No, YouTube is not safe for kids to watch without close parent supervision. YouTube terms of service prohibit using YouTube website to children under 13 years old.
It’s seems like from birth my kiddos have had a technological device in their hands. Intuitively they’ve known how to swipe, click, and select their favorite things on their favorite devices. I do limit the time my children are exposed to devices, but I’m also not one to say that technology is nothing but evil. I think there are some real positives to kids using technology and services like YouTube. Even though I impose limits to screen time and place restrictions on their technology use, I still wonder about what they are accessing on these devices.
Lately, I’ve started to become more concerned that maybe I need to be exploring better options for my kids. Their love of YouTube (and my love of many of its offerings for children) is a tough habit to break. I have more recently begun to wonder: Is YouTube okay for my kids? Can it be used in a positive way? How safe is YouTube for children?
The good side of YouTube
Occasionally, I’ll hear my toddler state a fact about a dinosaur that I’m pretty sure we’ve never taught him. Or even mention a dinosaur that I have never heard of before. When I follow up with him, he explains that he learned about it on YouTube. I search for that dinosaur, and there it is! He really did learn about it in a video.
When we have a rainy day and want to do something fun, YouTube will teach us many fun activities to try. For our first attempt at making slime, we watched a video together, and then we gave it a try. It was a huge success.
Sometimes I’m at the doctor’s office with my children, and they need to get shots. And they’re miserable. I’ll try distracting them with funny faces, hugs, and silly songs. Finally, I offer them the chance to watch Elmo on my phone. I search YouTube for Elmo, and there he is. My child hears his voice, sees his fuzzy red face, and relaxes a bit. The distraction is good. The calming effect is helpful, and all is right with the world.
YouTube obviously is a tool that has a positive side to it. But what are its downfalls?
The negatives of YouTube
When my kids click on YouTube videos, they might see animals in the wild or see their favorite characters singing a catchy tune. They might hear a character teaching a foreign language or introducing numbers and shapes. Wouldn’t it be great if these informative and appropriate videos were a guaranteed result?
Unfortunately, this isn’t always going to happen. I have overheard curse words coming out of YouTube videos when I have stepped away and a new video has loaded. I have seen scary and inappropriate pop-up ads for horror movies and other products geared toward adults. Additionally, I know there are a lot of crazy videos out there that I definitely do not want my kids viewing. There are disturbing videos with foul language, sex, violence, rudeness, bullying, and more.
This bad side to YouTube makes me want to sit next to my child and watch every single video with him for the rest of his life. But I realize that this is not a realistic expectation.
What should we do as parents?
Because YouTube does have many positive aspects, and because I believe that everything is good in moderation — even technology, I am not at a place in life where I want to ban YouTube from my house. On its own, there are many risks and areas that are unsafe on YouTube for children of all ages. However, I would say that YouTube is a safe place for children if restrictions and safe viewing programs are in place. With a little research, parents can find a safe viewing tool that can create a safe YouTube experience for their kiddos.
(All photos from unsplash.com.)