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How to filter content on YouTube

Despite YouTube’s strict policy that children under the age of 13 are not permitted to access the site, the reality is somewhat different. Whether they go there on their own or are encouraged by older siblings or unwitting parents, it’s clear that tweens and even younger kids are logging on to the popular video-sharing site in record numbers.

While YouTube does a reasonable job of screening out the majority of offensive videos, there is still a huge amount of material that could be considered inappropriate for younger viewers. One of the problems facing parents whose children love the pop music videos and zany entertainment offered by YouTube, is how to get to the good stuff without stumbling across the bad.

About a year ago, YouTube introduced a filtering system for its videos called Safety Mode. When you turn on Safety Mode, videos that have mature or age-restricted content will not show up in search, related videos, playlists, or show and movie listings.

While YouTube doesn’t claim that Safety Mode is 100% accurate, it uses its robust community flagging system and pornographic image detection technology to identify and hide inappropriate content. It also hides all viewers’ comments, which often contain language and sentiments that are far worse than anything you will see in a video. Although they can still be unhidden, any objectionable  words will be replaced with asterisks while Safety Mode is on.

Here’s how to activate Safety Mode:

• Sign-in to your YouTube account

• Click on the Off button next to Safety Mode, which can be found at the very bottom of every YouTube page

• Click the On button and then click Save and lock Safety Mode on this browser

• You will return to the top of the page where you will see a Safety Mode confirmation message

To opt out of Safety Mode, click the On button and then Unlock Safety Mode setting. You will be asked to enter your YouTube password to confirm the opt out.

The Safety Mode lock applies to the browser, not the individual YouTube account, so you don’t have to be logged in to your own account for Safety Mode to be effective. Bear in mind that Safety Mode is browser-specific, so if you are using multiple browsers on the same computer, Safety Mode will need to be activated for each one.

If you have separate profiles on a family computer, then make sure you are in the right profile when you activate Safety Mode; it doesn’t transfer between profiles.

And lastly, at the current time there isn’t a Safety Mode for mobile devices, so your ability to filter content doesn’t extend to smartphones or tablets.

Parents should be aware that it’s still possible for inappropriate material to slip through when Safety Mode is on. Plus, the easy accessibility of the on-off button will allow some tech-savvy kids to quickly get around it. Parental supervision of children’s YouTube sessions  is always recommended.

Comment by Kathy, posted 3/28/2011, 9:32 AM:

Should YouTube videos be rated?
Comment by Zinglewaga, posted 3/25/2011, 2:25 PM:

It drives me crazy that they still have not implemented a safety mode for mobile devices. It seems like such a glaring oversight. We've enabled safety mode on all the PCs/laptops in our house but our girls use their iPod touches more and more for accessing YouTube and there is nothing we can do (apart from disabling the YouTube app). We've discussed the dangers of searching and they've seen it for themselves before before we enabled Safety Mode in all the browsers but even so, they're at risk!
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