Parenting Tip: How to control what your child watches on YouTube

My kids are growing up as part of the internet generation and, as a result, they love watching videos online. Being good internet citizens, it's not surprising their favorite videos involve cats doing silly tricks. I would love to let them loose on YouTube to watch their cat videos, but there is an unsavory side to the video website that pops up in searches or YouTube's suggested videos list. Here are a few tips to help parents control the content that their child views on YouTube, and on the web, in general.

Filtering on OS X

Parenting Tip How to control what your child watches on YouTube

The quickest and easiest way to make YouTube kid-friendly is to enable Safety Mode. Safety Mode will screen out potentially objectionable content, so children can view YouTube in a web browser without unsavory videos and vulgar comments floating to the top. You can turn on Safety Mode by scrolling to the bottom of any YouTube page and clicking the drop-down menu in the "Safety" section. If you are logged into your YouTube account, you can lock this feature so it is always enabled. If you have multiple browsers, you have to open each browser and repeat this process to make sure Safety Mode is turned on in each one.

YouTube warns parents that this feature is not 100 percent foolproof, and some objectionable content could seep through its filters. If you want an extra layer of security, you can install third-party filtering tools like Safe Eyes from McAfee or Net Nanny. These services cost money, but they filter all the websites that your children visit, not just YouTube. There are browser-based extensions like FoxFilter for FireFox or Blocksi for Chrome that also filter website content. If you use Safari, parents can use the built-in filtering feature that is enabled when you turn on parental controls in OS X.

Parents looking for a house-wide filtering solution that works with all devices should look at OpenDNS and its parental control service. OpenDNS routes all your internet traffic through its server and filters that traffic for adult content, social networking sites, video sharing sites and more. You have control over the categories of content that they want to block.

Filtering on iOS

A growing number of kids are watching videos using an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod touch, and as expected, most of the parental controls you use on the desktop don't extend to mobile. You can turn on YouTube Safe Search in mobile Safari or in the YouTube app to prevent access to provocative content, but I would rather have precise control over the videos that my kids watch on iOS. Unlike a desktop or laptop, which is easy to see even from across the room, a mobile device can be propped up in a lap and easily hidden from your view. I prefer to impose stricter restrictions than follow my children around the house peering over their shoulder to see what they are watching on the iPad.

Parenting Tip How to control what your child watches on YouTube

There are several options to limit YouTube content on an iOS device. You can choose to install an app like iTubeList (iOS Universal, free with in-app purchase to disable ads), which plays only YouTube playlists. You can setup a playlist with child-friendly videos and then turn your child loose with the iTubeList app. A similar app is KidSafe Tube (iOS Universal, $2.99), which filters YouTube content and allows you to add single videos, playlists, YouTube channels or search results to a blocked content list.

An alternative to a dedicated YouTube app is a kid-safe browser like Ranger Browser or Maxthon browser. These apps monitor all web traffic, not just YouTube and have additional features that allow parents to monitor their children's web usage. Besides limiting access to websites using blacklists and whitelists, Ranger Browser also saves a browser history and lets you set the time that you child can use the web. Maxthon browser has a kid-friendly UI and uses a safe list that allows you to setup a list of accessible sites. Any content, including advertisements and links, not on your list will be blocked.