What do I do if my child has an inappropriate video on YouTube?

Despite their best intentions, sometimes kids and teens place videos on YouTube that aren’t in their best interest, aren’t in the best interest of others, show criminal activities or just expose too much personal information.  When this type of incident occurs, the best course of action is a swift and decisive approach.

Your goal is three-fold: Remove the video or make it private, remove or reduce the damage caused by the video, and then educate your child on how to evaluate the appropriateness and safety of videos before they are uploaded.

1. Make a video private on YouTube:

If your only concern about a video is that it shares too much personal information to be publicly viewable, you have two options: You can have your child make it “private” or make it “unlisted.” Videos uploaded to YouTube are by default set to “public,” but when uploading a video and filling out information about the video, there is a section called Broadcasting and Sharing Options.  It is under this section that the options for private and unlisted videos are found.

Making a video private limits access so only your child and up to 50 other people who they invite (discuss with them who they are allowed to invite) will be able to see the video. When a video is set to private, the video does not appear on your child’s video channel, in search results or in playlists.

Here's how your child can make their video private, and share it with selected individuals:

  1. Have them Sign in to their YouTube account and click the Account link located (at the top-right of any page)
  2. Next, they need to click the Uploaded Videos link, click to choose the video they need to make private, then click the Edit button.
  3. Under the Broadcasting and Sharing Options section (on the left-hand side of the page towards the bottom) your child will see the Privacy options. If they don’t see the options, have them click the little black arrow / triangle to expand the section.
  4. Here they can set the video to Private, and they will see a section where they can enter up to 50 YouTube usernames that will have access to the private video. (Note: viewers must have a YouTube account.)

Making a video unlisted means that only people who know the link to the video can view it (such as friends or family to whom you send the link). Unlisted videos do not appear in YouTube search results, your child’s channel or on the Browse page. The key differences between unlisted and private videos are:

  • Viewers do not need a YouTube account to watch the video. Anyone who gets the link can view it, which is helpful if you want to share it with people who are unlikely to have a YouTube account.
  • There is no limit to the number of people you or your child can share the link with.  While this point has clear advantages, it also means anyone who gets the link can share the link with others. This means the video can spread quickly and the whole intent of limiting access can be lost.

2. Remove a video from YouTube

Sometimes, the video content dictates that the video should be removed, not merely set to private. Only the person who posted a video can remove the video, but other options for removing a video are also covered.

If your child uploaded the video they can:

  1. Sign in and click their username in the upper-right corner of any YouTube page
  2. In the drop-down menu, click My Videos
  3. Select the box next to the video(s) that they want to remove
  4. Then, click the Actions button at the top of the page and select Delete from the drop-down menu.

Understand that as soon as your child or teen deletes a video, it will be unavailable for viewing, but it may take time for the video and thumbnail images to disappear from YouTube’s video search results.

If someone else uploaded the video you can:

  1. If you know who posted the video, ask the person to remove it. If the poster is a friend of your child or teen, this should be a relatively easy request and process. They simply follow the steps above to remove the video. Once they’ve edited out sections that you felt were inappropriate or exposed too much information, they can repost the video if they choose.
  2. If you don’t know who posted the video, leave a comment on the video asking that it be removed. If the poster uploaded the image innocently, they should quickly take it down. If however they posted the video with malicious intent, this isn’t likely to be a viable option.
  3. If the poster maliciously posted the video, use YouTube’s Flag functionality. YouTube has clear community guidelines to monitor content hosted on their service. You can flag inappropriate videos by clicking on the “flag” button underneath every video and reporting the issue to YouTube instantly.

Once you click the flag, a dropdown menu appears allowing you to select the reason that most closely matches your reason for reporting the video.  Some reasons have subcategories to help you further refine the issue.

Once the offending video has been removed, you may need to take no further steps. However, if the video caused embarrassment, risk, or bullying, to your child – or to another child – you may need to take additional actions. These actions may include talking to the school about how to address any issue that has spread to the school environment, finding a counselor for your child, making your child apologize to whomever they hurt, closing their YouTube account, reporting an issue to the police and so on. Only you and your child can judge what the right course of action may be based on the circumstances.


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