YouTube is the most popular online video sharing site in the world with 1.7 billion monthly active YouTube users, and 300 hours of videos uploaded per minute . On YouTube, users can view videos without signing in however videos that have been flagged as inappropriate for younger audiences require you to be signed in.

To create an account, you must create a Gmail Account due to YouTube now being owned by Google. If a person is under the age of 13 when creating a Gmail Account, a parent must sign in using their Gmail account to give consent that their child can use the service however they must use YouTube Kids which is an App specifically designed to be child friendly. There is a further Google security App that will need to be downloaded onto both the parent’s and child’s devices called Family-Link which allows them to control what their children have access to with other features such as how long they are allowed on their phone. Although this is a very useful to protect your kids online, many parents don’t know about this app and when children sign up all they must do is lie about their age and they can use it as if they were an adult. According to The Guardian, “more than 80% of children lie about their age to use sites like Facebook” .

Features of YouTube

Once you have created your account the home page of YouTube will show up. This page contains suggested videos based on your watching habits that people have uploaded on their channels. An example would be if you watch many DIY videos then you may find a lot of those being recommended.

To show the functionality of YouTube as a new-comer we made a new account and named it David Murphy. Below is a screenshot from the YouTube app after creating our account. What is shown on the Home tab is a list of videos that I can scroll through from music videos to homemade dog videos. At the top right you can tap on the magnifying glass and search for videos by name or topic. The icon to the left of the magnifying glass allows you to send videos to a smart TV nearby. On the bottom of the screen is the different sections of the app. “The Trending page helps viewers see what’s happening on YouTube and in the world. Some trends are predictable, like a new song from a popular artist or a new movie trailer. Others are surprising, like a viral video. Trending aims to surface videos that a wide range of viewers will appreciate.”

The next tab is the subscriptions tab. The way subscriptions work is, if you like a creator and want to see more of their stuff you can subscribe to them and then you will be kept up to date on their uploads. The subscriptions tab is where YouTube stores the people you subscribe to and shows their latest uploads.

The inbox tab is where YouTube stores your notifications and messages people have sent you. People can only send you messages if you are friends with them on YouTube. To add friends, you must go into inbox and select “Add Friends” and send them the invitation code. The last tab is the library tab. This is where YouTube stores your viewing history, videos you’ve uploaded, videos you’ve purchased and videos you’ve added to playlists.

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Figure 2

You can add videos to your liked videos by clicking the thumbs up button. You can also press save on a video as shown below to add it to a playlist or share it to other social media sites like Facebook. You can also dislike a video if you don’t like them.

There is also a download option on videos which allows you to download the video if you have YouTube Premium. YouTube Premium is a subscription-based service which gives you more features like downloading videos and no adds will show up on any videos. There are also YouTube Premium videos like the TV Show Mind Field by the content creator Vsauce. YouTube Sponsors the channel to create the videos in a TV-Series style with different episodes and then to view them you must subscribe to YouTube premium.

YouTube also has their own TV Network called YouTube TV which is a cable-free live TV service for $40 a month although its currently only available in the US now . YouTube also has a movie streaming service called YouTube Movies where you can buy or rent movies. Another feature of YouTube is YouTube Gaming. It is a feature that combines popular gaming videos together in one place along with live videos currently being played. This feature is going to be shut down soon however.

On every YouTube video by default there Is a comments section. This is where people who have watched the video can leave feedback or comments on what they like, dislike, or generally think about the video. People can then respond to these comments and create dialogue between other users on YouTube about the video and start a discussion. By default, anyone can reply to anyone’s comment and see anything anyone has commented. Comments can also be liked and disliked by everyone who sees them. Once posted comments can be edited or deleted by who made them.

As of 2016, YouTube has been added to Googles HTTPS Transparency Report, this provides encryption to the service for any devices that support SSL encryption, as a result all privates messages shall be encrypted, however comments being public will not be encrypted.

On YouTube every user is given a channel. Here they can upload videos, share playlists they have made of their favourite videos on YouTube. By default, only you can see your liked videos and subscriptions however everyone can see the videos you add to a playlist like the one shown below in the Favourites playlist.

Figure 3

YouTube's security options

Here are the security settings available

Manage Restricted Mode

Manage contacts

Below are the options available further on the Google account required to use YouTube:

Google profile visible

Manage 2-step verifications

Manage Shared Endorsements

Manage account plans

How to apply these options

If you have an account on YouTube, you can go into the settings and turn on Restricted Mode. This helps hide videos with potentially mature content however it is important to note that it is not 100% accurate and some videos may slip through the cracks.

To enable this setting, press the profile icon as shown on the left in figure 4, on the next page tap on Settings as shown on the right in figure 4, on the next page tap on General as shown in figure 5. On this page, enable the setting “Restricted mode” as shown on the right in figure 5.

Figure 4
Figure 5

If a user sends you inappropriate messages you can block them using the block feature on YouTube.

Just tap on their profile Icon and click Block to prevent them from messaging you again. Now the blocked person will show up in your “Blocked Contacts” section of your settings and can be unblocked there if needed.


Figure 6

Securing the Google Account

To create a YouTube account, you must have a Gmail account. To be fully safe in using the App you must understand and select the safety features that you would like to have for not only YouTube but your Google account too.
To begin configuring your Google account you must go to your Google Account at and sign in, you will then be at the home page for your account. To begin securing the account, click on “Data & personalisation”. Here you can configure the Activity controls on your account. For this example, we used a test account.

Figure 7

Below is the information on the activity controls provided by Google:

  • Web & App Activity
    Google is saving your activity on Google sites and apps, including searches and associated information. Google is also saving activity as which apps you use, your Chrome history and which sites you visit on the web.
  • Location History
    Google creates a private map of where you go with your signed-in devices, even when you aren’t using a specific Google service. This map is only visible to you.
  • Voice & Audio Activity
    When you use voice commands or touch the microphone icon, Google saves your voice and accompanying audio.
  • Device Information
    Google is storing information about contacts, calendars, apps, music and other data from your devices in your Google Account.
  • YouTube Search History
    Google is saving your YouTube searches to your Google Account.
  • YouTube Watch History
    Google is saving the YouTube videos that you watch to your account.

All the above settings can be Toggled on or off on the “Data & Personalisation” page as shown below.

Figure 8

The next step is to make sure your account is secure. Go back to the Home page and tap on Secure account. As shown below. Your Google account allows you to set up an account recovery service. You will need to provide a recovery email or a phone number to set it up. This works if you lose access to your account you can request a link to reset your password to be sent to either your phone or your recovery email. Google also scans your device to check if there are any harmful apps installed and warns you about them. It also tracks here the Recent security events that have taken place such as adding a phone number to your sign-in recovery or changing your password.

Figure 9

Next, click on the Personal Info tab as shown below. Here you will be able to change your account info. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you can view your account from the perspective of someone else.

Figure 10

In the picture below, we can see what an outside user may see about your account. The only things they can’t see is the pieces of information that have a lock icon next to them as shown with the blue arrows. This information can be changed to visible if you tap on the lock and choose visible.

Figure 11

Finally, in the Security tab, you can set up your phone to allow you to sign into Google without typing in your password. All you need to do is to allow the login on your phone, so you can log in on other devices without a password. You can also enable 2-step Verification which prevents anyone form logging in without having the password AND a second key that is sent to your phone. In this section you can also change your password.

Figure 12

Google does not share your data with any third-party company beyond their direct partners or a third-party hosting services contracted to Google, however they use your data for their ad services which is indirectly selling your data without revealing it. This is a great way to monetize the data they have on you without infringing on your privacy.

The next steps will show you how to download the data Google tracks when you use their services, plan for your account to be deleted upon being inactive from 3 to 18 months and you may delete a service on your account or all the information Google has on you, this will permanently delete your google account.

On the Data & Personalisation tab, scroll down until you see the following screen. To download your data, you must first request an archive to be created on your data, this could take a while depending on how much data they have for you but for the new account we created, we received an email just a few minutes after the request was made. The information was stored in a zipped file and must be extracted before read. To unzip this data, we used a computer with WinRAR.

The information contained device information, such as the contacts and their photos you have assigned to them on your phone and other things like bookmarks on your chrome browser.

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The information contained device information, such as the contacts and their photos you have assigned to them on your phone and other things like bookmarks on your chrome browser.

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The next option would be planning for your account if it goes inactive. It allows you to, after a specified number of months of inactivity, delete your account automatically. To set this up select the option as shown below. You will then need to give them your phone number and select how long to wait before deleting the account for its inactivity. Before it gets set up they will contact your multiple times by SMS and Email to confirm the changes and they will also contact you 1 month before the set time is up for extra care.

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This final setting is set off by default however if used, the Shared Endorsements feature of Google could be used to gather information on the users. Shared endorsements are a feature that allows you to review places like restaurants and leisure centres like cinemas and swimming pools. However, it’s important to note that if you enable this feature, then ‘Based on your activity, Google may show your profile name, profile photo, and activity in shared endorsements in ads.’. If you want to make sure this feature is turned off, you must go to the People & Sharing tab and scroll down to the bottom as show below. Select manage shared endorsements and scroll down and make sure the box shown below is not ticked.

Figure 16

YouTube Best Practice Settings Guide

Having reviewed the settings, we will now offer a best practice guide to the settings we suggest be employed to better protect the child’s use of their Apps and their device to increase their safety while accessing online content via Apps:

  • We Recommend enabling Restricted Mode to enable the filtering of potentially mature content however it’s not 100% accurate.
  • We Recommend disabling Web & App Activity
  • We Recommend disabling Location History
  • We Recommend disabling Voice & Audio Activity
  • We Recommend disabling Device Information
  • We Recommend disabling YouTube Search History
  • We Recommend disabling YouTube Watch History
  • We Recommend keeping all information of the account set to private as default.

YouTube safety rating

Figure 17

Reflections on YouTube

As stated by YouTube’s terms & conditions, we do not recommend anyone under the age of 13 to use the main YouTube app for any reason, be it supervised or otherwise. The potential for the child in question to tap onto the inappropriate area that encircles the “Elsa-gate” videos. The algorithm of YouTube, been tasked with such a huge goal, has its flaws and may allow such things to be suggested to children despite their inappropriate nature.

Despite this, if used with the maximum extent of security options available, YouTube can be a safe outlet of entertainment for minors if supervised by a guardian and the appropriate settings are used. That being said, we do not recommend it for children.

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