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YouTube safety mode is nothing special

Submitted by on Friday, 12 February 2010 No Comment

It’s ironic that Google rolled out Safety Mode parental controls for YouTube in the same week that it made gmail unsafe for some folks in its careless rollout of Buzz.

Some of the early things I’d read about safety mode made me a little leery, such as its filters that block access to “violence” even if it’s in news coverage. My kids know about that stuff. We actually have great discussions about it.

Still, because I can’t possibly be staring over Big Guy’s shoulder every time he clicks a mouse – OK, technically speaking, I suppose I could but I’ve opted not to – I decided to investigate. I already use Norton’s parental controls, but if YouTube’s filter did a better job of weeding out pimped-out cartoon characters disrespecting women, it was worth a shot.

The first thing I found out was that the YouTube Safety Mode does not travel with Google accounts as YouTube claims. I set the guys’ account up on my work computer, set it to Safety Mode and then signed on to YouTube on their computer. Safety Mode was not on, so I reset it to lock it to their browser instead of their account.

The second thing I found out: The filters are not squeamish about news-related death. I searched for  “Dale Earnhardt” and all the memorial videos still showed up.

That’s a good thing in my book. My kids know that people die – that’s in contrast to an elder relative who hid from her son for years that Bruce Lee was dead. My kids know that racing is dangerous – we’ve talked about it, and they’ve seen it live on TV. They watch the videos, not out of morbid curiosity but out of curiosity about history. They learned about Senior by watching his son, and they wanted to learn more about Dale Jr.’s daddy.

The third thing: If the guys are going to become Barenaked Ladies fans, they’ll need to learn for search for the full name of the group. The videos show up that way, even if you put a space between “bare” and “naked.” You get nothing if you search just for naked.

YouTube is not nearly as antsy about sex, though. Searching for that word in Safety Mode yields a glob of content the guys aren’t ready for, from “Mistress M knows about sex” to “Will Sarah Palin run for president in 2012.” I’m not sure what “sex” has to do with the latter video. Possibly it’s in some of the crude comments, which Safety Mode auto hides but still lets the user click on.

The fourth thing: Safety Mode doesn’t block much that Norton controls didn’t already block. And neither is a substitute for being involved in your child’s online explorations.

Safety Mode’s biggest advantage is that it’s easy to turn on and off – just scroll down to the bottom of any video page and you’ll see “Safety Mode” in tiny print. From there, you can quickly activate it and deactivate it as often as you want. That makes it much more convenient than other parental controls if kids are surfing on a shared computer that doesn’t have multiple user accounts.

So for those times when I absolutely have to turn my head long enough to cook dinner, I’ll use Safety Mode for now.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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