How to Use YouTube Restricted Mode

YouTube, owned by Google, is easily the world’s biggest and most popular video sharing service and has countless hours of videos, entertainment, and television shows that can keep adults and children entertained. YouTube has more than one billion users and hosts both commercial and user-generated content through its website and mobile application. 

More than 400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, but there is some content on the platform that adults may not want children to see, including videos with profane language. When kids use YouTube unsupervised, they may come across inappropriate or mature content, such as video clips that promote self-harm or drug use. A Florida mother, for example, said she found video clips on YouTube that gave kids instructions on how to kill themselves. She also found videos about human trafficking and a Minecraft-inspired video that showed a school shooting.

But educators and parents need not worry, because there is a solution. YouTube offers a parental control feature known as Restricted Mode. This feature effectively avoids most offensive and inappropriate video content on YouTube by filtering it out. This is particularly useful for parents who do not want their kids to have accidental exposure to mature or objectionable content on the platform and for educators who want to keep their students safe and on-task in the classroom. Administrators also use it on computers in libraries, schools, and other public institutions to ensure that kids are not exposed to mature content.

What Is Restricted Mode Filtering on YouTube?

Restricted Mode is an excellent tool that YouTube uses to filter and remove unwanted content and mature content from appearing on users’ accounts. The feature uses signals, such as video title, description, Community Guidelines reviews, metadata, and age restrictions, for identifying and filtering out potentially mature content. The feature also uses community flagging and other signals in order to identify and filter out profane and inappropriate content on the site. This mostly includes alcohol and drug abuse, violent acts, sexual activities, and profane language, among others.

YouTube classifies videos that have the following contents as mature or unwanted:

  • Substance abuse videos, such as those depicting drugs and alcohol abuse 

  • Violence in the form of violent acts, such as tragedies, calamities, and natural disasters

  • Sexual activities and sexual violence

  • The use of inappropriate, profane, and mature languages

  • Depiction of mature subjects, such as crime, war, and political conflicts, which result in serious injuries or death of a person 

  • Inflammatory, incendiary, or demeaning content

YouTube uses an automatic system with algorithms to filter content in Restricted Mode. These rules or algorithms determine what video content can be considered inappropriate or mature. YouTube checks different elements, like the title, language, age restrictions and metadata, used in each video to see if it is suitable. However, YouTube admits that automated systems are not without their flaws. 

Algorithms can make mistakes when assessing or evaluating which video content to make available in Restricted Mode. Part of what makes YouTube such a source of frustration for adults is that kids can be easily led to inappropriate and mature content through “recommended videos,” a feature that is as robust on YouTube Kids as it is on the main platform. One way that YouTube attempts to address the algorithm problem is by having a team of reviewers manually check some content. For example, these reviewers manually check videos that are ‘flagged’ as mature or inappropriate by YouTube users.

GoGuardian YouTube Filtering

To further ensure that students aren’t accessing inappropriate YouTube content in school, K-12 school districts can use GoGuardian’s filtering services to make sure students are not exposed to inappropriate video content on YouTube. With GoGuardian, school administrators can easily:

  • Filter videos by category, channel, keyword, or URL

  • Disable or enable age restriction

  • Block comments, or block sidebar

  • Whitelist certain accounts that may be useful for students and block everything else

How to Turn on Restricted Mode

YouTube was so popular with children that in 2015, the platform decided to develop a channel specifically geared toward younger kids called YouTube Kids. However, YouTube Kids has been having some problems since its inception. Although YouTube Kids provides a colorful, simple-to-navigate environment, a great range of top-quality videos, a couple of parental controls, and many fun features for children, it has been dogged by many concerns—especially over its branded content, advertising, and inappropriate clips that slip through the curation process.

Note that the issue is mainly because the content of YouTube Kids tends to come from YouTube itself.

Since it started, users have noticed inappropriate content popping up on YouTube Kids, such as:

  • Pedophilia jokes and drug use

  • A spoof of the popular movie Casino that is loaded with cursing

  • Characters emulating risky behaviors, such as playing with matches

  • Cartoons with graphic sexual and indecent language

  • Explicit conversations about child suicide, pornography, and family violence

Some videos containing age-inappropriate sexualization, violence against child characters, and Peppa Pig being deceived into eating bacon were also found on YouTube Kids. It is worth noting that content for preschool kids can be profitable for ad-funded channels, such as YouTube, because small children are likely to readily watch and poke at videos that the platform suggests. On the other hand, harried parents and guardians are usually unable to fully supervise each and every minute of their kid's media consumption.

Here is how you can turn on YouTube Restricted Mode:

  1. Go to your account icon in the top right corner on the YouTube website or app.

  2. Toggle Restricted Mode to On.

  3. Now click on Lock safety mode on this web browser (do this for all browsers).

  4. You have several toggle options:

  • Age Restriction – If you enable Age Restriction, you will be able to block all videos considered unsuitable for users under the age of 18. You can make exceptions by adding “allow” rules for certain videos or channels that are suitable for young audiences. 

  • Block Sidebar – If you enable Block Sidebar, you will be able to hide both the "Up next" and related videos sidebar.

  • Block Comments – You can hide comment sections below YouTube videos by enabling Block Comments. However, note that this setting is not applicable to chat threads on YouTube Live Stream.

  • Block Live Chat – If you enable Block Live Chat, it will remove the chat section from live stream videos.

  • Restrictive Mode – You can block all videos excluding videos and channels that are explicitly allowed under the same policy by enabling Restrictive Mode.

How to Block a Keyword in The YouTube Section of a Policy

Go to the YouTube section of the policy and select the Keywords tab.

  1. You will find a field that says Enter a Keyword. Click on it, type in your desired keyword, and then click on the red Block button. You will find it on the right.

  2. Wondering how you can test this filtering rule? All you have to do is log into a test account in an OU that this policy applies to. Note that you might have to wait up to fifteen minutes for this policy change to update on your account. So, be patient.

  3. Now navigate to www.youtube.com.

  4. Enter the keyword into your YouTube search bar. 

  5. Select a video that has your chosen keyword in its title or description.

  6. You will see a GoGuardian block within the frame of the video.

GoGuardian and Google have great functions that are ideal for education filtering. For example, you can block YouTube completely by adding youtube.com in the Website URLs section with full wildcards as a blocked item. If a student attempts to navigate to www.youtube.com, they will see the GoGuardian Admin block page.

How to Know if Video is Blocked

In Restricted Mode, comments will be hidden for the video, or a message will show that the video is restricted. 

How to Turn Off Restricted Mode on YouTube

If you want to turn off restricted mode, you are in luck. It is easy enough to do and will take you only about a minute, as long as you are signed into the same YouTube account that you used to set up restricted mode and you are using your PC or phone. 

All you have to do is:

  • From the blacklist, remove the specific category the video falls into.

  • Allow the YouTube Channel where this video is found.

  • Allow the video.

Tips on Using GoGuardian YouTube Filtering

If you use GoGuardian and don’t want to approve YouTube videos for the whole day, you can ask teachers in your specific district to create their YouTube channel. After creating the channel, the Admin can easily whitelist that specific channel in GoGuardian’s YouTube filtering using the Admin Dashboard. Each video that the teacher adds to their channel after whitelisting the channel will automatically be available. GoGuardian’s filtering will be overridden by Google Admin Console filtering. 

If you have restricted a video or channel on Admin Console, allowing it on GoGuardian won’t change the restricted setting. GoGuardian relies on YouTube to appropriately categorize videos, for Age Restriction as well as filtering in general. Keep in mind that GoGuardian does not have any control over YouTube’s video categorization, because this is  under YouTube’s control.

Conclusion

YouTube offers content from several genres, making it quite challenging to regulate what is recommended to the user on this platform. Millions of kids frequently watch YouTube videos, and many children become exposed to inappropriate content through this popular website, including first-time exposures. Enabling Restricted Mode on YouTube can help reduce the risk considerably. In order to tackle this issue, Google and GoGuardian offer essential filtering tools, letting users have more control over the type of content your students see on YouTube.

Learn more about how GoGuardian can make filtering easy for you.