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YouTube: What To Know To Protect Kids Online

Help your teens safely and securely express themselves, share with their peers, and have fun on YouTube.

YouTube is a video-sharing website that allows users to upload, share and view videos. There are other features available to enrich a user's experience, such as commenting on videos, video blogging and creating playlists. YouTube also provides free streaming of content to its users. Individual users upload a majority of the videos, and media corporations and organizations post many others as part of the YouTube partnership program. The latest statistics show that over 48 hours of videos are uploaded every minute.

The content of videos uploaded to the site varies widely in genre and includes cartoons, funny home videos, music videos and educational videos for all ages. There are approximately 490 million unique users per month from around the world on YouTube, with an estimated 3 billion views a day. The site is open to both the public and registered users. Content rated as mature is available but is restricted to users over 18 years old, with users under 18 accounting for 1 percent of the website's users.

How do teens use it?

Teens see YouTube as yet another social networking opportunity to express themselves, share with their peers and be fun and cool. They're able to express themselves through video blogging, sharing their emotions, opinions and feelings; it's a 21st Century diary. They edit their favorite music videos to express what they mean to them, and many even do cover versions of their favorite songs, helping them to build confidence and showcase their talents. The videos on YouTube can be educational, entertaining or both. Similar to other social networking sites, YouTube can give teens a feeling of belonging in an environment, along with people who are going through the same issues that they are.

What are they being exposed to?

Parents are becoming more concerned as kids are spending more time on social networking sites, including YouTube. There have been videos posted of violence against other teens and unhealthy groups formed by teens who are involved in drugs, cutting and self-injury. Also, with about 90 percent of YouTube users being adults, minors are at risk for being exposed to inappropriate content such as pornography, nudity, graphic violence and narcotics.

YouTube has a policy about the type of content that can be uploaded to the site. To uphold this policy, they check video content and rely on user feedback to help disable abusive users and remove inappropriate content from the site. Due to the volume of videos being uploaded and the rate at which the number of uploads are increasing, it is becoming difficult for YouTube to screen content. Understandably, parents are increasingly concerned about the type of content that kids are exposed to.

How do you protect them?

A feature YouTube provides to filter potentially offensive content is the safety mode . The safety mode is an opt-in setting that helps to filter offensive content both from a user's session and permanently on their account. This setting is quite easy to set up but requires installation on each browser on the computer and each account. Because it's browser specific, the safety mode filters videos containing nudity, pornography, graphic violence, news with graphic content and other questionable content. It also automatically collapses all comments on videos and if you choose to view the comments, those with profanity will be filtered out. The safety mode, however, does not work during private or incognito browsing.

No filter or setting is 100 percent perfect, and some teens will find ways around these settings. Therefore additional measures must be taken by parents to protect their kids online. Try to stay aware of your child's online activities and double-check the account settings on YouTube to make sure your child has not entered an older age in order to access adult content. Importantly, work to open up the lines of communication. Talk about why certain content is inappropriate and ask your child to tell you if it shows up as they socialize online.

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