If you haven’t seen your kids in a few hours but can hear outbursts of laughter from a nearby room, chances are, they — along with millions of other kids — are watching YouTube. The popular digital video hub has more viewers than network television and soaks up more than 46,000 years of our collective viewing time annually. Chances are your kids will be part of the YouTube digital mosh pit this summer, but do you know the risks?
Types of screen time
The quality of online time for kids usually shifts during the summer months. For example, there’s active screen time and passive screen time. Knowing the difference between the two can help your family decide best how to balance device use — especially when it comes to consuming endless hours on YouTube.
Active screen time requires a person’s cognitive and/or physical engagement and develops social, language, or physical skills. Engaging in activities such as researching, creating original content, learning a new program, and playing educational games is considered active screen usage. Active screen time tends to go up during the school year and down in the summer.
Passive screen time is passively absorbing information via a screen, app, or game for entertainment reasons only. This includes scrolling through social networks, watching movies binge watching), and watching YouTube videos. Little to no thought or creativity is required when a person engages in repetitious, passive screen activities.
According to a Common Sense Media study, children ages 8 to 12, spend nearly six hours per day using media, and teenagers average closer to nine hours a day (numbers don’t include school work). It’s safe to say that during the summer, these numbers climb even higher — as do the risks.
Here are a few ways to balance screen time and boost safety on YouTube this summer.
YouTube: 5 Family Talking Points
- Explore YouTube.The best way to understand the culture of YouTube is to spend time there. Ask your kids about their favorite channels and what they like about them. Get to know the people they follow — after all, these are the people influencing your child. Here’s a sampling of a few top YouTubers: MattyBRaps (music), JoJoSiwa (music, dance), Brooklyn and Bailey (vlogs, challenges, music), Baby Ariel (challenges, vlog), Johnny Orlando (music), PewDiePie (comedy), Jacy and Kacy (crafts, challenges), (Bethany Mota (shopping hauls), Grav3yardgirl (makeup), Smosh (comedy).
- Respect age limits. YouTube is packed with humor, tutorials, pranks, vlogs, music, reviews, and endlessly engaging content. However, age limits exist for a good reason because the channel also has its share of dangerous content. The darker side of YouTube is always just a click away and includes sexual content, hate content, harassment and cyberbullying, violent and graphic content, and scams.
- Turn on restricted mode. By turning on the restricted mode you can block videos with mature content from a user’s searches, related videos, playlists, and shows — this is a big deal since many “up next” videos (on the right side of the screen) are cued to play automatically and can lead kids to sketchy content. In addition to the restricted mode, consider an extra layer of protection with filtering software for all your family devices.
- Opt for YouTube Kids. For kids under 13, YouTube Kids is a safe video platform, specially curated for young viewers. Kids may snub any platform designed “for kids,” however, if you are worried about younger kids running into inappropriate content, this is your best video option.
- Discuss the ‘why’ behind the rules. As a parent, you know the possible ways YouTube — or other social platforms — can be harmful. Don’t assume your kids do. Kids are immersed in their peer groups online, which means danger and harm aren’t primary concerns. Even so, before you lecture kids about the dangers of YouTube, open up a dialogue around the topic by asking great questions. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Do you understand why it’s important to filter YouTube content and respect age limits (inappropriate content, cyberbullying)?
- Do you understand why unboxing and makeup videos are so popular (advertisers want you to purchase)?
- Do you understand why we need to balance between screen time this summer? (mental, physical health)
- Do you know why this piece of content might be fake or contain questionable information (conspiracy, hate, or political videos)?
As the public increasingly demands social networks do more to remove harmful or objectionable content, one thing is clear: Despite strides in this area by a majority of platforms, no online social hub is (or will likely ever be) 100% safe. The best way to keep kids safe online is by nurturing a strong parent-child connection and having consistent conversations designed to equip and educate kids about digital risks and responsibility.