YouTube New ‘Supervised’ Mode Will Let Parents Restrict Older Kids’ Video Viewing

YouTube is launching a PG version of the internet’s biggest video service.

A new “supervised” YouTube account option, rolling out over the next few months, is aimed at parents who feel their tweens or teens have outgrown the walled-garden confines of the YouTube Kids app — but aren’t yet ready for the weird, wide world of unrestricted YouTube.

With the new option, parents will be able to set up a managed YouTube account for their children, including for kids legally barred from using regular YouTube by themselves (in the U.S., that applies to those under 13; the age varies in different countries). Children with these accounts will not be able to upload videos or comment, and they’ll have various content filters to restrict which videos they can watch.

In 2015, the platform debuted YouTube Kids, a hub with content curated for kids 4-12 and featuring multiple parental controls. But “we’ve heard from parents and older children that tweens and teens have different needs, which weren’t being fully met by our products,” James Beser, YouTube’s director of product management for kids and family, wrote in a blog post. “As children grow up, they have insatiable curiosity and need to gain independence and find new ways to learn, create and belong.”

YouTube says supervised accounts will launch in beta in the coming months in more than 80 countries, including the U.S., available through a supervised Google Account.

With those accounts, certain YouTube features will be disabled “to protect younger audiences,” Beser said. For example, users on supervised YouTube accounts won’t see personalized ads or ads in certain categories and won’t be able to make in-app purchases.

In addition, parents will be able to access their kids’ viewing and search history. Parents can also use other controls offered by Google’s Family Link, including screen timers. YouTube plans to add other parental controls over time, such as the ability to block specific content.

The supervised YouTube kid accounts will provide three content settings for parents: “Explore,” “Explore More” and “Most of YouTube,” with content filtered based on a mix of user input, machine learning and human review to determine which videos are included.

“We know that our systems will make mistakes and will continue to evolve over time,” Beser noted. For younger children, YouTube still recommends YouTube Kids as the best way for them “to watch independently and have a more contained viewing experience.”

Here’s how YouTube describes each content setting:

Explore: For children ready to move on from YouTube Kids and explore content on YouTube, this setting will feature a broad range of videos generally suitable for viewers ages 9 and up, including vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, educational content and more.

Explore More: With content generally suitable for viewers 13 and up, this setting will include an even larger set of videos, and also livestreams in the same categories as “Explore.”

Most of YouTube: This setting will contain almost all videos on YouTube, except for age-restricted content, and it includes “sensitive topics” that may only be appropriate for older teens.

YouTube collaborated with parents and experts in child safety, child development and digital literacy to develop the supervised-account offering, according to Beser. The video platform also created a getting-started guide for the new parental-controlled experience (available at this link) with National PTA, the U.K.’s Parent Zone, Google’s Be Internet Awesome initiative and other partners. In addition, YouTube plans to launch an ongoing campaign featuring creators talking about topics including online bullying and harassment, misinformation and digital well-being.

“National PTA appreciates YouTube advancing age-appropriate experiences, as well as implementing settings that enable families to choose an experience that feels appropriate for their child,” Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA, said in a statement. “We’re pleased that YouTube has responded to families’ needs and wants and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to bring awareness to families about these new options and how to choose an experience that’s best for them.”

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