YouTube’s comments section has historically had a bad rap, but the changes being rolled out may stop kids from wading into the comments cesspool. In an email to parents who supervise their children’s accounts, the company announced the launch of a “read-only” comment option for their children’s moderated experience on YouTube.

YouTube says the feature will roll out “in the coming weeks.”

The change is one of the biggest tweaks YouTube’s parental controls have made since 2021 to tighten protections for minors amid increased pressure from lawmakers.

Image Source: Youtube

The new additions apply to two of the three content settings available to parents who want to configure a more kid-friendly YouTube experience for their children: “Explore More” and “Most of YouTube.”

The former allows kids to explore videos rated for viewers ages 13 and up, while “Most YouTube” allows older kids to access most of YouTube’s content, with the exception of videos specifically age-restricted for adults.

By default, kids can read comments but not write comments in both content setting modes. Live chat will also be turned off.

In the meantime, parents who want to disable comments entirely can switch their children to the Explore setting for viewers ages 9 and up. (This option is often the first step into the main YouTube experience for younger children after using the dedicated YouTube Kids app.)

YouTube notes that parents can view and change their children’s settings through Parental Settings on YouTube or through Google’s Family Link parental control app. They can also view their child’s history under the My Activity settings on their device.

The company added that YouTube settings selected by parents for children will not apply when the child is not directly using the YouTube website or app, such as when viewing embedded YouTube content on a third-party website.

Congress has been pressuring tech companies for years to do more to protect children from negative impacts of their services but has been slow to enshrine their demands in new laws. Recently, however, the Children’s Online Safety Act has gained significant support, requiring platform manufacturers to implement stronger parental controls. The bill has bipartisan support, as does COPPA 2.0 (Children and Youth Online Protection Act), which focuses on strengthening data protection, privacy and prohibiting targeted advertising to children and youth.

YouTube is getting ahead of any necessary changes to its parental control platform by setting new protections by default.

After launching parental controls in 2021, YouTube launched some product updates in November 2023 to make YouTube safer for teens. These include limiting re-viewing of certain topics, as well as modifying “Take a Break” and “Bedtime” reminders. Among other things.

While the email details the changes to parents, the company has yet to make a public announcement about read-only comments on its blog. A request for comment has not yet been responded to.

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