Circle Utilizes YouTube’s Restricted Mode and Google’s SafeSearch To Keep Your Kids Safe From Inappropriate Video Content
It seems like every kid is on YouTube. They’re enamored by videos! From fart sounds to cute cats to dance videos and everything in between, kids just can’t get enough. Watching online videos is tweens’ and teens’ favorite media activity, according to a 2021 report by Common Sense Media. One in three teens says if they could only use one website, that site would be YouTube.
Kids are watching online videos more than ever before. The percentage of kids who say they watch online videos “every day” has increased by eight percent since 2019 to two in three tweens and three in four teens. It makes sense that parents need to set up content filtering to protect their kids from finding videos they shouldn’t be watching on YouTube.
YouTube has a few parental controls built in. And with Circle, you can set up parental controls for YouTube across all connected devices through YouTube’s Restricted Mode and Google SafeSearch.
Understanding YouTube Restricted Mode and Google SafeSearch
You can set up two types of parental controls on YouTube: Restricted Mode and SafeSearch. Both of these safeguards limit inappropriate content from showing up on YouTube and are available on the YouTube website and apps.
YouTube Restricted Mode
To restrict inappropriate content on YouTube, use YouTube’s content filtering system, Restricted Mode, previously known as Safety Mode. When enabled, Restricted Mode is designed to automatically limit inappropriate content from showing up in searches through the YouTube platform, whether it’s being used in-app or on a web browser. It also hides comments and blocks live streaming content.
Restricted Mode is created and managed by YouTube, and it filters out content that is deemed inappropriate for kids under 18 years old. Publishers can flag their own content as “restricted” or set an age limit, and YouTube can flag the content based on metadata, the title, and language used in videos. Users can also report content that hasn’t been flagged but should be. YouTube typically flags any hint of profanity, violence, nudity, dangerous activities, or other more mature content.
Here’s how to set up YouTube Restricted Mode step-by-step on the website:
- Go to YouTube.com and make sure you’re signed in to your YouTube account.
- Click on the profile icon in the top right corner of the screen.
- Click on “Restricted Mode” at the bottom of the menu that appears.
- Click “Activate Restricted Mode.”
- You can lock Restricted Mode by signing out of your Google Account.
And on the YouTube app:
- Tap on the profile picture in the top right corner of the screen.
- On Android and iOS, tap on “Settings” in the menu that appears.
- On iOS, tap the toggle button next to “Restricted Mode.”
- On Android, tap “General” then the toggle button next to “Restricted Mode.”
You’ll need to set up Restricted Mode separately for each device and browser your kids use.
YouTube’s parent company, Google, has an additional content filtering system called SafeSearch that filters out explicit images, videos, and websites. If your kids search for videos on Google, enabling SafeSearch is a good starting point to keep your kids safe from stumbling onto adult content or other videos you would disapprove of.
By enabling SafeSearch, your kids are far less likely to run across that kind of content in their searches. Of course, some things may slip through the cracks, but most of what you want removed from their view will be unavailable. If you see content that should be restricted, reporting it to YouTube or Google will help prevent it from happening in the future.
Here’s how to enable SafeSearch on a desktop or mobile browser, like Chrome or Safari:
And here’s how to enable SafeSearch on the Google app:
- On iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android devices, tap on the profile picture in the upper right corner.
- Tap “Settings.”
- Tap “Hide explicit results.”
- On the screen that appears, turn SafeSearch on.
You’ll need to set up SafeSearch separately for each device and browser your kids use.
YouTube Kids App
Another tool you can use to limit content is the YouTube Kids app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This app delivers a YouTube experience that’s customized with approved videos based on the content settings you decide.
Unlike Restricted Mode, which uses algorithms to rate content, the YouTube Kids app only allows approved content handpicked by YouTube’s team. It gives kids a more supervised experience geared toward their age levels.
If you are not using Circle to manage YouTube and Google, Restricted Mode and SafeSearch have to be set up for each computer, tablet, or mobile device your kids use to watch YouTube. You’ll also have to set it up for every available browser on each device … kind of a pain. That’s where Circle comes in.
How To Set Parental Controls With YouTube’s Restricted Mode and Circle
The best way to manage what your kids watch on YouTube is with Circle. Using Circle to set up YouTube Kids parental controls will save you loads of time. Each family member’s profile will simply need to have Restricted Mode and SafeSearch enabled in their profile’s Filter Settings.
Start by selecting the family member's profile for which you would like to enable SafeSearch. Then, tap Filter in their profile settings. Scroll to the bottom of the filter options to the Privacy & Safety category. Now, tap the button next to SafeSearch to turn it from off to on. Press Save at the top right of the screen, and you’re done. Follow the same steps for setting up Restricted Mode.
A quick note for anyone who has Circle 1st generation. For your system, SafeSearch is enabled by default on the Pre-K and Kid filter levels for your system. For all other levels, you’ll need to enable SafeSearch or Restricted Mode during profile setup or from the profile’s Filter Settings.
What Happens When Circle Is Enforcing Restricted Mode and SafeSearch?
Because Circle will simply be applying YouTube’s content filtering, it can’t determine what content appears when SafeSearch or Restricted Mode is enforced. If you run into issues, contact Google support to let them know.
Here are a few other things to know about the limitations while using Restricted Mode and SafeSearch:
- When YouTube’s Restricted Mode is enforced by Circle on a device, you won’t be able to load live streams or comments on videos from YouTube. YouTube put this in place to ensure only kid-friendly material is served.
- Enabling SafeSearch disables access to Yahoo.com.
- SafeSearch and Restricted Mode are enforced at the network level for all in-home devices managed by Circle or by using the “Set Up Mobile Device Management” option with VPN installed for mobile devices away from home once enabled.
How To Make Sure YouTube Parental Controls Are Working
Your kids are smart. They might try to find a way around limitations on YouTube or parental controls in general. If you’re having issues setting YouTube to Not Allowed, or if you think YouTube is being accessed when it shouldn’t — like during Bedtime, Focus Time, Pause, or when a Time Limit has been reached — there are a few troubleshooting ideas that could fix the problems. Consider these four options first:
1. Do you have the right device?
If you’ve assigned a device to a profile that has YouTube Not Allowed, but it still loads, you may need to make sure you’re looking at the correct device.
2. Check the profile's settings.
You can do that by tapping on the profile and then the Filter level (Adult, Teen, Kid). In the list of Apps and Categories, setting the YouTube app to Not Allowed should always block it. Unmanaged will always allow it, and it won’t show up in your History, Usage, or apply to the Time Limits you’ve set up for that profile.
An important note: Blocking just the Video category by setting it to Not Allowed won’t block YouTube since apps take precedence over Circle’s categories. Make sure to check that your Focus Times or Bedtimes are applying to the right days and times.
3. Give it a few minutes.
If you think YouTube is still allowed when you’ve just set it up to be “Now Allowed,” check it again in a few minutes. Circle manages outbound traffic to the Internet but can’t stop buffered content from loading. Once the buffer runs out, YouTube should stop playing.
4. Try unmanaging network devices, and check your connection.
If you’ve assigned any of your network devices to a managed profile (meaning not unmanaged or the “None” filter level), YouTube may still be accessible. Make sure any unknown or network devices are set to Unmanaged in your device list. You can also try connecting your Circle device over another internet connection. If you’re using Ethernet, try unplugging to use Wi-Fi only or vice versa.
Allow YouTube During Only Certain Days or Times
The beauty of managing YouTube through Circle’s Parental Controls is that you can adjust its availability whenever you want with just a few taps of your phone.
Has one of your kids been doing well at school? Maybe they deserve to be able to watch a few extra YouTube videos before bedtime arrives as a reward. You can do that! Just tap their profile, and select the reward by extending the time limit of the YouTube app and browser link.
Or, if your kids need YouTube to be accessible to get their schoolwork done from home, you can Unmanage the YouTube app to make it always available, even during Focus Times or Pause. Remove any temptation to roam away from schoolwork by setting other Categories or Apps—like social media—to Not Allowed. You can also create a new profile that has YouTube Allowed and assign devices to that during special times of the day. Simply go to the Menu, then tap Add a Profile.
Make filtering YouTube content simple with Circle
Parenting is hard enough. Managing YouTube content through Circle makes things easy. Circle Parental Controls puts all the tools you need to keep your kids safe online in one box. Try it out for yourself.