Is YouTube safe for kids?

YouTube Monitoring and Censorship

When you register for an account at YouTube, you're asked to agree to the YouTube Terms of Service. The Terms of Service lists several things you agree to avoid when uploading videos or making comments on YouTube. They also state that you agree not to hold YouTube responsible when its users don't follow these terms.

Most of the Terms of Service cover content with copyrights and trademarks, which have clear legal guidelines in the United States. For other content, the Terms of Service point to the YouTube Community Guidelines that has details on what not to post. These guidelines ask you to follow some "common-sense rules that will help you steer clear of trouble."

The following list summarizes controversial material that the guidelines say could get your video removed or, worse, invite a lawsuit against you:

  • Respect that YouTube isn't for pornography or sexually explicit content
  • Don't post videos showing "bad stuff" (illegal activity) or gratuitous violence
  • Avoid shock content like gross-out videos and dead bodies
  • Steer clear from hate speech
  • Don't reveal other people's personal information or pretend to be someone else

Does YouTube enforce this? Yes. YouTube asks its users to flag videos with potentially objectionable content. YouTube staff then reviews these flagged items and removes them if they are in violation of the Community Guidelines. They might also add an age restriction on a video if it's following the guidelines, but may not be appropriate for every viewer [source: YouTube]. Repeat offenders could have their accounts disabled [source: YouTube].

YouTube admits it isn't going to be able to protect every user from every possibly offensive video or comment. The site asks users to provide their age when they sign up (you must be 13 or older), and to take an active role in shaping the community by rating videos and comments, adding comments and flagging videos that seem objectionable. YouTube also encourages you to exercise your right to choose what you watch, and to use its "hide objectionable words" feature to hide offensive words in the Text Comments stream.

You have a choice of what not to watch on YouTube. But can you make that same choice for your kids, too? Go on to the next page to read about Safety Mode, a YouTube feature that helps you do just that.