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YouTube's Policies to Protect Kids

On Monday the New York Times published a damning article detailing how YouTube's recommendation algorithms lead viewers with a sexual interest in children from an innocent home video of kids to not only more similar content, but content that is more sexual:
Any individual video might be intended as nonsexual, perhaps uploaded by parents who wanted to share home movies among family. But YouTube’s algorithm, in part by learning from users who sought out revealing or suggestive images of children, was treating the videos as a destination for people on a different sort of journey.
Julia Alexander of The Verge has pointed out that YouTube has an interest in supporting the very popular "family vlogging" channels, which often feature kids. Since the 2017 "adpocalypse" YouTube has seemingly increased the recommendations of videos with kids, as they are usually "advertiser friendly". Creators noticed that change and started featuring kids in their videos.
That's the context for YouTube's Monday update outlining what they are doing to try to protect kids on the platform, outlining the changes they have made over the past few months. Read on to learn more about these policies and the steps parents can take to protect their kids on YouTube.

Younger minors are not allowed to live stream unless clearly accompanied by an adult

YouTube has increased enforcement of the policy prohibiting "younger minors" to live stream without an adult being present, using machine learning tools to find and remove live streams that violate this policy. This is in addition to requiring channels to have at least 1000 subscribers to live stream on mobile devices.

Channels that violate this policy may no longer be eligible to live stream. And YouTube makes clear that if live streaming is restricted on your channel, you are not allowed to use a different channel to stream.

Comments are disabled on videos featuring kids

In February YouTube took the drastic action of disabling comments completely on almost all videos featuring kids. This was a blow to channels that had an active community discussing their videos, but predators also used the comments to identify and share the content, so shutting off commenting was only done because it was "critical for keeping young people safe".

YouTube has also been improving it's automated systems to identify and remove predatory comments.

Reducing recommendations of videos featuring kids in "risky situations"

YouTube is limiting recommendations of some videos featuring kids. YouTube doesn't define what exactly it means by "risky situations", but notes that the content doesn't violate YouTube's policies. They do mention that this is to reduce the risk of "online or offline exploitation" of the content, so it's likely that they are trying to identify content that is especially appealing to predators.

They also note that they regularly update their algorithms that identify such content, with the most recent update earlier this month.

Requiring users to confirm they are old enough to use the platform

While YouTube did not mention any change to enforcement, but there have been an increased number of reports in the YouTube help forum from users who received an email from YouTube Legal Support Team requiring them to submit documents to prove they are not underage.

The minimum age to use Google products and services (like YouTube) varies by country:
  • Age 13+: all countries that are NOT listed below
  • Age 14+: Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Peru, South Korea, Spain, Venezuela
  • Age 15+: France, Vietnam
  • Age 16+: Aruba, Bulgaria, Caribbean Netherlands, Croatia, Curaçao, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia

What can parents do?

YouTube is in a difficult position when it comes to content featuring kids. The content itself is usually innocent and family friendly, but the actions of predatory viewers tie it to more sexual content.

There are steps parents can take to help protect their kids:
Read: Update on YouTube's efforts to protect minors and families
Update August 2019: YouTube now removing videos with "mature themes" targeted to kids


  1. Nice blog. YouTube is going in the right direction. Since there is so much kids programming on YouTube then keeping kids safe is of utmost importance.
    I'm not sure why kids aren't supposed to use Google products though. Don't kids have phones?

    1. Sure kids have phones. Parents can manage their access using Google Family Link, so that limits what they can do.


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