Health Tech

5 Ways Google Is Protecting Kids’ Mental Health on YouTube

During a session at CES 2024, a Google exec shared several changes the company has made through YouTube to protect children and teens.

While social media has given teens and children a way to communicate with others, it also has the potential to negatively affect their mental health. It can distract them, disrupt their sleep, make them susceptible to bullying and lead to “unrealistic views” of people’s lives, according to Mayo Clinic.

The dangers of social media on kids was the topic of a session at CES 2024 held in Las Vegas last week. During the session, Google’s Director of Consumer and Mental Health Megan Jones Bell discussed five ways the company is protecting child mental health on YouTube (which Google acquired in 2006):

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1. Take a break and bedtime reminders: YouTube has provided take a break and bedtime reminders for several years now that show a black box over the page the user is on. The company will soon roll out a change that will show a full, white screen reminder to take a break.

“These will be more disruptive and they’ll create more moments for pause and reflection, which we know is more likely to get somebody to actually disengage,” Jones Bell said.

2. Limiting repeated recommendations of videos on certain topics: YouTube has also changed the way it recommends content for teens and tweens. It is limiting video recommendations that compare physical features, idealize certain fitness levels or body weight or show social aggression (such as non-contact fights and intimidation).

3. Updated crisis resource panels: YouTube provides crisis resource panels that offer the opportunity to call or chat with the 988 Crisis & Suicide Hotline when users search for topics related to suicide, eating disorders and self-harm. The old crisis resource panels just showed a bar on the top of the page, whereas the new panel is a full-screen takeover.

“You actually have to make a decision to either contact a crisis resource, look for content related to the promotion of mental health (such as self-compassion content or grounding exercises), or you can actively scroll to the bottom of that page and click through to see the content that you previously searched for,” Jones Bell stated.

4. World Health Organization partnership: Google and YouTube are working with the World Health Organization to define new mental health quality principles.

“We asked the World Health Organization to convene global experts, which they’ve done,” Jones Bell said. “They’re issuing guidance and principles that we will put into our product as a way of helping elevate high-quality, but developmentally appropriate mental health content to young people.”

5. Educational resources for responsible content creation: YouTube worked with the Common Sense Networks to develop a guide for families and teens on how to be safe online and how to create responsible videos.

Photo credit: DrAfter123, Getty Images