Watching videos online: what parents and carers need to know

Watching videos online: what parents and carers need to know

Children love watching videos online. In this article we look at how to talk to your child about inappropriate content and keeping safe when watching videos.

Parents text content

Watching videos is one of the most popular ways children and young people consume content online. 91% of 5-15 year olds watch video-on-demand content online and 97% use video sharing platforms, with YouTube being the most used platform (Ofcom Children and Parents: Media use and attitudes report 2020/21).

There are many reasons why children might enjoy this online activity. Videos can be entertaining, funny, creative or educational. From silly animal videos to slime-making or video-game tutorials, the internet has it all. But the amount and availability of content children of all ages can enjoy does increase the risk that they may see something inappropriate.

What is inappropriate video content?

What you might consider inappropriate video content for your child might differ from the views of other parents and probably your child’s! It also depends on your child’s age, social and emotional skills, resilience and maturity level.

Inappropriate video content for your child includes any video material that worries, scares or upsets them, that is directed at older children and adults, or encourages your child to engage in dangerous or risky behaviours. This could include: sexual images or video content, graphic videos or games which show violent behaviour or images and videos that encourage crime, terrorism, eating disorders or suicide and self-harm.

How could my child see inappropriate video content?

Most children and young people don’t go looking for this type of material online. The internet is a public and open space, where anyone can post and share content. If your child is watching videos online, whether it’s on a streaming service, YouTube or through another platform, they may, accidently, see something not intended for them.

Sometimes, children can also be exposed to unsuitable videos through a link they’ve found or been sent, or an app they’ve downloaded.

This means it can be challenging to monitor what your child is viewing but there are some things you can do to help them have a safe and positive experience whilst watching videos.  

4 things you can do to help keep your child safe when watching videos

1. Talk to your child about what videos they like to watch online (and watch some together)

Although there are plenty of tools you can use to monitor your child’s online activity or block access to certain content, it’s best to start an ongoing conversation with them about what they like to do online. Remember, video content could be sent through links in private messages. 

Talk about the videos they like to watch and watch some together. This will help you to identify if they are suitable for them. Remind them not to click on links sent in messages or appearing on screen without asking you first.

You could also talk about what might make a video inappropriate and make sure they know what to do if they see anything they shouldn’t. See our article 'I'm worried my child might see something inappropriate online' for more information and advice.

Encourage your child to talk to you or another adult they trust if they see anything whilst watching videos that makes them feel worried, scared or sad.  

2. Look up the age ratings and the minimum age of use for the apps, sites and games your child uses

Most online platforms, including video streaming services, games, apps, video platforms and social networks have age ratings. Younger children are more likely to come across inappropriate content if they are using apps, websites or services before reaching the minimum age requirements.

Check the age ratings or requirements before your child uses them for a guide as to whether it’s appropriate. For video-games, learn more about PEGI ratings

3. Set up parental controls and filters

Most apps, sites, games and services have parental controls and filters to help you manage the content your child may see. Some services also let you set up child accounts, so content can be automatically filtered, or you can choose what content your child can view. For example, on YouTube you can subscribe to channels you have agreed are OK.

You can also set the search engine (for example, Google, Bing) to ‘safe mode’ – this means that the search engine will look to block any obvious adult content so this is not visible in the search results.

YouTube is particularly popular with primary-aged children and it’s easy for children to click on ‘related videos’ and accidently see something they shouldn’t. Ensure that younger children are supervised when watching YouTube and consider setting YouTube search to ‘safe mode’. For very young children it’s a good idea to only use YouTube Kids.

Read more about setting up parental controls.

4. Use our resources to help you help your child stay safer online

Our website contains advice, information and resources for all children aged 4 - 18. 

For example, the Jessie & Friends animations and storybooks are suitable for young children. You can use the fun animations and song to begin a conversation with your child and reinforce the message if anything online makes them feel worried, scared or sad then they should tell a grown-up they trust. Why not try playing our Watching Videos badge with your child on our 4-7s website?  

Most children will have a safe and positive experience watching videos online. But occasionally, children do see videos or other content that is not suitable for them.

Read our article for guidance and advice on what to do if your child has seen something inappropriate online