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Safer Internet Day: Supporting teen mental health and wellbeing on YouTube

Growing up in today’s digital world means teens use platforms like YouTube to explore their interests, get help with homework, find community, and understand different perspectives. These spaces and the information and opportunities they offer are an important part of teens’ development, so in recognition of Safer Internet Day, and underpinned by our recently introduced Youth Principles, we’re sharing existing, recently launched, and upcoming tools, features, and resources to support the mental health and wellbeing of teens as they grow and explore the world online.

1. Resources developed by experts to help guide age-appropriate mental health content

We actively work with mental health and child development experts, including our Youth and Families Advisory Committee, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and Asociación de Lucha contra la Bulimia y la Anorexia (ALUBA).

At YouTube, we strongly support families, researchers, policymakers, companies and experts coming together to support safer and more enriching experiences for young people online. We actively work with mental health and child development experts, including our Youth and Families Advisory Committee, on product updates and resources to help creators, parents and caregivers make informed decisions. For example, we recently worked with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and Asociación de Lucha contra la Bulimia y la Anorexia (ALUBA) to develop a comprehensive framework that involves expanding the scope of our Community Guidelines, age-restricting certain videos, and surfacing crisis resource panels under videos discussing eating disorders.

Another one of those resources, available today, is a new report developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and British Medical Journal (BMJ) and supported by YouTube, which outlines principles for appropriate mental health content for teens and provides guidance on communication strategies for that content. The report was produced by a global group of experts and lists principles and themes that content creators and platforms should consider or adopt when developing mental health content.

Creators on our platform, including Tamara Levitt, Anna Freud NCCF, and Dr. Julie Smith also share content that includes helpful mental health and wellbeing information.

2. Using breaks, privacy, and autoplay tools to manage kids’ and teens’ time spent on YouTube

Our existing digital wellbeing tools have helped parents around the world strike the right balance for their families between watching and wellbeing since 2018, and we’ve continued to invest and improve on these tools over the years to make them even more relevant for teens.

Take a Break reminders can be set at certain frequencies as a reminder to pause from watching videos, while Bedtime reminders trigger at specific times to encourage viewers to stop watching videos and go to bed. Both features are globally available and on by default for teens and younger children. We’ve also announced improvements to Bedtime and Take a Break - reminders will appear as a full-screen takeover across Shorts and long-form videos, and Take a Break will have a default trigger setting for every 60 minutes. Parents can also manage screen time through Family Link for teens using a supervised account.

Autoplay, which makes it easier to decide what to watch next, is off by default for teens on YouTube, and for supervised accounts, parents can decide to disable autoplay by signing into YouTube with a linked parent account, navigating to parental settings and selecting the child’s account, and then switching “Disable auto-play” to on.

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3. Expanding YouTube safeguards for teen content recommendations

In November, we shared additional safeguards for content recommendations for teens based on insights on the developmental stages of teens and how content consumed online can impact their wellbeing. We worked with our Youth and Families Advisory Committee to develop the safeguards by identifying categories of content that may be okay to watch as a single video, but could be problematic for some teens if viewed in repetition. This includes physical comparison content that idealizes certain physical features, fitness levels, or body weights over others or real-world social aggression content that shows non-contact fights or intimidation.

We’re now limiting repeated recommendations of videos related to these topics for teens in the United States, and these updates will be coming soon to additional countries in 2024.

As always, we’re continuing to enforce our Community Guidelines to remove content and prevent minors and everyone on our platform from seeing videos that cross the line of our policies on child safety, eating disorders, suicide / self harm, dangerous challenges, hate speech, and harassment.

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