February 1, 2021

Is YouTube Safe for Digital Learning?

GoGuardian Team
An illustration of a person on a laptop surrounded by plants, notebooks, pens, glasses, and a cell phone

Educators are using all sorts of different tools—like videoconferencing—to stay connected with their students while digital learning. Teachers still want to create exceptional learning opportunities despite being out of the classroom.

YouTube can be an incredibly powerful tool for educators who are digital learning. In the Top 25 Most Popular Educational Websites in April 2020, there was a 66.7 percent increase in the number of websites that are primarily a tool to deliver or create video content in comparison to the beginning of the school year (October 2019).

Teachers can link students to countless educational resources, or you can upload your own lessons to the platform. However, there is concern over the safety of using YouTube for digital learning.

To get a better understanding of using YouTube as a tool for digital learning, let’s examine the benefits and potential dangers of doing so.

Benefits of YouTube Learning

Using YouTube can enhance digital learning in a number of ways. As you may know, videos are visually stimulating and can help to keep students engaged in the subjects they study. And, to counteract security concerns, YouTube supports safety features to protect children while they browse videos online.

YouTube can be used in countless ways by educators. For example, teachers who can’t use video conferencing software to connect with their students can still upload a weekly check-in video to YouTube to stay in contact with them.

Here are some of the benefits of utilizing YouTube for digital learning.

Offers Educational Benefits

YouTube videos have many educational benefits.

The University of Queensland’s Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation outlines the many pedagogical benefits of using video in education, such as:

  • Facilitating thinking and problem-solving
  • Assisting with mastery learning
  • Inspiring and engaging students
  • Creating authentic learning opportunities

Enables Microlearning

YouTube is perfect for facilitating microlearning—small learning units that contain the most important information on a subject. Microlearning breaks down complex concepts into small lessons, which can enhance knowledge retention.

Students can pause and rewind lessons on YouTube at their own convenience. A student can break up an hour-long class into 15-minute segments or rewatch a part of the video if they didn’t understand a concept the first time it was explained.

Microlearning is great for busy students to fit lessons into their hectic schedules.

Accessible Anywhere

Content on YouTube—including teacher-created videos—is available on any device that learners can access the web on. Students can view YouTube videos on their desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, television, or even smart fridge.

This makes learning much more convenient for students and makes it more likely that they will engage with their lessons.

YouTube Invests in Educational Content

YouTube supports educational content on its platform. There is a large quantity of well-researched and accurate academic videos on YouTube.

The company has invested $20 million in content creators in order for them to create high-quality educational videos.

Includes Built-in Safety Tools

YouTube includes a number of safety features to protect young audiences from harmful and mature content, including:

  • Restricted Mode – blocks mature, violent, and age-inappropriate content.
  • User Blocking – stops the selected user from sending you messages and commenting on your videos.
  • Comment Settings – lets you review all comments before they are posted or turn off comments altogether. YouTube also automatically filters potentially inappropriate comments for review.
  • Video Privacy Settings – as a user, you can choose to have your videos public, private, or unlisted.

Dangers of YouTube Learning

Despite the immense benefit of utilizing YouTube for digital learning, the platform is not without its dangers and issues. As educators, you should understand the potential downsides of YouTube before utilizing it in your lessons.

YouTube hosts user-generated content, and despite its best efforts to filter out inappropriate videos with advanced algorithms, it cannot manually check everything that is uploaded to the platform. Sometimes age-inappropriate or otherwise harmful material slips through the safety filters and is hosted on the site.

Let’s look into some of the dangers of using YouTube for digital learning.

Privacy Issues

YouTube has had issues related to privacy in the past that it has tried to rectify. In 2019, Bloomberg reported that YouTube would no longer host targeted advertisements on videos that children were likely to see.

At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was investigating if YouTube breached the Children’s Online Privacy Act. The FTC settled with YouTube but did not release the terms. Some have speculated that removing targeted ads for kids was a part of the settlement.

Lack of Vetting and Fact-Checking

Anyone can upload content to YouTube. The upside of this is that it allows both teachers and students to create and share their own videos with people all over the world. The downside is that sometimes inaccurate, untrue, or intentionally misleading videos are uploaded to the site.

Content on YouTube is not fact-checked. Things said in videos on the platform are not always true. For example, YouTube hosts videos from conspiracy theorists and people who believe the world is flat.

Misleading YouTube videos are a big issue for younger children who may be more susceptible to believing misinformation.

It’s important to vet the videos you share with your students. Sometimes misinformation is slipped into seemingly normal videos. Check the source and thoroughly watch every video you share in class for a content review, when time permits.

Distracting or Inappropriate Recommended Videos

One issue with YouTube for education is that when you send students a video, it is not isolated from other videos on the platform. YouTube has a recommended videos sidebar that suggests what to watch next.

Guillaume Chaslot, the founder of AlgoTransparency, worked at Google on YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. He said that the recommended videos sidebar is “built to get you addicted to YouTube. Recommendations were designed to waste your time.”

Students may start out watching an educational video sent to them by their teacher but become distracted by YouTube’s recommended videos and get sidetracked from their work.

Stay Safe While Digital Learning with GoGuardian Admin™

Given the potential dangers of YouTube, many educators want an extra degree of control over the content their students are exposed to. GoGuardian Admin™ was designed with students in mind, including the ability to filter out age-inappropriate, harmful, and mature videos.

GoGuardian Admin is a powerful tool that helps schools protect students from potentially harmful content online. It provides more control and better filtering than using YouTube’s safety features alone. Our solution supports advanced features, such as the following:

Age Restriction

Turning on Age Restriction will automatically block all videos categorized by YouTube as suitable for a mature audience ages 18+. Educators can choose to allow certain videos or channels that are blocked by this setting.

Block Sidebar

Enabling Block Sidebar removes the “up next” and related videos sidebar across the entire site. This feature can help ensure students are not distracted by unrelated videos when learning on YouTube.

Block Comments

Activating Block Comments disables the comment section on all YouTube videos. Comment sections can be distracting for students because unrelated or harmful content can be posted to them. This setting doesn’t affect live stream chat threads.

Restrictive Mode

Using Restrictive Mode blocks all videos and channels except for those that are explicitly allowed. This feature is especially useful when teaching younger students because it only allows approved content to be viewed.

Block Live Chat

This setting disables the ability to chat on live stream videos. This is helpful for teachers who wish to live stream but don’t want students to get distracted, go off-topic, or even cyberbully each other in live chat.

Final Thoughts

So, is YouTube safe for digital learning?

YouTube supports strong community guidelines that prohibit spam and deceptive practices, sensitive content, and violent or dangerous content. However, sometimes bad videos slip through YouTube’s filters and end up hosted on the site.

Using YouTube with GoGuardian Admin provides educators with additional filtering powers and provides an extra level of security and safety for students.

With GoGuardian Admin, teachers can use YouTube for digital learning without worry, knowing that they have control over what videos their students are exposed to.