Violence, porn, dangerous challenges – this kind of content is not at all uncommon on video sharing platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. How do you protect your children from this kind of disturbing and unsuitable material?
"In addition to violence and sexuality, dangerous gender and world views can be conveyed," says Iren Schulz from a child protection initiative in Germany. Advertising is also problematic, because children often can't differentiate it from other online content.
People can upload almost anything to these video sharing sites. Inappropriate content may eventually be removed if it is detected by an algorithm or someone makes a complaint, but parents can't rely on this to happen. Therefore, they need to take precautions.
YouTube does offer a restricted mode that is supposed to filter out adult content automatically. Parents can activate this mode, but it doesn't offer 100% protection. YouTube Kids, which is available for browsers and as an app for iOS and Android, provides significantly more options for parental controls. It offers videos specially tailored for children, and parents can both restrict usage to certain age-appropriate content as well as set time limits.
The search function can also be deactivated so that only channels verified by the platform will be displayed.
Nevertheless, children using YouTube Kids are in a commercial environment. "You should not let kids go on any video platform alone. Even with YouTube Kids, something can slip through or disturbing content can be cut into the videos," Schulz warns.
Other video sharing platforms also offer filters. On Dailymotion, for example, you can add a family filter. However, experts say that filters are only a partial solution. "The filters are very easy for children to deal with and offer only very limited setting options," says Verena Weigand, who works with a German office for new media.
In addition to settings offered by the video platforms themselves, configurations or software on the viewing device can help. These are supposed to sift out non-child-friendly content automatically – and not just on video platforms, but on search engines as well.
"For mobile devices, there are sometimes integrated parental controls or time filters," says Birgit Kimmel, an educator with another German media and communication office. These controls work differently depending on whether it's an Android device or an iOS one.
Experts agree that guaranteed protection for children on video platforms is not possible, which means that the parents' role is very important. Setting rules on what content may be consumed, when and for how long can help.
Parents and children should generally check a site's privacy settings together. Children should also be told not to reveal private data and to be careful when uploading files.
"You should make the children aware without communicating a fear of the world," Schulz says. "It's good to sit down with the children and explain the platforms to them." – dpa