YouTube, Facebook introduce stricter safety controls for kids


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Like most teenagers, Nicole Carver’s son watches a lot of YouTube.

“Watching other families interact on YouTube, when you’re not interacting with your own family draws the question, why are you watching that?” she asks.

Carver, who also has a 24-year-old son, and an 8-year-old daughter, has an interesting perspective on kids and social media, as her children span all targeted age groups. She says she’s already decided she doesn’t want her youngest engrossed in YouTube, so it’s off limits, for now.

But, an updated version of YouTube Kids, the kid-friendly, more filtered version of YouTube, is designed to convince more parents to let their kids use the app. The updated app is adding several new features designed to reflect the app’s now aging user base, including profiles that are customized based on the kid’s date of birth, as well as additional security controls for parents and kids.

In the new app, parents can now sign in with their Google account in order to create customized profiles for their child or children. Based on each kid’s age, YouTube Kids will change the way it looks. The app also introduces a new setup process for parents that includes more detailed information to help them make the right choices related to the parental control options, as well as be more informed about the app in general.

Facebook’s also trying to make parents more comfortable with their kids using social media. The new Messenger Kids app allows parents to create profiles for children, and approve who they interact with. Safety filters prevent kids from sharing nudity, sexual content, or violence.

“They’re doing an attempt to make it safe,” says Child Psychiatrist Kristopher Kaliebe. He points out that Messenger Kids, and YouTube Kids, meet the standards of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, which imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, but he’s wary the companies are simply aiming to create the next generation of social-media-obsessed users.

“I’m concerned, of course, that you’re just pulling kids in to those things earlier and earlier, and teaching children to have a virtual self, and being a presence online. At an early age, is that really a good thing?,” he asks.

Carver doesn’t think it is. And while she applauds Facebook and YouTube’s efforts to make social media safer, she doesn’t plan to download Messenger Kids for her daughter.

Said Carver, “She’s eight years old, and I don’t see a phone anytime in her near future.”

Dr. Kaliebe recommends these resources to help parents learn more about various social media platforms:

  • Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization that provides independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media. Its website includes recommendations for age-appropriate content, and advice for parents who have concerns about their children and social media/technology.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics provides a customized “Family Media Plan,” which helps craft a realistic schedule for screen time, taking in to account educational requirements, extra-curricular activities, household chores, and other items determined by the family.
  • Facts for Families provides concise and up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families, and is distributed and updated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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