Safe, Kid-Friendly YouTube Alternatives

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Due to the success of “Safe, Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Google, YouTube, and Beyond”, we decided to dig deeper.  Below you’ll find a variety of safe, kid-friendly video streaming resources.

Safe Youtube

Take any link from YouTube and SafeYoutube.net will generate a version sans distracting/offensive comments.  It also removes the related videos sidebar which can be a threat in itself – a recent study found that on average, a child on Youtube is only three clicks away from inappropriate content.  Teachers can use this resource to share links with their class without fear of unwanted surprises.  

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Rebecca Black’s notorious music video became a YouTube sensation after its 2011 release.

 

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Notice the mean-spirited comments left by YouTube account holders.

 

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With Safe YouTube, both the comments and suggested videos sidebar are removed.  Only the video itself remains.

 

 

Safe Video Search

Safe Video Search redirects to KidzTube which provides “Handpicked Educator Reviewed Videos” in a Youtube-style interface.  The homepage includes featured learning videos as well as “Random Videos” purely for entertainment.  This is a helpful resource for both teachers and students in finding educational content and tutorial videos.  It functions as a safe search resource, where students will only receive appropriate results.

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Kideos is another site devoted to providing age-appropriate video content.  For a variety of other safe search alternatives, see this article.

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YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids is a free app designed by Google for younger audiences.  The intent is for children to be able to explore and discover without the risk of unsavory content.  Admins can set up more specific controls, or turn off the search function in settings – regardless, the app will still automatically recommend videos.  They have a parent guide on their support page.  

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Disney Video

Disney Video hosts a collection of videos pertaining to their latest movies, short films, and TV shows.  Their YouTube tab pulls up Disney videos from official entertainment channels only, and does not redirect to the YouTube site.

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YouTube Education

Lastly, there are actually YouTube channels devoted to quality content.  Youtube EDU provides the most popular educational videos across Youtube.  The channel is subdivided into grade levels: Primary & Secondary Education, University, and Lifelong Learning.  There are additional channels devoted to particular subject categories.

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Safe, Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Google, YouTube, and Beyond

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Today’s youth is exposed to technology very early in life – according to 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics, ”30% of U.S. children first play with a mobile device when they are still in diapers”.  Relative to toddlers, children aged 8 are more capable and conscientious of their actions.  However, they are barely halfway through elementary school!  Yet in a recent study, parents started to allow unsupervised internet time when their child was 8 years old.

Big name sites such as Google and Facebook have created safe search options in order to protect young kids from inappropriate content on the web, e.g., Google SafeSearch and Youtube Safety Mode.  However, with high upload volumes every day, it’s almost impossible to filter out all the “bad stuff”.

Parents can’t constantly look over their child’s shoulder and watch for unsuitable results that may pop up.  Luckily, developers know that.  Here are some safe, kid-friendly alternatives for the top internet activities. These sites contain only pre-filtered content, so parents can rest easy while their child uses the web.

Search Engines

Search engines host a wealth of information, spanning from every topic imaginable.  A lot of this content is particularly unsavory for young children.  It’s easy to stumble upon adult content, especially with slang perpetuated by web-culture today – feel free to type in “jugs” (porcelain and ceramic, right?) into Google with SafeSearch enabled and see what comes up.

Instead, set websites like kidrex.org or googlejunior.com as your browser homepage.  You don’t need to “enable” anything on these sites, all the safety measures are ready to go.  Kidrex is aimed toward a younger elementary school audience while Google Junior is perfect for kids entering their tween years.  Google Junior even provides a word and quote of the day.  See what happens when the word “porn” is searched:  

 

Kidrex blocks everything even remotely related, while Google Junior provides relevant, non-explicit results surrounding porn in a different context –current events, news, even web filtering shows up!  

Video Streaming

Youtube Safety Mode blocks obviously explicit video content, but it’s by no means infallible.  They even say this themselves: “Restricted Mode hides videos that may contain inappropriate content flagged by users and other signals. No filter is 100% accurate, but it should help you avoid most inappropriate content”.  Many suggestive videos escape the filtering criteria, and the comments posted underneath each video can be extremely profane.  

Start your kids on Kideos, a site that contains a myriad of trendy, kid-friendly entertainment.  It includes a variety of popular TV shows from channels including, but not limited to Disney, Nickelodean, PBS Kids.  It does not allow comment posting.  They also offer an app compatible with most smartphone platforms.

It even allows parents to set limits on videos based on age group or choose how long their child can watch videos, after passing a “parent security question”.

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Social Media

45% of kids aged 8-11 use social media.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram offer a great way to connect with peers, stay in touch, find a community, and keep updated on current events.  However, these sites are also filled with online predators and scams that target young, uninformed users.  They also have the highest occurrence of cyberbullying, Facebook topping the chart as #1.

To avoid these risks and foster a safe, fun online community for younger children and pre-teens, various companies have created social network sites with “training wheels”.  These range from ad-less interfaces, features that connect a parent account to the child’s account, or manual review of uploaded photos by on-hand company staff.  Some sites are even centered around themes – Franktown Rocks is a site devoted to safe social networking surrounding sharing and making music.  BBC recently compiled a list with the top safe, social media sites for kids aged 7-13.

School Research

When tackling a research project, students tend to immediately turn to Google.  This is a great resource for gathering ideas, but the quality of results are varied.  Students may have to comb through a large amount of unaccredited sources and irrelevent search results before finding something they will be able to cite.

Many schools actually purchase subscriptions to online databases for students to use; these are heavily underutilized.  Common names are Cengage Learning or EBSCOhost .  They serve as virtual, portable libraries.  After students indicate the subject area they are interested in, these databases supply relevant content from scholarly article, ebooks, and encyclopedia entries.  All students need is their school access code – which is usually posted on their school’s homepage or around the school libraries.
Say your child had a research project about guns.  See the contrast between Google SafeSearch and a database with the single keyword “guns”:

>> Google safe search first provides near by places to access guns.

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>> Then supplies more information about buying guns with a mention there at the bottom concerning guns in current events.

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>> However, the database lists books about the history and culture of guns, the controversy over gun rights, and even the theory behind electron guns.  Much more relevant to a research project.

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Gaming

Last, but not least, gaming!  Kids spend most of their time on the internet playing games.   Yet, these sites are often riddled with scams, predators, and violent-themed content.  This list provides a wide variety of alternative sites which are as fun as they are educational.  Trusted sites include PBS Kids and Brain Pop!. There are safe sites devoted to a range of interests from arts to sports!   

For more tips on how to provide online safety for your kids, subscribe to our newsletter below.

4 Ways for Parents to Keep Kids Safe on YouTube


Keep kids and students safe on YouTube with YouTube Safety Mode and other protective parental controls.

YouTube celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. According to comScore, it is the top online video content website, with over 152 million unique monthly viewers.

Offering diverse content (everything from Video Games to Health & Beauty and Japanese cats), YouTube appeals to many different audiences – especially kids. In both schools and homes, it can serve as a valuable educational resource and source of entertainment; however, many genres of videos are not quite kid-safe.

Fortunately, there are a few “quick n’ easy” precautions parents can take to ensure YouTube safety. Here are four ways to keep kids safe on YouTube:

1) Turn on YouTube Safety Mode

YouTube Safety Mode is a kid-friendly option for filtering inappropriate or questionable content on YouTube. Parents can follow these simple steps to enable the filter. YouTube Safety Mode serves as a direct line of defense. It hides explicit content through community flagging, age-restrictions, and porn image detection, ultimately minimizing the risk that kids will stumble upon any unsavory videos or user comments.

Bear in mind that the option is both browser- and device-specific: for example, enabling it on Google Chrome will not automatically enable it on Mozilla Firefox. For a small monthly fee, some web filters and parental controls may offer the ability to enforce safe YouTube across all devices in the household.

2) Privacy Settings

Kids are at risk for more than just exposure to explicit content.  Anyone who actively posts his/her own videos on YouTube is susceptible to mean-spirited internet trolls who post crude, harmful comments.

To prevent this form of YouTube cyberbullying, parents can implement YouTube Privacy Settings.  This optional feature can block users and moderate comments (by removing specific comments or blocking anyone from commenting altogether), and can specify who is able to see a particular video. More specifically, YouTube offers the following video settings: Public, Private, and Unlisted.

In addition, parents can block advertisements and interest based ads, further filtering the content accessible to kids online.

3) For younger children, approve content in advance

Parents can research what content is age-appropriate for their child by screening or “favoriting” videos in advance of those long car rides. This way, they know exactly what their child is watching and can avoid accidental linkage to inappropriate content when they are unable to supervise them.

For parents who simply don’t have the time or are running out of ideas on what is considered “appropriate” for their child’s age group – Have no fear!  Check out sites like Common Sense Media which provide reliable, detailed suggestions and examples for age appropriate media content. 

Alternatively, parents of children ages 5 and under, can make use of YouTube Kids, a free app that makes available only a subset of pre-approved, kid-safe content on YouTube.

4) Get involved!  Report inappropriate videos by ‘flagging’

All adults can play a part in making YouTube a more kid-friendly environment!  If you find a video with inappropriate content, report it by clicking “more” and then “report” under the video window.  This process is referred to as ‘flagging’ a video for moderator review.  Fortunately, review of flagged videos occurs 24/7; YouTube makes this service a priority and is highly responsive to your report requests.

To learn more about implementing a safer YouTube and other parental controls, sign up for our parent newsletter below. Have other ways of making YouTube safe for kids? Please share your suggestions in the comments.


5 Reasons Why K-12 Schools Are Abandoning Web Filtering Appliances

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Until recently, K-12 web filtering has been dominated by hardware solutions.

Prior to the enactment of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) nearly 15 years ago, schools had little need or opportunity to change a system that was considered to be acceptable and the norm.

However, given the shift towards cloud computing in the last few years, schools are finding more reason to abandon traditional web filtering options in favor of other, hardware-free solutions.

Here are the five reasons why appliance-based web filtering is dying in K-12:

1) They don’t have school-focused features

Yes, general enterprise solutions are built with plenty of add-ons that are intended to increase security – yet these services don’t address school-specific issues like classroom management, safe social media, and cyberbullying.

Some filtering solutions cast a blanket ban over video streaming sites like YouTube, which can be a very helpful educational resource. In an effort to protect students from the unsavory side of the site, they block all content instead of building upon features like YouTube Safety Mode or YouTube for Schools in order to create a safe YouTube.

2) They’re too expensive

These add-ons add up. Even though schools don’t need the extra features that enterprise solutions provide, they are required to pay the price.

A 2014 article by KQED showed that school web filters can cost as much as $40 per student. Large corporations are able to pay these fees, but schools often cannot.

Moreover, with hardware solutions, schools must pay for the web filtering box in addition to annual per user license costs. As their 1:1 take home programs scale, schools may need to purchase additional boxes to support their program’s expansion, as one appliance often can only support a few hundred devices at a time.

3) They’re not designed to filter students at home

One big distinction between businesses and schools is that the former has no interest or requirement to enforce off-site web filtering.

On the other hand, schools are increasingly adopting 1:1 take-home programs, an arrangement in which each student takes a school-provisioned device home to use for school assignments. Naturally, a big concern for schools is being able to manage what students are doing on the device when they are away from school.

This is an area in which appliance web filters once again come up short. When the 1:1 device is at home with the student, all traffic needs to be routed from the student’s home to the the appliance on school grounds and then back out to the Internet. This imposes limits on at-home browsing speeds, as the device is often limited by the school’s bandwidth uplink.

4) They require nontrivial setup and maintenance

So a school has decided to buy the service. Then what? With an appliance-centered web filtering approach, IT admins have to wait for the box to be shipped (days later) and then start the set-up process (days later).

These admins are also responsible for network uptime even outside of school hours. For instance, if the web filtering appliance is impacted by a storm, the admin needs to make an on-site visit to get everything back up and running, if they even can.

5) There are alternative solutions!

With the advent of solutions like safe web browsers, Chrome extensions (for devices running Chrome OS and/or the Chrome browser), and cloud-based web filtering, schools now have the freedom to depart from traditional appliance-based solutions.

Typically used for iPads, schools can enforce the use of safe web browsers so that students can only access a subset of pre-approved content on the Internet.

For schools using Google Apps for Education (GAfE), IT Admins have the ability to manage devices and push out Chrome extensions from a central console.

Cloud-based web filtering allows schools to enjoy the granularity of an appliance while getting set up in minutes and managing all students’ devices and reporting in the cloud.

To learn more about cloud-based web filtering for schools, you can subscribe to our blog (above) or to our newsletter (below).


Allowing Teachers to Control Web Filtering in Their Classroom

Teachers need choice on when they’re ready to unblock as they teach students to use technology appropriately.
– Tanya Avrith, Google Certified Teacher.

We see two “classroom-level” issues come up time and again in post-deployment scenarios:

Classroom Management
While this was a solved problem in a Windows-only world with applications like LanSchool, the product that we see used most often for a Chrome-heavy classroom is Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard.

Web Filtering Policy
The advent of Common Core State Standards has meant that teachers have a great deal of control over the tools and websites that they use for classroom instruction. However, we believe that schools’ web filtering policies (which are decided at the district level) have not kept pace with this trend. More often than not, teachers who find an interesting resource during lesson planning end up finding that resource is blocked during classroom instruction. The only recourse is to file a helpdesk ticket.

We believe that where possible, teachers should be allowed (and indeed encouraged) to tweak the district’s web filtering policy to suit the needs of their classroom. This is particularly important with YouTube, by far one of the most-used resources by classroom teachers everywhere. While well-intentioned, solutions like YouTube for Education and YouTube Safety Mode don’t allow teachers instant access to content added to their channel. In line with our philosophy of making teachers the “IT Admin of their own classroom”, we designed a better YouTube feature that allows teachers to approve individual videos or entire YouTube channels.

Have ideas about what other features would make for a better YouTube experience in schools? Reply to this post and let us know!

Enabling YouTube Safety Mode

YouTube Safety Mode enables safe searching and hides videos that have been flagged for containing inappropriate content

YouTube Safety Mode enables safe search and hides videos that have been flagged for containing inappropriate content. A recent update by Google allows for decoupling safe Google search from Youtube Safety Mode.

So by enabling YouTube for Schools, you’re limiting everyone’s ability to see videos that aren’t tagged as EDU or added to your own allow list. Then the list of people that are allowed to whitelist videos is something that you have to maintain manually.
– I.T. Admin on Forum

There is often a debate in schools about the use of YouTube, with common implementations falling into one of three categories: completely open access, YouTube for EDU, or altogether blocked. Allowing students to access a completely open YouTube can expose them to potentially inappropriate or distracting content. On the other hand, YouTube for EDU tends to be limiting, as teachers and admins are required to add one video at a time to their playlist. With the undeniable importance of YouTube as an educational tool, blocking YouTube altogether is not really a feasible option. The solution we recommend: YouTube Safety Mode.

YouTube Safety Mode is a setting that, similar to Google’s safe search, hides inappropriate content when enabled. Videos that have been flagged as being inappropriate by users for a host of reasons will not be accessible in this mode. The following string will need to be injected into the Cookie header of a YouTube traffic flow in order to enable Safety Mode:

  • PREF=f2=8000000

What follows is a description of how two of our customers are using YouTube Safety Mode to achieve a conducive learning environment.

  • Webb City R-VII School District, MO: Have turned on YouTube Safety mode for in-school filtering. Since the district believes that home is actually a less supervised environment, they turn on YouTube for Schools for their 1200 Chromebooks when they go home.
  • Romeo Community Schools, MI: YouTube Safety mode has been turned on for both school and home for 3300 Chromebooks. The Safety Mode is used in conjunction with URL based keyword blocking to achieve a learning environment that is in line with community standards. Keywords that lead to inappropriate content showing up are blacklisted on an as needed basis.

Note: A recent update to the Google Apps Admin Console allows for decoupling Google safe search from YouTube safety mode.