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Should Your District Use YouTube for Learning?

July 20, 2021

youtube, phone computerMultiple surveys and studies agree that videos are effective teaching/learning tools, making YouTube a natural addition to modern lesson plans, especially in distance learning environments. With 500 hours of content uploaded every minute, YouTube offers rich educational opportunities if teachers use it effectively.

But is YouTube safe for students? 

The answer is complicated. No, YouTube isn’t inherently safe for students. However, there are ways to make it safer.

Let’s start by examining YouTube’s safety concerns. 

Privacy Issues

With YouTube, teachers can send students links to countless educational resources or upload their own lessons for students to watch. When teachers and students search the site and upload or access content, however, YouTube collects data that third-party advertising agencies use to create targeted advertisements. 

In 2019, this led to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into whether YouTube breached the Children’s Online Privacy Act. In response, YouTube stopped hosting targeted ads on videos children were likely to see and paid a $170 million settlement. 

Lack of Quality Control and Fact-Checking

Anyone can upload videos to YouTube. The upside for distancing learning is that teachers can enhance instruction and engage students by creating videos themselves or sharing videos appropriate to their lesson plans. 

The downside is that inaccurate, untrue, and intentionally misleading videos are common on the site. No one fact checks the content, and despite YouTube’s use of advanced algorithms to filter out inappropriate videos, harmful material inevitably slips through. 

Inappropriate Recommended Videos

The videos teachers send students aren’t isolated from YouTube’s other content – a ‘recommended videos’ sidebar suggests what users should watch next. child on computer

According to a developer who worked on the recommendation algorithm, YouTube’s artificial intelligence doesn’t show users what they want – its goal is to get them addicted to YouTube. He also said the algorithm is responsible for more than 70% of the time spent on the site.

Therefore, it’s easy for students to start watching an educational video but be distracted by YouTube’s recommended videos and get sidetracked from their work.

Is There a Solution? 

YouTube has unquestionable benefits for teachers and students, but its downsides may make educators question using it as a teaching/learning tool.

But all is not lost. Here’s how to make YouTube safer for kids.

Teachers should start by vetting the videos they share with their students. That means checking sources and watching videos all the way through before sharing. Because savvy video creators can embed unrelated content into any video, misinformation may be hidden in seemingly normal videos.


Teachers should also discuss the possibility of seeing inappropriate material and encourage students to alert them and then report and block those videos. 

Another option is software like Linewize, which offers content filtering so students and teachers can enjoy the benefits of YouTube while avoiding potentially harmful content. Linewize’s software provides more control and better filtering than YouTube’s safety features, including:

  • Blocking videos categorized as suitable for mature audiences (ages 18+)
  • Removing the ‘recommended videos’ sidebar
  • Disabling the comments section
  • Disabling chat on live-stream videos

And Linewize’s content filtering solution does more than block inappropriate web content. It also:

  • Helps schools comply with safety and privacy requirements
  • Manages traffic
  • Controls student VPN access
  • Offers insight into student activity including the YouTube Videos watched.
  • Gives teachers more control

Final Thoughts

So, YouTube for distance learning – yea or nay?

We say yea. YouTube supports strong community guidelines and prohibits spam, deceptive practices, and sensitive, violent, and dangerous content. Although inappropriate videos sometimes slip through YouTube’s filters, strong teacher practices and software like Linewize provide additional filtering powers and an extra level of security and safety. 

With Linewize, educators can use YouTube for distance learning with confidence.

Trying to find the right balance between student privacy and security?

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Topics: Cyber Safety, Social Media, Youtube

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