My two oldest kids ( 11 and 8 ) are pretty intensive computer users, for both school and, to a lesser extent, fun. They have a shared computer, here in my study. Sometimes you can find them working away on their homework while I’m writing these exciting blog posts.
I use- and recommend- Windows Live Family Safety to control what they access on their computer. It’s a good program, that does much of what I want it to do. But there are holes to plug and redundancy is a good thing where my kids’ eyes and ears are concerned.
YouTube is one of their favorite web sites, and I have given access to it via Windows Live Family Safety. But I want them to be able to see the things they should see there, without seeing the things they shouldn’t. This has been a bit of a challenge, so I was happy to read today that YouTube has added parental controls.
If you want to control your or your kids’ YouTube experience, you can now do so via an opt-in feature known as Safety Mode (not to be confused with Safety Dance).
Let’s take a quick song break to dance around for a moment. . .
OK, back to YouTube.
The problem with YouTube’s implementation of these controls is that each YouTube user has to opt-in to Safety Mode separately. Which means (from the FAQ):
Q: My kids and I each have separate profiles on our family computer. Do I have to log in to the same browser on each profile to lock strict filtering on each profile?
A: Yes, each profile operates independently, so you would have to lock your preference on each browser on each separate profile.
There are a heap of problems with that, but I’ll pick three. One, I have to log in to each of my kid’s computer accounts on every applicable computer (they have accounts on one of my laptops and the rarely-used Netbook), and enable Safety Mode. Two, none of my kids have YouTube accounts, so I guess I log in as me from their computer account and enable this feature. Three, it will take any kid who’s smart enough to use a computer about 30 seconds to disable this restriction. Surely there’s an better way.
Let’s give it a try anyway.
After clicking over to YouTube and logging into my account, I see a recommendation of The Bangles doing one of the best songs ever. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m hearing a great Big Star song without Alex Chilton, but, so far this feature seems a little half-baked.
So let’s take a better song break, shall we?
At the bottom of a YouTube page, you’ll see a link to enable Safety Mode.
You can lock Safety Mode if you are signed into your account (from the FAQ):
Locked Safety Mode:
- Sign In to your YouTube account
- Click Safety Mode at the bottom of every page to open the preference setting
- Click On and Save and Lock to opt-in and lock this browser
- You are now in Locked Safety Mode!
To opt out open preferences and Click Unlock Safety Mode.
Enter your YouTube password to unlock Safety Mode.
This all seems like a lot of work to put a system in place on lots of accounts on lots of computers, which could be easily disabled. I guess it’s better than nothing, but content filtering and parental controls could be addressed in a much more effective, easier way.
Note that Safety Mode is being rolled out gradually, so it may not be available to everyone yet. In the meantime Read/WriteWeb has a detailed look at the feature, and its shortcomings.