If you want to supervise your child’s YouTube experience but you do NOT want them to have a YouTube kids account (or they feel too old for one) you have another option: set them up with a “supervised” YouTube account.

What is a supervised YouTube account?

With a supervised YouTube account, a child can watch videos on YouTube through their own account. They can do this on a computer, a mobile device, on a handheld device like an iPad or Nintendo Switch, or through an app on a smart TV. The videos they can see are controlled age settings and the supervising adult(s) can control a child’s ability to search, get videos recommended to them, or have search terms autogenerate. Think of this as a stepping stone between YouTube Kids and “regular” YouTube.

An example of some of the Supervised YouTube options

Why should you use supervised YouTube for your kids?

If you feel your child is too old for YouTube Kids but too young to have full access to YouTube, this is a great compromise. There is one feature I think is overlooked and makes a supervised YouTube account more than worth it: you also have the ability to supervise their search history and search capabilities on Google. This gives you the ability to greatly control and supervise your child’s internet usage, including Google search engines, Google Photos, Google Chrome use, Google Play store, and more. To do this, you will need to set up a Google Family Link (see steps below).

Who should have supervised YouTube accounts?

The main difference between this and YouTube Kids is this will allow kids to use “real” YouTube and not YouTube kids. If you have a child whose interests trend older and who doesn’t get much out of YouTube kids, this might be the way to go.

How to set up a Supervised YouTube account

To set up a supervised account, your child must have their own google account. The most all-encompassing way to set up supervised YouTube is to use Google Family Link.

To set up Google Family Link:

  1. Download the Google Family Link app or Go to familylink.google.com (I could only get this to work through the app, the website kept me in an endless loop without ever allowing me to make a child account). I would recommend doing this within the app
  2. If your child DOES have a google account, click “yes” when asked “Does your child have a Google account?” and follow the steps provided
  3. If your child does NOT have a google account, click “no” when asked “Does your child have a Google account?” and then follow the prompts in the Family Link app to set up a google account for your child
  4. Next, select or type in email addresses for any adults you’d like to be part of your family group, and click “send” to invite them to join
  5. You should now see a menu that allows you to see your child’s profile. From here you can add an android device or chromebook if your child uses one, and the Family Link app will allow you to monitor their use of the device, set time limits on the device, and lock it remotely.

To set up Supervised YouTube via Family Link

  1. Click “Controls” at the bottom of the Family Link app
  2. Click “Content restrictions”
  3. Click “YouTube”
  4. You will now see two options underneath a banner entitled “Choose an experience for your child”. Select “YouTube and YouTube Music (parent supervised) beta” (if you’d prefer YouTube kids, you can set that up wtihin YouTube kids itself).
  5. You’ll now be prompted with “Important: some videos and music may be unsuitable for kids”. If you’d like to proceed, click “select”
  6. You’ll now choose one of three options: Explore, explore more, or Most of YouTube. Choose the option that aligns best with your child. You can change this later
  7. Review your choice and click “select”
  8. You’ll now see a feature tour and a final confirmation, click “Confirm”

Other settings you can use in Google Family Link:

To customize Google Chrome for your child:

  1. When logged in to Google Family Link as an adult, click on “controls” and then “content settings”
  2. Now choose what you’d like to restrict. Google Chrome will likely be the most effective thing to limit since it is a web browser
  3. Select “Google Chrome” and then choose to allow all sites (including explicit adult content), try to block explicit sites, or select “only allow approved sites.” This is the most restrictive option and would force you to “whitelist” ANY and ALL websites you want your child accessing. Your child can also request access to sites
  4. Under “Manage sites” you can create “Allow” and “block” lists of websites for your child
  5. Under “advanced settings” you can toggle on/off different permissions.

To customize Google Search for your child:

  1. When logged in to Google Family Link as an adult, click on “Controls” and then “Content settings”
  2. Select “Google Search”
  3. Choose to toggle on or off “Safe Search” which blocks explicit results
  4. Select “personal results” and decide whether or not you want your child to see personalized results based on things like their location
  5. Select “Account data settings” at the bottom of the page. Choose whether or not to allow your child to change these settings
  6. Select “Web and App activity” and choose whether or not Chrome to save web and app activity. Leaving this on means that Chrome will remember their search history and data like location to give “better” results. Toggling this off means the results will be less personalized
  7. Go back to the “Account data settings” page and you can further customize what info is saved

You can also monitor their Android device use, remote lock their Chromebook or Android device, as well as other options for monitoring their device usage. You can see more about this within Google Family Link settings.

How to give your child access to blocked content on Supervised YouTube accounts

First of all, why would you want to give access to blocked content? If it’s blocked by YouTube by the age filter, doesn’t that mean the content is bad? Not necessarily. Supervised accounts display content that has been specifically tagged as safe for children. This is a designation that creators give their videos, but doesn’t mean all the content is actually appropriate for all kids (see above, with how to block channels on YouTube Kids). Creators who rely on ad revenue from paid partnerships, for example, are automatically blocked from YouTube Kids. There are thousands of accounts whose content is appropriate for kids but will be blocked from YouTube Kids due to their account settings.

For example: If you search for “Cooking” on YouTube Kids (for 5-8 year olds), you will find this, among other things:

But you would NOT find actual cooking instruction videos that you might find on channels like PBS.

You as the parent can “whitelist” (allow) blocked content for your child’s account. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your (adult) YouTube account, either on the website or the app (I have found this easier on the app)
  2. Search for the video (or channel) you’d like to whitelist for your child
  3. Click the three little dots in the upper right corner of the video (or the channel page)
  4. Click “share”
  5. Click “With Kids”
  6. Select the kids you’d like to have access to this video (or channel)

The safest way for a child to use YouTube is with adult supervision. Since that isn’t always possible, a Supervised YouTube account is a great way to give your child more freedom while maintaining peace of mind.

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