Explained: What is YouTube?

Explained: What is YouTube?


YouTube is a video sharing service where users can watch, like, share, comment and upload their own videos. The video service can be accessed on PCs, laptops, tablets and via mobile phones.


What Are the Main Functions of YouTube?

  • Users can search for and watch videos
  • Create a personal YouTube channel
  • Upload videos to your channel
  • Like/Comment/share other YouTube videos
  • Users can subscribe/follow other YouTube channels and users
  • Create playlists to organize videos and group videos together

Why Do Teens Like YouTube?

YouTube is a free to use service and a can be a great space for teens to discover things they like. For many young people, YouTube is used to watch music videos, comedy shows, how to guides, recipes, hacks and more. Teens also use the video-sharing service to follow their favourite vloggers (video blogger), subscribe to other YouTubers and celebrities they are interested in.


Age Restrictions

To set up a YouTube account users must be 18 years of age or 13+ with parental consent. Update: Under the new E.U General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Ireland has now set the Digital Age of Consent to 16 years old. This means young people under the age of 16 in Ireland are not allowed to access this platform.

However, users do not need to sign-in to access the website or to view videos. There is, however, a YouTube kids version now available to download for free. YouTube kids is designed for children aged  3-8 years old and make it easier for children and parents to find content they are interested in. Click here for more info the YouTube Kids app.


What Are the Risks?

YouTube is a great place to discover new things, learn and get entertainment, however, there are some things parents and teens should be aware of when using the service.


Inappropriate Content

YouTube has over a billion users and with an estimated 300 hours of footage uploaded per minute, not all of it is appropriate for children.

But you can help minimise the risk of your child encountering content that may not be appropriate for them. If you or your child sees something inappropriate, users can flag the video with YouTube. For more info on flagging inappropriate content go to: google.com/youtube/


Cyber Bullying

Unfortunately, people can experience negative comments and bullying on the service particularly through the comments function (YouTube users can comment on other users videos). If your child has a YouTube channel/profile it might be a good idea to recommend they disable comments on their own profile/channel. This can be done very easily via settings and helps minimise risk of experiencing negative comments. If your child is experiencing harassment on YouTube, you can block and report users.

See below for more info on reporting and blocking users

Block Users: google.com/youtube/block

Report Abuse: youtube.com/reportabuse


Tips for Keeping your Child Safe on YouTube

1. Managing Privacy Settings

When a user uploads a video to YouTube, by default the video is set to public, which means anyone can see the video. Depending on the age of your child, you should discuss what settings are best to use if your child is uploading footage to YouTube. You can easily switch videos to private or unlisted (published on YouTube but cannot be found without a direct link to the video).

You can also invite people to view your videos using Google Circles. Please note, you need to link your channel with Google+ in order to share a private video with other users. Click here for info on how to connect a YouTube channel to a Google+ profile.

2. Set up Parental Controls

Parents should set up age restrictions and parental controls on YouTube. See how to set up parental controls.

3. Disable Comments on YouTube

YouTube allows you to disable comments entirely on videos or users have the options to approve each comment before they are published, this can help avoid risks of experiencing cyberbullying. See how to disable comments.

4. Use Safety Mode

YouTube has a Safety mode, a setting which gives users the opportunity to bar mature content. It is an “opt-in” setting, which means that it won’t take effect until you switch it on. The setting filters search results to remove videos with mature content or videos that have been age-restricted, meaning that such content will not show up in video searches, related videos, playlists, shows or movie sections. While no filtering system is 100 percent accurate, we recommend that parents of young children enable this feature.


Useful Links:

YouTube Family Link allows you to control settings on YouTube Kids including the content level setting you want for your child, and if you want your child to use the search function. Find out more here:

In 2021 YouTube introduced Supervised Experiences on YouTube. This feature is for parents who want to allow their child to transition from YouTube Kids to supervised access to the main YouTube platform. Via a Supervised Google Account the feature will offer parents the ability to choose from 3 different content settings on YouTube.

Explore: For children ready to move on from YouTube Kids and explore content on YouTube, this setting will feature a broad range of videos generally suitable for viewers ages 9+, including vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, educational content and more.

Explore More: With content generally suitable for viewers ages 13+, this setting will include an even larger set of videos, and also live streams in the same categories as “Explore.”

Most of YouTube: This setting will contain almost all videos on YouTube, except for age-restricted content, and it includes sensitive topics that may only be appropriate for older teens.

Find out more about Supervised experiences on YouTube.

Talk to someone

Worried about something you have seen online or concerned about your child? Childline and the National Parents Council Primary offer free advice and support service.

Childline is a support service for young people up to the age of 18.There is a 24hr telephone, online and mobile phone texting service.

Get started

The National Parents Council Primary enables and empowers parents to be effective partners in their children’s education.

01 887 4477

Report Illegal Content

Sometimes you might unwittingly stumble across illegal online content like child abuse imagery. Always remember: you can report it and get it removed using Hotline.ie.

More on illegal content

Make a report

Hotline.ie exists to combat the distribution and proliferation of illegal content, like child sexual
abuse content, in conjunction with police and Internet Industry