Recently I discovered a wonderful series on YouTube. It's a language show that teaches children how to speak Spanish in a fun, easy way. Completely free, my daughter really enjoys it, and it completely impresses her dad and me. The show is just one of the many positive, engaging finds that the website YouTube offers.
YouTube does have it's dangers, which is why we didn't allow our daughter to find the video on her own. In order for you to allow your child to utilize this popular website safely, follow a few easy tips before they click that link.
A little history... YouTube, now a household name, was founded in 2005 by three friends and later bought by Google. For those who don't know, it is a video hosting and sharing site. This means that people from all over the world can share their videos and anyone can watch them. This is where your insight as a parent comes in. Although YouTube tries to be cautious, not everything available to those under 18 will be appropriate for your little one.
To be fair, YouTube does have some great standards listed under it's Coomunity Guidelines. A few times, they even acknowledge the possible danger to children using the site:
"YouTube is not for... explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it's a video of yourself, don't post it on YouTube. Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation."
They also specifically mention that children are not to be mistreated in any way in any video or it will be reported along with the video being removed. Videos that obviously contain adult content are not viewable to anyone under 18. However, if your child is even slightly computer and Internet literate, they may be able to circumvent that rule.
What you can do... the first option may be the most obvious but also the most difficult. Simply don't allow your child onto the site unless you are present. For younger children, you may want to select videos in advance that you will allow them to watch. It would be even safer for you to screen those videos you've selected to ensure the content is up to par.
For older children or teenagers, having a frank discussion prior to a YouTube visit is the most reasonable choice. Before you explain to your child what you will and won't allow them to see, ask them what they want to see. You might be (pleasantly) surprised. But if they are interested in content that you are not willing to allow, tell them so in advance.
YouTube has a lot of interesting, fun, educational content that millions of people find useful, but like any website, a cautious approach is the best way to enjoy it.