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YouTube introduces Safety Mode

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 huge numbers.

YouTube itself pretty much admitted the fact on Tuesday when they introduced a new filtering mechanism called "Safety Mode".

The new setting, which can be activated through an "on-off" button at the bottom of any YouTube page, allows parents to screen out videos that contain adult content, violence or other objectionable material. Users have the option of switching to Safety Mode for the current browsing session or they can sign in using their YouTube or Google account and lock it in permanently.

[Note: the Safety Mode feature is being rolled-out over a few days, so you may not see it immediately.]

As YouTube already does a reasonable job of screening out the majority of offensive videos, this is clearly aimed at protecting younger viewers. As previously discussed, there is a huge amount of kid-friendly material on YouTube and one of the problems facing parents is how to get to the good stuff without stumbling across the bad.

Safety Mode also filters out viewers' comments, which often contain language and sentiments that are far worse than anything you will see in a video. Safety Mode will automatically hide all comments. Although they can still be unhidden, any objectionable  words will be replaced with asterisks while Safety Mode is on.

Safety Mode takes us one step closer to the logical outcome of a YouTube for kids. Although there are existing video sites for younger viewers such as Totlol and kid-friendly browsers such as Kidzui, nothing approaches the variety and originality of YouTube's vast video archive. In many ways, it's the ability to seek out the zany and the unexpected that makes YouTube so attractive to kids of all ages.

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

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