YouTube basics

Any child with access to the Internet who is older than eight knows what YouTube is. Most parents know what YouTube is, but few understand how YouTube fits into the world of raising a child.

YouTube – owned by Google, and based in San Bruno – is both exciting and petrifying because of the sheer volume of stuff that kids can find on it. A child can find anything from learning how to do skateboard tricks to turning a tricks on a street corner. One is very useful and age appropriate, and the other is not.

Living in the SF Bay Area, our proximity to Silicon Valley can cloud our collective sense of concern around tools like YouTube. If you have school-aged children, you do not have to dig far to find anecdotes that spell the potential dangers of having young children, and even older teens, who are not educated about what lies in the pages of YouTube.

YouTube has no parental controls like those available on a PC or laptop. One supplemental layer of protection regarding what a child views exists for videos that contain explicit sexual content. Viewing these videos requires a user to confirm that they are over 18 years-old, something that most savvy young teens can easily exploit.

Any technology that gives your child greater access to the outside world, gives the outside world greater access to your child. Your best means of protecting your child comes from communication: talk to your child about what’s on YouTube, and how easily videos of your child could get on YouTube without wanting to be there.

You need to let your child know that:

  • You will take an active interest in knowing everything that they are watching
  • Videos do not always contain what the title says they do
  • Some videos may make them feel uncomfortable
  • If they see a video that makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to speak to you about it
  • Any time a friend has a video camera or video phone, the video from it can end up on YouTube
  • They have the right to tell their friends to not post videos of them on YouTube
  • Once a video of them is on YouTube there is no way, at all, to control where the video ends up, or for how long it will be on the Internet
  • Anything embarrassing they do today on video, that might end up on YouTube, might be out on the Internet until they themselves are parents



Like any technology that parents give their children, it is best served with a dose of healthy, open communication between parent and child.


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