How to restrict what your kids can watch on YouTube

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youtube restrictions
Some things are definitely adults-only.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Kids on YouTube are like rats at a food dispenser. Tap, tap, tap, next video please. But unlike the rats, which get “rewarded” with an electric shock or worse, kids just end up surfing the Up Next links until they end up seeing a rat getting shocked, or worse. A more pompous writer would point out here that it’s a parent’s job to monitor their child’s YouTube activity, but actual parents know this isn’t particularly realistic. So how do you stop your kids watching the wrong thing? Let’s see:

YouTube restrictions

YouTube places age restrictions of some videos. While uploaders can rate their own videos, that doesn’t always happen. For you and I, these restrictions make no difference. You can watch anything you like. But if your kids are going to be left alone while mummy prepares her afternoon Old Fashioned, then these restrictions are a great help.

Video content can be flagged for the following:

  • Vulgar language.
  • Violence and disturbing imagery.
  • Nudity and sexually suggestive content.
  • Portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities.

I’m not why nudity is on this list. After all, everyone — even kids — has a body that they can view at any time.

How to enable YouTube’s restricted mode in Safari

Activate YouTube's restricted mode.
Activate YouTube’s restricted mode.
Photo: Cult of Mac

YouTube’s restrictions work on a per-browser basis. To enable them, make sure you’re signed into your YouTube account follow along with the instructions:

  1. Click your user icon at the top right of the YouTube site.
  2. Click on Restricted Mode:Off at the bottom of the resulting list. Restricted mode will be enabled.

The trouble is, restricted mode can be disabled just as easily, which means that your kids will do it while you’re having your little post-martini nap. To lock restricted mode, you need to visit the same menu again. This time, the last item on the list is Restricted Mode: On. Click this, and then click the switch to Lock Restricted Mode on this Browser. Enter your YouTube or Google password when prompted.

That’s it. You’re done. Anyone using your browser will be unable to view restricted content. But what if your kids get all smart about things while you’re laying comatose on the sofa, and they switch to a new private browser tab? By design, this will load YouTube without logging in.

No problem. YouTube won’t let you view restricted content if you’re not signed in. Search results are unrestricted, but clicking on them prompts for a sign-in.

How to disable YouTube’s restricted mode in Safari

And switch it off again.
And switch it off again.
Photo: Cult of Mac

To disable YouTube’s restricted mode, just follow the same procedure as above. Click the switch again to unlock restrictions, and enter your YouTube or Google password. Pro tip: after ensabling restrictions, you may also want to disable Safari’s password auto-fill, or your kids will have no problem circumventing the restrictions.

How to enable YouTube’s restricted mode in Mobile Safari

The best way to control your kids’ usage of YouTube on iOS may be to grab the YouTube Kids app, which allows you to control what they view. While the browser restrictions do work on Safari for iPhone and iPad, it’s hard to lock them. YouTube’s own instructions on the subject say that you can lock restricted mode, just like on the desktop, but I can’t find a setting for this anywhere.

YouTube Kids app

YouTube Kids app.
YouTube Kids app.
Photo: YouTube

Instead, you can enable the iPad and iPhone’s own parental controls to disable YouTube in the browser, and use YouTube Kids. This not only lets you restrict what kids watch, but also lets you easily check what they have been watching, as well as other neat features like a timer that will limit how long they can watch for.

Price: Free

Download: YouTube Kids from the App Store (iOS)

So you see, it’s easy to block adult content from YouTube on both your Mac, as well as on iOS. This is great news, because it means that you can now enjoy that second martini, guilt-free.