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YouTube is turning off kids’ ability to write comments in supervised experiences

YouTube’s comments section, historically, has had a bad reputation, but a change rolling out could prevent kids from wading into the comments cesspool. In an email to parents who supervise a child’s account, the company announced the introduction of a “read-only” comments option on their child’s supervised experience on YouTube.

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

The change is one of the biggest adjustments to YouTube’s parental control features since the introduction of increased protections for minors in 2021 following increased pressure from lawmakers.

Image Credits: YouTube

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

The former allows kids to explore videos with content ratings for viewers 13 and up, while “Most of YouTube” offers older kids access to most of YouTube’s content except for videos that are specifically age-restricted for adults only.

By default, children will be able to read, but not write, comments under both of these content settings modes. Live chat will also be turned off.

Meanwhile, parents who want to disable comments entirely can switch their child to the “Explore” setting, aimed at viewers ages 9 and up. (This option is generally the first step into the main YouTube experience, after using the dedicated YouTube Kids app as a younger child.)

Parents can view and change their child’s settings from the parent settings on YouTube or via Google’s Family Link parental controls app, YouTube notes. They can also view their child’s history on the child’s device under the My Activity setting.

The company adds that the YouTube settings parents select for their child won’t apply when the child isn’t using the YouTube site or app directly —  like when viewing embedded YouTube content on a third-party site, for instance.

Congress has been pressuring tech companies for years to do more to protect kids from the negative impacts of their services but has dragged its feet in terms of codifying their demands into new laws. More recently, however, the Kids Online Safety Act has gained steam, demanding more robust parental controls from platform makers. The bill has bipartisan support, as does COPPA 2.0 (Children and Teens’ Online Protection Act), which focuses on increased data protections, privacy, and the banning of targeted advertising to kids and teens.

YouTube is getting ahead of any required changes to its parental controls platform by baking in the new protections by default.

After launching parental controls in 2021, YouTube rolled out a handful of product updates to make YouTube safer for teens in November 2023. This included limits on repeated viewing of some topics, as well as revamped “take a break” and “bedtime” reminders, among other things.

While the email detailed the changes to parents, the company hasn’t made a public announcement on its blog about read-only comments as of yet. Requests for comment have not been returned.

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