Tweens are no longer little kids, but they’re also not yet teens. Like all their peers, younger and older, 9-to-12-year-olds love to explore and mess around with media, especially video. They want to be safe so they don’t have to worry, which means they really don’t mind a little help from parental types, but they also don’t want to be contained in an app for “little kids.”
YouTube Kids, which launched in 2015, was just too young even for the youngest tweens – a challenge that, I can tell you as a safety adviser to YouTube, they’ve been aware of for years. So it was a big deal when YouTube announced that preteens and their parents now have several options on regular ol’ YouTube – and a family guide to boot – through a “supervised experience on YouTube.”
The options for U13s are “Explore” (content “generally suitable for viewers 9+, including vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, educational content, etc.); “Explore More” (“an even larger set of videos and … live streams in the same categories as ‘Explore’” that are “generally suitable for viewers 13+”); and “Most of YouTube” (“almost all videos on YouTube, except for age-restricted content [including] sensitive topics that may only be appropriate for older teens”). Parents create a “supervised Google Account” for their child, then choose which option works best; it works with Google’s Family Link parental controls system. [See how YouTube defines “age-restricted” here.]
All of this is still in “early beta,” so families will find it’s evolving. “We will use a mix of user input, machine learning and human review to determine which videos are included,” writes James Beser, YouTube’s director of product management, Kids and Family. “We know that our systems will make mistakes and will continue to evolve over time.”
The family guide helps you help your child explore YouTube “Supervised Experiences” confidently, providing tips for family discussion and YouTube tools for optimizing kids’ viewing experiences, including dismissing and reporting videos that make them feel uncomfortable, a bit about content creators, vocabulary to understand and features to help (parents help) kids develop their own healthy media habits.
Different countries have different ages of digital consent (13 in the US, based on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, and parents elsewhere can find out their country’s here). I like that Google enables children above that age who’ve had supervision added to their YouTube account to choose to stop being supervised, because this maps to a developmentally appropriate easing of parental supervision in offline life.
A lot of testing and feedback from researchers and practitioners in many countries went into this new supervised YouTube for tweens, so it’ll be interesting to hear what YouTube hears from you as you test this product with your children.
- A 2018 survey by Pew Research highlighted “YouTube’s key role in providing content for children,” finding that “fully 81% of all parents with children age 11 or younger” said they let their child watch videos on YouTube and “34% of parents [said] their child watches content on YouTube regularly” – even though YouTube “explicitly [stated] that the platform is not intended for children younger than 13, and that the site provides a YouTube Kids option.”
- Here‘s YouTube’s page about family’s full range of choices.
- “Exploring YouTube Confidently: A family guide to supervised experiences”
- About the launch of the YouTube Kids app (2015)
- Hanging Out, Messing Around & Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media – the 10th anniversary edition from MIT Press and the Connected Learning Alliance
- About grounding children’s rights and safety in dignity (post for Safer Internet Day 2021)