Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Youtube Parental Controls

This post is really about nothing. What I mean by that is that Youtube (a Google company) has nothing in regards to parental control. But they shouldn't feel alone in this, since many major content providers seem to have put families at the bottom of their priority list. The average family-friendly feature is simply a button that can be interpreted as "Click this to activate a simple filter for content by family members". I could write different posts, one for each provider: Netflix, Apple, Google, Amazon, but today I will stick with Youtube.

The catch with Youtube and children can be summed up with a disclaimer: children under 13 are not supposed to use Youtube. This is as simple as it gets and it puts the responsibility on the parents.

The reality of Youtube use is different. Go to the nearest public space and you will see that the average toddler is using Youtube, because it's very convenient for the parents: it's like a portable TV on demand that never runs out of programming, in which you can watch episodes of almost every cartoon or kid show imaginable. This is powerful, since it allows the parents to do other things while the kid is entertained.

There must have been some pressure because eventually Youtube Kids was invented as a mobile app. Right away they started having trouble because now they had to comply with their own rules.

Eventually, as kids grow up, and reach the mature age of 13, they might ask for Youtube because their friends had Youtube since birth. Since this product is designed to maximize consumption, you might face a problem if you want it to stop. There is no feature that makes Youtube stop; it's not intended to have be controlled by a parent but by an individual. You're supposed to stop watching (or not). The closest feature is the "safe content" button, which turns many features off until the child figures it out and unlocks it.

The workaround, if you have an iPhone, is to remove the Youtube app, enable restrictions, don't allow apps to be installed, and don't allow Youtube as a website, which may or may not work. In your own wi-fi, you can go through the multiple steps of setting up Open DNS, which requires an account and knowledge of network configurations beyond the realm of average people.

I think Youtube shouldn't have created Youtube Kids, because they set an expectation that may be hard to achieve, therefore they have to make a disclaimer that their filters are not 100% accurate, and also tailor their advertising. Instead they should allow filtering by category, where the user (or a parent who controls the account) can opt out of videos, creators, or categories. That way there is no expectation of performance. This is possible to do, since the real catch of Youtube is the ability to figure out what you should watch next and put in on the navigation bar, or play another video automatically. I think the ability to not watch a video or a category of videos is going to become more in demand.

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