Youtube. Youtube. Youtube.
Parents need to know that YouTube now offers parents the ability to filter out objectionable content using its new Safety Mode. Safety Mode is an opt-in feature -- meaning you need to enable it on your browser -- that filters both videos and comments. If you have a YouTube account, you can log in to password protect Safety Mode so it always filters content. Otherwise, you'll need to enable Safety Mode every time you log in if you want to screen content. YouTube is also now displaying the TV ratings for the TV show clips it offers, so parents have a sense of the age-appropriateness of the video. Part of the fun of the YouTube has always been that you can see anything at any time, but that also makes it hard to know what your kids are viewing unless you're supervising. The new Safety Mode feature and ratings give parents more control over the content kids see -- even though as YouTube acknowledges, no filter is 100% accurate. YouTube remains one of the most creative outlets on the Web, offering kids myriad ways to exercise their creativity. You can learn more about Safety Mode, and view the instructional video, on the company's blog.
YOUTUBE.COM is a site where users upload and share original videos. Users can "tag" their videos with subject headings, such as "dogs," "comedy," or "topless." This lets others find videos featuring subjects that interest them. It's a popular place to go to see the latest silly Internet video that everyone's talking about. The great majority of videos are of concert footage, sporting events, bootlegged commercial video, and homemade movies. Want to see video of Michael Jackson picking up his "Legends" award in Tokyo? It's here. Like to see the winner of last week's Masters horse show in Germany? No problem. Of course, you can also see hentai (Japanese pornographic animation, often with big-eyed waifs in bondage). Users create "playlists" of favorite videos and can join communities of users who like to watch the same types of things. If you decide to submit a video yourself, you can choose whether you want to allow people to comment on it or not. If you decide to allow comments, you can moderate them first before making them live on the site.
Content runs the gamut from the totally benign to the totally outrageous to the potentially harmful. The user-rating system is fairly trustworthy, though -- if lots of people pan something, it's probably not worth watching and if users give something a high rating, it's probably pretty good. The user ratings have nothing to do with age-appropriateness, though.
Although you can't automatically get to the adult videos without logging in, anyone can lie about their age and get an "adult" account. Most of the videos aren't pornographic, but some of the comments about the videos can be vulgar. Submitters are cautioned to refrain from showing personally identifiable information in their movies, or images that would help a stranger identify their locations. "Broadcasters" are able to release videos to the world, or just to a circle of friends and family. Additionally, users can easily remove their videos from the site anytime. As with any site that offers user-generated content, it's viewer beware.