that you don't like with them, especially why you don't like that, so they can understand and learn, and maybe they will teach you something new as well.

  • Does this still apply with children as young as toddlers? – Acire Nov 28 '16 at 12:35
  • Yes, there is no age limit, the limit is the interest of the children. If they are younger they have a natural disinterested, and often disgust against erotic material, and if it goes to rude behaviour, you have to be the one that shows disgust and distaste. If you wait, you are taking a big risk, often theirs not yours. As an example, I had a friend whose parents wanted to wait with telling her about sex till she was 12. She got pregnant about three months before she became 12. Also you have the most influence before puberty, after that your control is limited, so use the time before. – Etaila Nov 28 '16 at 12:47
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In the case of a toddler or young child you really should keep a firm grip on their internet usage by watching it with them. This is not just about the actual content that they see but also the fact that you don't really want to get into a station where their whole view of the world is moderated via the internet.

For sure the internet is an amazing resource and I would have loved to have access to Wikipedia when I was that age but at the same time children do need to have access to the real world as well and this includes the opportunity to fall over and hurt themselves as well as experiencing nature and space to explore.

So I would suggest the following

  1. Take control of your kids internet use and treat it as a valuable resource that you control. Don't just use it as an easy way to keep them quiet. For example if they ask you why the sky is blue, use the internet to find out the answer.

  2. Make sure they have access to books and take the time to read to them. Pick stories that you enjoy as well. These need not be 'children's books' there are plenty of classics which children can cope with, Jane Austin, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Swallows and Amazons etc etc.

  3. Teach them how to make things, children love making things. If you don't have the requisite skills, then this is a great reason to learn. If nothing else just make a bird house or something. Making things with your dad is infinitely better than the internet. And don't do it for them, teach them. Also tell them about your job, what skills do you use? Show them what you do... they will be interested.

Equally make watching YouTube a fun thing to do together there are all sorts of fascinating videos about weapons and armor and lock picking and horses and how stars work and telescopes and nuclear reactors and microscopes.

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