YouTube

Website review by
Conny Coon, Common Sense Media
YouTube Website Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Vast video site entertains, educates; iffy stuff abounds.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 314 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1382 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn information and instruction about a variety of skills, building knowledge by seeking out videos related to their interests. Multiple videos with step-by-step instructions for almost any hobby or pursuit can be easily found. Want to build a skateboard? Tie a slip knot? Have a lemonade stand? It's all here. School-related advice and help is also available: compute pi, conjugate verbs in Italian, etc. YouTube has tools for media creation, so kids can explore video editing with their own uploaded videos. Amount of information that can be found on YouTube is astounding.

Positive Messages

Definitely positive messages; encourages creativity, sharing. But you will come across negative messages, stereotypes, poor role models, inappropriate comments and content.

Violence

Violent content exists (including some anime, movie trailers, video game scenes, and music videos), and sometimes users' comments are less than tame. Dangerous and emotionally distressing pranks and stunts have now been banned from the site. Still, plenty of videos are violence-free. YouTube has a Safety Mode that should block some inappropriate content, but it was easy to disable during our review.

Sex

Because there's such a wide variety of content, sexual images, innuendo, and comments exist in various places (including music videos, which are popular viewing for teens and tweens). Porn videos cannot be viewed without logging in, but it's not difficult to lie about your age to get an account, and porn-like videos can be found even if they're not labeled as such. YouTube has a Safety Mode that should block some inappropriate content, but it was easy to disable during our review.

Language

Plenty of crude commentary. Curse words, inappropriate language can be filtered out, hidden by Safety Mode, although this is easily disabled.

Consumerism

Various ads appear on every page, embedded at bottom of each video (though they can be clicked on to close). Some ads are iffy, can lead to other sites. Marketers promote movies, music videos, products, more. Unboxing videos focus on products, usually toys. Users may indicate ad preferences (but can't disable ads) in settings.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to numerous substances in some videos and user comments. Enabling site's Safety Mode filters out much of it, but this is easy to disable.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that YouTube is a video-sharing site and app, and there are many videos on YouTube that may not be age-appropriate for kids. However, as of 2021, YouTube announced that it's slowly releasing more parental control options within YouTube if a parent sets up a supervised Google account for their kid. There will be three tiers of supervision: Explore (the most restrictive), Explore More, and Most of YouTube (the least restrictive). Kids with supervised accounts won't get personalized ads and can't comment or create. As of this writing, the new parental controls are in beta mode, so they're still being tested.

In the unsupervised experience, the app includes a feature that lets you see how much time you've spent watching videos, and you can set reminders to turn off autoplay and take a break. The site is entirely user-generated and relies on its community to flag videos that violate YouTube's terms of service (mostly for sexual content, language, and hate speech). For full reviews of the most popular channels, check out our YouTube Reviews. Channel owners can also now distribute live content, and can launch livestreams at will, which are governed by YouTube rules. Plenty of inappropriate content can surface after typing in the most innocent of search terms, so parents will want to monitor kids' use. Violent and emotionally distressing pranks and stunts have been banned from the site, and conspiracy theory videos and disinformation videos are no longer getting promoted through search. Videos here run the gamut, from commercial to educational to music videos to homemade clips. Many kids love YouTube and rely on it as a way of keeping up with popular culture. Videos go "viral" when viewers share the clips they like. One of the web's most popular destinations for people of all ages, YouTube now curates its videos, suggesting clips and new "channels" based on what you've watched previously. Kids can also discover new videos by seeing what's popular and trending throughout its immense collection. These new features can easily increase the amount of time your kids spend on the site. YouTube does offer parents the ability to filter out objectionable content and comments using Safety Mode. But Safety Mode doesn't catch everything, and it's easy to disable. YouTube also has channels by which users can access specialized content: YouTube Kids and YouTube Music. Users can also subscribe to YouTube Premium to stream videos for free, save videos for background and offline viewing, and access new original content. As of 2017, the YouTube app allows in-app messaging between users. And the app also lets users create "Shorts," which are under-a-minute, TikTok-style videos with editing features. If you're interested in more information about the site from Common Sense, make sure you check out our latest Young Kids and YouTube research report. Read the privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. Under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), you have the right to protect your personal information. Make a Do Not Sell request to YouTube.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytdidjdood April 10, 2009

oh come on

This site isn't that bad.
Parent of a 3-year-old Written bySharon M February 12, 2010
Youtube isn't a monolith, it's a medium--rating it as a single site is more like attempting to rate "cable television" than any particular s... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old March 26, 2010

Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!

OK the common sense people are wrong. I know for a fact that youtube should be for age 10+. And it can't be iffy for 13 to ages 15. It should be inappr... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 4, 2011

It depends on what you watch

Youtube is a good website, but is it inaproppiate? It really depends on what you watch. If your a parent and think that your child is looking up inaproppiate st... Continue reading

What's it about?

On YOUTUBE, which is a comprehensive video library site, visitors can search -- and find -- virtually anything. Its content is entirely user-generated, so it's important to be attentive to each video's source. Plenty of age-inappropriate content can surface when you type in the most innocent of search terms, so parents will want to monitor kids' use. There are all kinds of videos available -- including lots of disturbing content -- but there's plenty of educational content to peruse and some helpful information to use.

Is it any good?

This video-sharing site has easily secured its place in pop culture, and is an incredibly mixed bag for kids. It offers so much to discover -- and love -- in its comprehensive video library: Information. Education. Instruction. Entertainment. Distraction. Delight. Want step-by-step guided instructions on making dozens of styles of friendship bracelets? Need to know how to create a unique Halloween costume? Want to show your kid what the robot from Lost in Space looked like or check out the Earth's solar system? You'll find that and much, much more here, including the latest viral videos of that kid or cat everyone's laughing about. The beauty of YouTube is being able to see so much in one place at any given time. But that also makes it difficult to know what your kids are finding and viewing when you're not supervising.

Yes, YouTube provides an endless source of useful information. But, as with other internet search engines, it's also rife with questionable content and inappropriate user comments that are easy for computer-savvy kids to find and view. This isn't likely to change, even with the newly created content-specific channels such as Gaming, Music, or Kids or with the paid, ad-free channel, YouTube Red. In addition, in fall 2016, YouTube debuted its Community feature for YouTube channel owners, which provides live video capabilities. Users are also able to text through the feature and share animated GIFs and images to connect with fans, who can sign up to receive notifications whenever hosts post something. What makes YouTube such an innovative site is its usefulness as a creative outlet for kids and adults alike. Homemade movies -- from silly to serious and everything in between -- are commonplace, and innovative video creations are easy to find. It's not only a place to experience and enjoy the creativity of others, but also a place to exercise your own. That said, due to the scope of what's posted -- and how easy it is to access it -- supervision is key. Check kids' Watch History, look at their subscriptions, check out the recommended videos, turn off autoplay, and use Restricted Mode, or use YouTube Kids instead.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about appropriate content for kids to view. Since there are plenty of items that are inappropriate for kids, how can you tell whether your kids are watching videos that are safe for them? What if they click on a suggested video that has mature content? If you're also interested in finding out what content kids are watching, make sure to check out our latest Young Kids and YouTube research report.

  • Talk about digital media creation. What appeals to you about creating videos or making a YouTube channel? Do your friends have their own channels?

  • Discuss how your kids are using YouTube, for how long, and what they love to watch. Watch with them when you can.

Website details

  • Skills: Creativity: producing new content
    Communication: multiple forms of expression
    Tech Skills: digital creation, evaluating media messages, using and applying technology
  • Genre: Video Sites
  • Pricing structure: Paid, Free
  • Last updated: March 7, 2021

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