Amid the ongoing lockdowns around the world, which have kept everyone in their homes, limiting entertainment options, it's been almost impossible for parents to stop their kids spending more and more time online, and watching YouTube content, in particular, in an effort to fend off cabin fever.
YouTube stars now have more presence in young peoples' lives than traditional actors and musicians, and many have formed strong bonds with their young viewer communities that keep them coming back. The problem with this is that it also makes it increasingly difficult for parents to monitor their children's activities in the app, with even the best content blockers and control tools still allowing some questionable stuff to get through, and message interactions still leaving them open to potential risk.
But with parents also trying to do their own jobs from home, many are often left crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, which is not an ideal way to protect youngsters from content exposure.
In line with this, today, YouTube has announced some new measures to assist in protecting young users from questionable content and unwanted exposure on the platform, with new default privacy settings for uploads by young people, and new reminders and prompts to help avoid overuse.
First off on the new upload settings - in the coming weeks, YouTube says that it will upgrade the default privacy settings for uploads from users ages 13-17 to 'the most private option available'.
As per YouTube:
"With private uploads, content can only be seen by the user and whomever they choose. We want to help younger users make informed decisions about their online footprint and digital privacy, including encouraging them to make an intentional choice if they’d like to make their content public. If the user would like to make their content public, they can change the default upload visibility setting and we’ll provide reminders indicating who can see their video."
So kids can still mitigate the defaults, but by using this as a starting point, YouTube's hoping to ensure that younger users gain more awareness of the risks involved in such, potentially limiting unwanted exposure in the app.
YouTube's also looking to tackle overuse, with the addition of 'take a break' and bedtime reminders, also by default, for all users ages 13-17.
"We’ll also be turning autoplay off by default for these users. If a user decides these aren’t the right digital well-being features for them, they can change their default settings."
So, again, savvy youngsters can just switch these settings off if they choose - and most of them are far more savvy and attuned to such than their parents. But by implementing new defaults, YouTube's looking to increase awareness of its various options in this respect, with a view to improving safety.
And finally, in what may be a big blow for kidfluencers, YouTube's also removing more commercial content from YouTube Kids.
"We've never allowed paid product placements in YouTube Kids, our destination for younger kids. In the coming weeks, we’ll also begin to remove overly commercial content from YouTube Kids, such as a video that only focuses on product packaging or directly encourages children to spend money."
YouTube announced some major changes to its rules around ad placements within videos aimed at youngsters last year, which have already caused major headaches for content creators in this genre. These new regulations will further restrict their monetization potential - and when you consider that the platform's biggest overall earner Ryan Kaji, who made $29.5m in 2020, creates content exclusively focused on kids, there's clearly a lot of earnings potential within this segment.
The new regulations will force another reassessment for these creators, as YouTube puts the wellbeing of users ahead of profit in this respect.
As noted, given the increasing reliance on YouTube as an entertainment option, amid the COVID mitigation efforts, it makes sense for YouTube to add in more options to help parents better manage their kids' time, and exposure, within the app.
Those changes will have some impacts for creators, and most can be negated by kids who likely know more about such settings than you. But by implementing these as defaults, it could help raise awareness, and reduce harm in the app.