YouTube is the fifth-most-visited website by students on their school-owned devices, according to a Lightspeed Systems data analysis completed in 2017.

Recent controversies have brought YouTube’s place in education, as well as its exposure to children and young adults, to the forefront of the conversation about digital learning today.

In 2017, it was revealed that disturbing and unsettling videos specifically directed toward child audiences were getting past filters and moderators. Parents and educators around the world were shocked to learn about videos featuring lovable cartoon characters that lured young viewers before horrifying them with images of violence and sexual content. YouTube also deleted over 150,000 kid videos that drew in sexually inappropriate comments.

Just recently, viral video personality Logan Paul, whose channel reaches more than 15 million subscribers, crossed a line by showing a dead body on one of his videos.

But millions of appropriate and educational videos on YouTube have helped schools enhance their lessons. Channels like Khan Academy have aided in teaching concepts in math, science and other topics, and many teachers have created their own content for students to watch. In a 2017 Lightspeed Systems community survey, 52% of school IT employees said they allow access to the site for students at school.

YouTube is no doubt an invaluable tool for education, but it comes with risks. YouTube is working to earn back users’ trust, taking steps to more strictly police its content for terms-of-use violations. For now, it’s important for schools and parents to teach good digital citizenship skills to help children grasp how to use technology ethically and appropriately. It’s also important for parents to keep up with the latest news and trends regarding popular tools in order to keep them safe.

We surveyed 300 parents to learn their opinions on YouTube access for K-12 students. We also asked them about their personal viewing habits, knowledge around the platform’s place in their child’s education and views on the site in general. Read on for the findings as well as takeaways for school administration and IT.



First, understanding adult and student YouTube viewing habits is helpful to understand their opinions on the topic. We asked parents various questions to gauge how often they consume content and to estimate their children’s consumption habits as well.

Reasons Why Parents and Children Stream YouTube

About one-quarter of parents said they watched about one to two hours of YouTube content per week. Parents indicated that the No. 1 type of video they watch is tutorials. 74.6% parents surveyed said they watch this type of video.

Top 5 Reasons Why Parents Watch YouTube:
1. Tutorial videos
2. To listen to music and watch music videos
3. Entertainment, including movies and TV shows
4. News and information
5. Product reviews

How do children compare? 21% of parents said their children watch YouTube two to three hours every week. Parents are split between a low amount of content being consumed and a high amount for their children: 20% of parents say their children watch less than one hour per week while the same claim their children consume more than five hours of content each week.

The top reason why parents believe their children watch YouTube is for entertainment. 60.3% indicate entertainment as the type of videos their children consume most frequently.

Top 5 Reasons Why Children Watch YouTube:
1. Entertainment, including movies and TV shows
2. Tutorial videos
3. To listen to music and watch music videos
4. To further their education
5. To watch video game “Let’s Play’s” (walkthroughs)


Parent & Child YouTube Consumption

If parents are engaged in YouTube and frequently view videos, do their children do the same?

Interestingly, survey results show that parents’ self-reported consumption habits roughly correlate with their children’s.


Aside from parents who reported they watch 4-5 hours of YouTube content a week, parents reveal that the more videos they watch, the more their children watch. Parents who watch 1-2 hours per week report that their children spend slightly less time watching videos, less than one hour per week.

Based on these findings, one can conclude that parents who are more comfortable and knowledgeable about YouTube and its content encourage and/or allow their children to use the site more frequently as well.



Student access to the internet varies among K-12 schools. Every school is unique in how it manages internet access for its students. In our survey, 45% of parents said their children have internet access at school as well as on their own personal devices (laptop, tablet, etc.) to use. 42% said their children have access to computer labs at school.

Now that children have more access to resources and digital learning tools than ever before, are parents knowledgeable about filtering policies at their children’s schools? What’s blocked and what’s allowed?

Parent Knowledge About Student YouTube Access at School

We asked parents to describe YouTube policies at their children’s schools; here’s what they said.


Nearly one-third of parents surveyed don’t know if their children have access to the site at school. 28% of parents indicate that students have free access to the site.

It’s key for all parties involved in a student’s learning journey to be knowledgeable about the school device policies in place while at school. Learning doesn’t just stop outside the classroom and parents should be engaged as much as possible. Schools can take a step to make sure student internet policies are communicated, transparent, and available to all parents.

Innapropriate YouTube Use at School

When students view YouTube content they should not be viewing at school, disciplinary measures vary. When we asked parents if each of their children have been reprimanded at least once for watching inappropriate content at school, 21% say yes.



At US schools, most K-12 students receive CIPA-compliant filtering policies that weed out the inappropriate sites and content to keep students safe online. If open YouTube access is granted at school, it’s up to staff to ensure these resources are being used wisely. But what about at home? How do parents manage access at home? Do they use it as a tool to teach, or to entertain?

How Parents Monitor YouTube Use at Home

YouTube offers some apps and other settings within the platform to help parents ensure their children get age-appropriate access. Some options include YouTube Restricted Mode, settings to disable search capabilities, customized playlists, and apps like YouTube Kids. When we asked parents what they used to help manage YouTube access at home, 22.3% parents said they use nothing to manage or restrict access.

For those who use a tool to restrict the site at home, the most popular choice is YouTube Restricted Mode, with 16.6% of parents using it. 26.3% use YouTube Restricted Mode in conjunction with something else.

Of survey respondents, 95% of have one or more children within the K-12 age range of 6 to 18. It’s important for parents to keep apprised of trends and new tools available to help make YouTube safe for kids.

How Parents Monitor Internet History

Checking a student’s internet history at home is another way parents can get a better sense of how their children are using the internet. We asked parents how often they check their kids’ internet histories.


32% of parents said they check their children’s internet history a few times a week. 18% of parents indicate they never check their child’s internet history. More than one in five parents said they check it every day.

Parents who watch more than five hours of YouTube content per week are more likely to check their children’s internet history every day than parents who consume fewer hours of YouTube, according to survey results.

YouTube can be a tool for education and also entertainment. We asked parents how frequently they use the site as entertainment and educational tools for their children.


Most parents say they use YouTube to entertain and educate their children “sometimes.” 11% of parents reported they never use the site as an educational tool for their children and 19% said it is a rare occurrence. Overall, we can infer that parents are more likely to see it as a tool for entertainment than education.



We dove into some overarching questions on the value of YouTube for today’s youth. When asked, “Does your perceived educational value of YouTube outweigh any issues with students accessing inappropriate, distracting and/or violent video content?” 62% of parents say yes.

We asked parents to rank the overall value of YouTube as a tool for teaching and learning in K-12 on a scale of 1 (not valuable at all) to 4 (very valuable). 47% of parents rated the site a 2, somewhat valuable; 14% rated it at 4, very valuable.

Parents who said that YouTube was “very valuable” are likely to watch more than 5 hours of videos per week.

Parent Opinions on Access at School

When asked whether children should have access to YouTube at school, most parents agreed that some access should be given. Most parents surveyed said that schools should provide access to YouTube via a curated selection of allowed videos.


One in five parents said that no access should be given to students in K-12, no matter what age group. A small percentage said open access should be given to all students.

We asked parents how much they trust YouTube to provide enriching and valuable content for their children to view, and if they think the site is doing a good job at policing video uploads for inappropriate content.


The majority of parents said they feel they can trust YouTube and its content creators, but 85% agreed that the site could focus more on policing inappropriate content. Parents who watch 1-2 hours of videos per week are the most likely to say there should be better enforcement of child-safe content policies on YouTube.



Parents are a key part of the puzzle in children’s education. By sharing knowledge on critical topics like YouTube access, IT teams, school administration and parents can be more empowered to make smart decisions for students when it comes to internet use at home and at school.

1. We learned that many parents are not apprised of YouTube access policies for their children, despite the fact that the vast majority of parents surveyed have children in K-12 using school devices. More conversations about school internet policies can help inform parents about their children’s learning experiences at school. By getting a greater grasp on this, parents will also gain better understanding of the latest trends in digital learning.

2. Most parents don’t use anything to help moderate YouTube access at home, and the majority of parents trust the site to provide enriching content. While this is a choice parents must individually make, it’s worth continuing to empower parents with resources about online safety Supplement what’s being taught at home with ongoing digital citizenship lessons in the classroom to keep kids informed about online safety and ethics.

3. Parents are more likely to see YouTube as an entertainment platform than an educational tool. Schools can continue to empower parents with tips on how to use this site and other online resources to help continue learning at home. By recommending channels or specific videos, schools can encourage students to learn outside of instruction time.

4. Compare the results of this survey with parent attitudes at your school. Are parents onboard with your YouTube access policies? Can your school better engage parents in the conversation around these policies?

5. 20% of parents say their children watch YouTube over five hours per week. The site’s popularity among students shows no signs of abating, so schools and parents must be fully knowledgeable about the platform and how their kids are using it.



Devices are going home with students now more often than ever, and Lightspeed Systems solutions are designed to meet this need.

Smart Play in Relay solves YouTube access problems once and for all with the click of a button. Schools can enable Smart Play and give students access to more than 90 million educational videos while blocking inappropriate content, whether devices are on campus or at home for remote learning. It’s an organic YouTube experience for students, right on

With Smart Play, you get full reporting on every video your students watch. Toggle Smart Play on or off when devices go home. Enable it for some grade levels and not for others. The choice is yours!

With the help of machine-learning AI and a URL database honed over two decades, Smart Play makes it easy for IT, teachers and parents to rest easy, knowing students are getting the most appropriate experience possible.


Ready to learn more?

Smart Play is a feature in Lightspeed Systems Relay, multi-OS cloud filtering, and Web Filter. Request a demo to see it in action!