YouTube is filled with content that covers a wide range of topics- some more mature or inappropriate for kids than others. One of the challenges families and schools face is how to keep some control over YouTube without always hovering over a child.
YouTube offers the functionality in what they call “Restricted Mode”.
Restricted mode usually serves as an “Opt-In” service connected to your Google account (be that a Gmail account or a G Suite account). If you turn it on for your account, it won’t impact other devices, users, or even other browsers if you don’t log into Google. This means savvy kids realize that they can reach content simply by using a privacy mode, logging out, using a tablet, etc. This is no good- a more effective method is to force Restricted Mode onto the network so that everyone is covered, logged in or not, device-agnostic.
To do so, all you need to do is add a few DNS entries. I used Server 2008 R2 here, but the process is the same for any DNS.
Point the following Forward Lookup Zones to the IP address of the Strict or Moderate enforcement host. That would be:
- 18.104.22.168 for restrict.youtube.com
- 22.214.171.124 for restrictmoderate.youtube.com
The domains you will be adding the above as an A record to are:
Once done, head to the Content Restrictions check page on YouTube to verify that your DNS restrictions are working.
If it reads as Strict, you have accomplished your default restricted mode YouTube on your network! Here is an example of how the content will differ- a simple search for “Murder” brings up over 16 million results unrestricted.
Whereas once Strict mode is enabled, the same search barely breaches 1 million videos, with a distinctly different tone to the content.
Attempting to view a restricted video will then throw up the following alert:
This is where having a G Suite account comes in handy – you can set organizational units such that they override the default settings. Many people at first try to use these settings to set Students to be restricted, but soon realize that all they need to do to avoid it is to not log in. This is the opposite!
Instead of blocking by OU, you can instead allow access or even allow network approval by OU. This is perfect for Staff to be able to access content that is mistakenly blocked and whitelist it for everyone. You’ll find these settings in G Suite under Apps > Additional Google Services > Settings for YouTube.
By default, you’d want the whole organization to be Strict, but to set specific OUs for Staff as “Unrestricted” or “Can approve videos”.
Once set, you’ll find a blue bar under videos to assist you in approval of videos or channels. Some content comes pre-whitelisted, like Sesame Street. Here are some of the messages you’ll see:
This alert is for content that will be blocked for normal users, but you have the option to manually Approve.
This shows a default whitelisted channel/video.
YouTube channels can be easily approved so that you don’t need to whitelist every video underneath their banner.
These alerts show that the channel or video was approved, and that you can remove it if perhaps you disagree or policies have changed.
For default approved content that you feel is inappropriate, you will need to report the video to flag it for review. This allows YouTube to better curate their strict video whitelist.
You can see your own whitelisted content when logged into the G Suite admin at this Approved Videos link. If you have just set up Approvals, do note that it took me a few days for this link to become valid and not break.
You can remove videos from this whitelist if you choose to.
And that’s YouTube Strict mode. If you are looking for a zero-dollar solution for locking down content on your network, this is a great option. This option is made even better when tied to G Suite, which for education and non-profits can be had for no charge, by allowing for overrides and whitelisting. If you are interested in G Suite or other similar endeavors, I’d be glad to assist.