How to Enable YouTube’s (Sort of) Parental Controls

parentalcontrolMy 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?
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.