Navigating YouTube (2023): What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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May 26, 2022

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This YouTube guide will help you learn:

  • What is YouTube and why do students want to use YouTube?
  • The top dangers for students using YouTube
  • Tips for helping someone with screen time addiction
  • Recommendations to have fun on YouTube as a family

Unlock this lesson to learn what you can do to keep kids safe on YouTube!

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


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Table of Contents

YouTube is the app where users can spend endless hours learning to play guitar, watching funny viral videos, discovering new music, and perhaps accidentally seeing something inappropriate. 

Users add new videos to YouTube each day, at an astonishing rate, making it challenging to keep unsuitable content away from students. Certain YouTube features make it all too easy for any user to give in to the temptation to “watch just one more video.” 

YouTube and YouTube Kids can be fantastic sources of education and entertainment, but the Smart Social team wants parents to know the potential for dangers on YouTube and help your families to be safer across the YouTube platforms.

What students think about YouTube & social media (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

In this video students answer the following questions about YouTube

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What do students like about YouTube?
  2. How much time do students spend on YouTube?
  3. What are some positive things students can do on YouTube?
  4. How to avoid YouTube distractions
  5. What are the downsides of YouTube?
  6. How to make social media less distracting
  7. Advice for younger students
  8. Favorite things about YouTube

Student, parent, & educator training video

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

What you'll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. Positives and negatives of YouTube
  2. YouTube addiction signs and tips
  3. How can you limit your YouTube time?
  4. How to report inappropriate content and comments
  5. YouTube notifications
  6. Want to become a YouTuber?
  7. Settings for posting your own videos

Parent & Educator Content:

Quick tips for parents (3 min video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What you'll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. Tips for watching YouTube as a family
  2. Tips to help students with YouTube addiction
  3. Tips if your teen wants to be a YouTuber

Important YouTube settings (video)

(3 minute video lesson for parents and educators)

What you'll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. "Time watched" & take a break reminders
  2. Set Restricted Mode (fewer shady videos)
  3. How to report inappropriate content
  4. Avoid notification distractions

Parent and educator video lesson

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What you'll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What is YouTube?
  2. Why do students want to use YouTube?
  3. Why should parents care about YouTube?
  4. How to turn off "Autoplay next video"
  5. What is YouTube Kids and is it right for your family?
  6. Family Link settings for YouTube
  7. Parent supervised YouTube tips
  8. Tips to keep students safer on YouTube
  9. Why do people want to become YouTubers?

Psychology of YouTube (expert video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What you'll learn in this video lesson

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What is your favorite thing to learn on YouTube?
  2. Why do students like YouTube so much?
  3. How much time is too much on YouTube?
  4. Why might students think 1 hour isn't enough?
  5. What are positive uses of YouTube for students?
  6. What can parents say to help students understand?
  7. How can families have fun on YouTube?
  8. How does YouTube create stress/anxiety/depression?
  9. How to create a healthy relationship with YouTube
  10. How to block YouTube at home
  11. Monitoring apps for parents to check-in

Top YouTube dangers for kids, tweens, and teens

  • Addiction - The YouTube algorithm is designed to keep users watching videos. It uses a user’s watch and search history, subscribed channels, country, time of day, and more to automatically select videos to play next 
  • Advertisements - Companies pay to get their messages seen and advertisements are everywhere in free versions of YouTube and even within videos in Premium subscriptions
  • Mature Content - Students may see content or hear words/subjects that are not appropriate for their age no matter what parent settings have been set. YouTube is user-generated and relies on users to flag videos that violate YouTube’s terms of service (for things like violence, nudity, encouraging danger, hate speech, etc.)
  • YouTube Live - YouTube has a live stream option where users can view videos in real time. It’s very popular with gaming, music, and news but because it’s “live” there is not a safe way to watch. There is also a live chat option with YouTube Live where users may be able to see or participate in inappropriate messaging

Reminders and autoplay settings

YouTube Time Watched
  • Review the “Time watched” report together as a family  and discuss appropriate watch time limits for YouTube
  • Set reminders through the YouTube app to take a break from streaming videos
  • Autoplay is a default setting on the app which makes a new video automatically play once another video ends
  • Students could unintentionally watch inappropriate or dangerous videos because content is automatically suggested
  • Tap on your profile image in the top right
  • Tap on “Time watched”
  • Turn on “Remind me to take a break” and set the break to every 20 min
  • Turn on “Remind me when it’s bedtime” and set your bedtime hours
  • Turn off “Autoplay next video”
  • Or, access “Autoplay” from the “Settings” menu
YouTube Restricted Mode

Restricted Mode

  • Restricted Mode will not stop 100% of distracting content, but helps to hide potentially shady videos (including videos on YouTube Live) that want to steal your time
  • In the YouTube app, tap on your profile picture in the top right and select "Settings"
  • Tap "General"
  • Turn “Restricted Mode” on

Reporting inappropriate content

If you see a video that you feel is inappropriate for any viewer, report the video. YouTube policy specialists manually review flagged videos

  • Tap the video and the menu at the top will appear
  • Tap on the three dots in the top right corner
  • Tap on Report
  • Select the best reason to report

Reporting malicious comments

If you see comments on any video that are hateful and malicious or you receive inappropriate comments on your own videos or channel, report the comment to YouTube

  • Tap on Comments to expand (Note: Restricted mode setting hides comments)
  • Tap on the three dots next to the comment you want to report
  • Tap “Report”
  • Tap on the reason why you’re reporting it
YouTube Notifications

YouTube notifications

Apps are designed to keep users online and they send notifications to get users back to using the app

  • From the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on “Notifications”
  • Consider turning off all notifications from YouTube in the app or in your device’s Notifications settings to help prevent distractions

About YouTube

  • YouTube is a free video-sharing website that makes it easy to watch and share videos online 
  • YouTube promotes paid and sponsored videos 
  • Viewers can watch through web browsers at and
  • YouTube Premium and YouTube TV are subscriptions paid monthly
  • YouTube Live allows viewers to watch creators live stream gaming, music, sports, and news and allows users to chat during the live stream
  • YouTube has 2.6 billion users worldwide as of 2022 and the only platform that has more active users than is Facebook 
  • It’s ranked as the second-most popular social network and the 2nd largest search engine
  • YouTube gets more than 14 billion visits per month
  • There are more than 1 billion hours of video watched every day
  • Users upload 500 hours of video every single minute
  • Over a billion people listen to music on YouTube every month
  • Five official apps for YouTube exist: App Zone Category:  Gray Zone

Apple App Rating: 12+

Google Play Rating: T (for Teen)

Owned by: Google

Terms of service

Privacy Policy

Why do students want to use YouTube?

I use YouTube for song playlists and maybe tutorials/study videos every now and then. - McKenna, SmartSocial Student Advisor
I use YouTube to either explore my interests, or to take a break from the world around me, or to help myself fall asleep, etc. My friends use it for similar reasons. - Colin, SmartSocial Student Advisor
I normally feel refreshed after taking a break from studying with YouTube, but if I stay on the site too long I often feel I though I have wasted my time. - Kaitlyn, SmartSocial Student Advisor
It's the BEST all-rounder social media. You can post images, audio, videos, text posts and links to your personal website through it! - Ziya, SmartSocial Student Advisor
  • To catch up on tv shows in bite-sized clips that they may have missed 
  • To learn new skills such as knitting or how to serve a volleyball
  • To see funny, trending videos that their friends are talking about
  • To discover new music
  • To watch movies
  • To watch others play video games and learn gaming tricks and tips
  • It’s a fun way for them to interact with friends while discussing and watching videos
  • Some may want to create and share their own content

What can parents & educators do?

  • Talk as a family to find out why your student wants to use YouTube and discuss the potential dangers so everyone understands
  • Talk with your students and use our  Family Media Agreement so that everyone understands the expectations
  • Review the “Time watched” report together, discuss appropriate watch time limits for your family, and set the “take a break reminders” in the app
  • Set up a shared family Google account and supervise your students through the YouTube Parent settings
  • Turn off “Autoplay next video”
  • Turn on “Restricted Mode”
  • Turn off all YouTube notifications to help reduce distractions
  • Don’t rely on the filters. Parents must still closely monitor what kids of all ages are doing in the YouTube app
  • Discourage students from watching YouTube live streams as content filtering and chat functions may present inappropriate images or language
  • Encourage your student to use YouTube in a positive way by watching educational content and learning new skills
  • Subscribe to safe channels your children would like, so they get those videos recommended to watch next
  • Contribute to reporting videos and helping YouTube manually review for inappropriate content

Is YouTube Kids right for your family?

  • If your kids are 1-12 years old, consider trying the YouTube Kids app to see if the content and settings are helpful for your family 
  • It’s available as YouTube Kids app or on a web browser at
  • YouTube warns parents that “not all videos have been manually reviewed” and regardless of the setting parents select, mature content could be seen 
  • Parents set an age-range for content for each child’s profile they create
  • “Approve content yourself” is the default setting so the viewer  is able to watch only the videos, channels or collections the parents have approved (and they cannot search for videos)
  • The other age settings use YouTube algorithms to determine appropriate subjects:
  • ~Preschool (4 and under)
  • ~Younger (Ages 5-7)
  • ~Older (Ages 8-12)
  • For a more in depth look at YouTube Kids, read the SmartSocial YouTube Kids Guide
YouTube Kids Parents Only Passcode

The “Parents only” passcode

The default “Parents only” code to make changes to a profile is a fairly simple math problem. We recommend saving your own unique passcode

  • Tap the lock symbol in the bottom right of the app
  • Tap the “Set My Own Passcode” and follow the directions on the screen 
  • Kids can have their own passcode too, which can be helpful if you have multiple kid accounts

YouTube Kids “Time Limit” feature

YouTube Kids Time limit

Older kids often don’t want to watch videos on YouTube Kids, but we recommend it when possible for the “Time Limit” feature this app offers that locks the app when the time expires

  • Tap the lock button on the lower right 
  • Tap “Timer”
  • Slide the bar to the time limit and tap “Start timer”: our recommendation is to take a break at least every 20 minutes 
  • When time is up, the video will stop and require the parent passcode to continue

Family Link is YouTube’s answer for supervision options for kids ages 9-17

Google Family Link logo
  • Google Family Link helps parents to group their children by age to restrict content 
  • Parents can control other mobile devices through the Google Family Link app
  • Or, connect on a computer at
  • This only works for personal gmail addresses, not for school accounts/Google Workspace accounts
  • There are three levels of settings for YouTube in Family Link, each adding a little more content and less restrictions for viewers under 18
  • ~Explore: Generally aligns with content ratings for viewers 9+ 
  • ~Explore More: Generally aligns with content ratings for viewers 13+
  • ~Most of YouTube: Almost all videos on YouTube except for content marked as 18+ and other videos that may not be appropriate for viewers using supervised experiences
  • YouTube uses a mix of user input, machine learning, and human review to determine what videos fall under each category
  • Allows the parent to supervise their students’ YouTube accounts from their own device and YouTube app
YouTube Parents Settings

Disable the autoplay feature through Parent settings

  • From the icon in the upper right corner, go to the “Settings” menu
  • Tap “Parent settings”
  • Tap on the child that you want to supervise 
  • Tap “EDIT” to adjust settings for either YouTube Kids or YouTube and YouTube Music
  • Tap “Disable autoplay” to prevent your student from turning on autoplay from their account

YouTube addiction signs

  • Would your student rather watch YouTube alone instead of talking with friends around them? 
  • Are they watching YouTube for more than 2 hours a day? 
  • Do they forget to eat, grab junk food, or rush through a meal, just to get back to YouTube or a video?
  • Is their schoolwork suffering?
  • Is there a new lack of hygiene?
  • Are they staying up past bedtime to watch videos?
  • Do they lose track of time?
  • Are they sneaking extra watch time or lying about the amount of time they spend on YouTube?

Tips to help someone who is struggling with YouTube addiction

  • Ask them to do something with you other than YouTube (play a game, read a book, draw, go outside, etc.)
  • Set, and enforce, app time limits in device parental controls
  • Enforce the reminders to take a break
  • Turn off all YouTube notifications
  • Agree to only use YouTube for educational purposes, not for entertainment
  • Don’t allow devices behind closed doors
  • If necessary, block the website on your browser, or wifi router,  and delete the app

YouTube in the news

How YouTube is addictive - ecommendation systems & its impacts
YouTube as a platform fulfills [the] requirements for addiction. The videos provide us with relevant information that stimulates a dopamine response. This process is constantly reinforced by consistently supplying us with more appropriately recommended videos. -
Compulsive YouTube usage: A comparison of use motivation and personality effects
Highlights [from the study showed]...Increased compulsive YouTube use results in lower academic motivation. - Science Direct
Scientific American YouTube's recommendation Algorithm has a dark side
YouTube makes money by keeping users on the site and showing them targeted ads. To keep them watching, it utilizes a recommendation system powered by top-of-the-line artificial intelligence (it's Google, after all). - Scientific American
BBC News Fact-checkers label YouTube a 'major condiut of online disinformation'
[YouTube] is allowing its platform to be weaponized by unscrupulous actors to manipulate and exploit others - BBC News
A 20-year old wielded a knife as part of a 'prank' YouTube robbery.  He was fatally shot.
A young man wielded a butcher knife for a prank robbery intended for YouTube and was fatally shot by the person he intended to prank, according to police. - The Washington Post

Why do students want to become YouTubers?

  • Students may want to share their experiences online
  • The creativity behind making and sharing videos is appealing
  • They might  want the popularity and recognition they see their favorite YouTubers have, even if it’s just among their peers at school
  • Some YouTubers make money as social media “influencers”

Tips if your teen wants to be a YouTuber

  • Have students agree that all content is reviewed by an adult before posting publicly
  • Limit who can view your student’s videos by setting their videos to to” Private” or “Unlisted”
  • Disable the comments on their videos to prevent negative comments and cyberbullying
  • Help your student craft a positive message in their channel that they will be proud to use as college or job portfolio examples in the future
  • Talk as a family about your favorite YouTubers and what makes them so popular or fun to watch
  • Talk about how videos can easily be taken off YouTube and re-used out of your control
  • Discuss your channel’s themes and messages and make it positive and helpful


YouTube can give students a platform to learn and to Shine Online by showcasing their personalities and talents. But YouTube can also give students  a window to watch all kinds of content - good and bad - created by all sorts of people. 

If you plan to let your student of any age  use the YouTube app or website to watch or share videos, SmartSocial strongly suggests that you closely monitor what they are watching and how much time they spend on YouTube.

Additional Resources

More parental control resources

Apple Parental Controls (iPhones and Other Apple Devices)

Android Digital Wellbeing and Parental Controls: Complete Guide for Parents

Google Play Parental Controls: How to Block Mature Apps & Media

Google Family Link Guide for Parents & Educators

Family Media Dialogue Guide and Agreement Templates

Parental Controls on Student Devices: What Parents & Educators Need to Know

Listen to MomTalk podcast to hear Beth and Andrea discuss YouTube

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