Continued support for teen wellbeing and mental health on YouTube
Nov 02, 2023 – minute read
Nov 02, 2023 – minute read
Today we’re sharing updates that meet the unique needs of teens using YouTube and introducing partnerships with youth, parenting, and mental health experts. These updates are designed to help teens navigate their growing individual interests, while putting their safety, privacy, and wellbeing first.
It’s healthy for teens to choose what they watch because they are exploring their interests, and seeing the world from different perspectives. This helps teens develop the capacity to take initiative and lead change for themselves and their communities.” Yalda T. Uhls Founding Director of the Center for Scholars & Storytellers, and a member of YouTube's Youth and Families Advisory Committee
For years, we’ve partnered with our Youth and Families Advisory Committee, a team of independent experts in child development, digital learning, children’s media and more - spanning academic, nonprofit, and clinical backgrounds.
One of the Advisory Committee’s important contributions has been advising YouTube on the developmental stages of teens - and specifically how content consumed online can impact the wellbeing of teens. Teens are more likely than adults to form negative beliefs about themselves when seeing repeated messages about ideal standards in content they consume online.
These insights led us to develop additional safeguards for content recommendations for teens, while still allowing them to explore the topics they love. Working with the Advisory Committee, we identified categories of content that may be innocuous as a single video, but could be problematic for some teens if viewed in repetition. These categories include content that compares physical features and idealizes some types over others, idealizes specific fitness levels or body weights, or displays social aggression in the form of non-contact fights and intimidation.
Allison Briscoe-Smith, a clinician and researcher and member of the Youth and Families Advisory Committee, explains “A higher frequency of content that idealizes unhealthy standards or behaviors can emphasize potentially problematic messages—and those messages can impact how some teens see themselves. Guardrails can help teens maintain healthy patterns as they naturally compare themselves to others and size up how they want to show up in the world.”
We’re now limiting repeated recommendations of videos related to those topics for teens in the United States, with more countries to be added over the next year. As always, we’re continuing to enforce our Community Guidelines to remove content and prevent minors from seeing videos that cross the line of our policies on child safety, eating disorders, hate speech, and harassment.
Our work to create age-appropriate and safer experiences on YouTube is ongoing, so we’re updating a few of our existing products to make them even more relevant for teens. First, while we’ve had Take a Break and Bedtime reminders since 2018, we’re revamping these features to be more visually prominent and appear more frequently, particularly for viewers under 18 whose accounts have these reminders turned on by default.
These features will appear as a full-screen takeover across Shorts and long-form videos, with a default setting for Take a Break reminders every 60 minutes. We know every family has different viewing preferences, so digital wellbeing tools can be adjusted in their settings.
Additionally, we’re expanding crisis resource panels into a new full-page experience that will help viewers pause for a moment and explore help topics when they search on YouTube for certain queries related to suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders. Viewers will more prominently see resources for third-party crisis hotlines as well as suggested prompts to steer search queries towards topics like “self-compassion” or “grounding exercises.”
To inform this update, we worked with experts in suicide and self-harm prevention, as well as crisis response, to determine ways to help viewers slow down in moments of acute distress and redirect them towards resources and helpful content categories. This feature is now launched for viewers of all ages where crisis resource panels are available.
At YouTube, we strongly support families, researchers, policymakers, companies and experts coming together to define a set of consistent standards for young people online. To that end, we’re working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Common Sense Networks, an affiliate of Common Sense Media, to develop public, industry-wide resources related to teens and online wellbeing.
For many teens, content creation can be a creative outlet allowing them to express themselves, share stories, and connect with peers. We’ve partnered closely with Common Sense Networks in the past around quality principles for kids content, and we’re extending this work to produce new educational resources for parents and teens, bringing families together for important conversations on responsibly creating videos online. This will include guidance on developing intentional and safe online habits, creating content with empathy and awareness, and best practices for approaching comments, shares, and other online interactions.
We’re also supporting the WHO and the British Medical Journal in hosting a round table of experts to develop guiding principles on defining developmentally appropriate mental health content for teens and examining strategies for communicating mental health resources and information to teens online. The meeting and resulting report aims to provide information that will help creators and services better develop age-appropriate mental health resources, as well as provide tips for families, educators, and other caregivers to identify enriching mental health content. The BMJ will publish a meeting full report in early 2024.
All of this work is underpinned by a set of five principles that we adhere to when building services and features for kids and teens, which you can read about here. We aim to build great experiences for young people, which is why their privacy, safety, wellbeing and mental health is at the core of our service and policy development.
Many of us at YouTube working on these initiatives are parents ourselves, and we’re uniquely aware of the choices families face when it comes to ensuring the wellbeing of loved ones and setting digital ground rules. Our goal is to provide parents with kids at every stage with the confidence to let their children and teens explore their interests and the tools that empower families to customize their experiences across YouTube. Our youth product experiences now reach more than 100 million active viewers every month, and we want to ensure that we’re making changes to our products thoughtfully, bringing parents and experts along each step of the way.
We’re excited to build on our important work related to youth experiences, digital wellbeing, and mental health, with more to come in the future. We recognize the important role that YouTube can play in the life of teens and are deeply committed to ensuring time on YouTube is time well spent.