Background - safe or strict? Technology or education?

Keeping Children Safe in Education asks schools to ensure "...appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place..." but at the same time "...be careful that overblocking does not lead to unreasonable restrictions". That's why it is important that leadership and safeguarding teams are involved in deciding what websites are allowed or not on the school site and devices. Find out more about that for WebScreen and HomeProtect.

Remember that no technology is 100% perfect and even if it were, young people access the internet elsewhere, sometimes with no protections, so remember that education is also key, with regular reminders about what to do if you come across something worrying online. KCSIE states that "schools and colleges should ensure online safety is a running and interrelated theme". Find out more in Teaching Online Safety in School and the new RSHE curriculum, alongside our training and policy templates.

YouTube versus webfiltering

YouTube hosts billions of videos, but when it comes to webfiltering, all you can do is allow or block YouTube (we would not advise schools to simply block all YouTube, as this may be viewed as overblocking). Once you have done that, it's all about the different safe modes which are controlled elsewhere.

How should you turn on YouTube? In WebScreen, simply use the YouTube bundle to turn it on or off for your school (not individual entries for youtube.com as there are other URLs needed). In HomeProtect, YouTube is activated for all schools to allow home learning (in your installation instructions we tell you how to turn on restricted modes).

The video won't play!

Ever seen this when you were expecting to play a video in a lesson? You aren't alone...but what can you do about it?

NEW - you may see this message which ensures only over-18s can see adult-rated content.

If you see the first message, it means that the video has been categorised as inappropriate for your mode. Don't worry, there are things you can do - skip to the next section below.

If you see the second message about confirming your age, the video might simply be inappropriate for under 18s and shouldn't be shown in class. But it might be appropriate for a teacher to see or show in certain circumstances. If you set your teacher OU in Google Workspace to over 18s then teachers are prompted to confirm they really want to open the video and then they can access it. For all pupil OUs, they will not have the choice - the video will be blocked (and if you have never set this flag, it will be blocked for all by default to keep you safe). By the way, allowing teachers these videos will not override the standard restricted mode so should not show adult content, for example - BUT you should never click on any video for the first time in front of a class, and certainly not one of these.

so is okay to do for staff; to implement this, see the bottom of our newsletter here).

March 22 update: if you previously had videos you could not access because it was asking teachers to enter their passport or credit card, this issue has been resolved so as long as you follow the instructions above, you will not have issues.

What are the YouTube options for schools, what's my mode and how can I change it?

There are three YouTube modes to choose from in a school:

  • open (no restrictions at all, so inadvisable in a school)

  • moderate restricted (safer than open)

  • strict restricted (safest)

You can check the current mode in your school by visiting youtubemode.lgfl.net (when you are on site, or you are testing your home connection).

The modes are set using DNS centrally by LGfL for your school and the initial default is 'strict restricted'. Many schools opt to change to moderate, and all you need to do is request a change in a support case. Your Nominated Contact can do this - they will be asked to confirm that your Headteacher has approved the change as it exposes pupils to a greater likelihood of accessing inappropriate videos.

What if videos are still blocked?

If, for example, you have changed to moderate mode but educational videos are still not showing, LGfL cannot move a video or whitelist individual YouTube page videos because it is Google which determines the videos in each of the three modes and the DNS settings only allow you to change mode (it's not a filtering question). But there is a workaround.

A school can use Google Workspace for Education (formerly G Suite) to allow staff access to log in and view selected videos, either because an admin has given them access to a specific video, or because they are allowed to whitelist videos themselves.

Before adopting this new approach, it is absolutely essential you follow the guidance on important approvals and safeguarding considerations below.

Approvals and safeguarding considerations

Who should I speak to before doing this?

Make sure your Senior Leadership and Designated Safeguarding Teams understand and approve of the approach outlined on this page to allow certain or all staff to access videos which are otherwise blocked. They should make the decision on what mode to use and who has video approval rights (see below for options).

What safeguarding considerations are there?

  1. Don't skip any of the steps outlined below, e.g. limiting domain use and ensuring the right people have the right permissions.

  2. Remind all staff of these golden rules for classroom use of YouTube (not only if you follow this approach):

  • Every time you open YouTube, or log in to a different account, check that 'Autoplay' is turned off: there is a toggle close to the list of 'up next' videos. If you don't turn this off, the next video may be irrelevant and/or inappropriate.

  • Find your videos before class - avoid searching for videos in front of a class as they may see inappropriate thumbnails of videos which may be blocked, regardless of your safety mode.

3. If you follow the approach on this page, anyone who has permission to approve videos will be able to view any video on YouTube. That's why it is so important to screen videos before class, but also to decide carefully who can approve videos (to be able to approve it, you have to be able to see it first). We recommend you at least try initially with a restricted pool of 'approvers'.

4. If you allow all staff this permission, the new golden rule should be, do not log into YouTube except to approve a video or access one that you have pre-screened and released.

5. Remember, if you are not logged in, your system will access the YouTube mode that your school has applied (see background section above).

Approval using the Google Workspace for Education approval process

OPTION 1 — You don’t yet use Google Workspace in your school

Even if you don’t want to use Google Workspace in your school otherwise, you could always set up a domain, just issue logins to teachers and simply turn off all other features except YouTube to use the video whitelisting feature. Google Workspace is free and setup is fast and simple - we can do it for you.

Once you have your accounts, move onto Option 2 below...

OPTION 2 — You already use Google Workspace in your school

  • 1. Get your Super Admin to sign in (a standard user will not see these options or have console access) to admin.google.com then head to Apps >> Additional Google services >> Settings for YouTube

      • In the Content Settings box, turn on "Signed in users in your organization can only watch restricted and approved videos"

      • In the Permissions box, select a mode of restriction for each organisational unit (OU). You may need to make a new one if all staff are together as it is unwise to allow all staff to be approvers (why? because to approve a video you need to be able to see it, so classroom-based staff should not have this permission. It is best to make a few office-based staff approvers). An example is given in the screenshot below of how you could approach it. If you want moderate restrictions, simply change to have moderate for all pupils and most staff, except the approvers.

5. How to approve a video

When staff with this setting are signed into YouTube with their school Google Workspace account, they can now approve a video for all staff to see by simply clicking the 'Approve' button in the blue bar that you can see in the screenshot below. You must be signed in to YouTube to approve a video or to view a video.

6. (optional): Restrict sign in to your Google Workspace domain

To prevent the very unlikely case of a user signing in with an alternate Google Workspace account which may have different settings to yours, it is possible to restrict sign in on a Chromebook or Windows/Mac device to only users in your Google Workspace domain. Follow the instructions below if you want to enforce this:

If you also manage mobile devices, your MDM provider may also be able to provide similar restrictions. Please consult their documentation/support.

7. Now you can watch a newly approved video

For a teacher to view one of these videos, just remember to log into Google Workspace as a teacher user.

If you don't log in, you will not be able to see it as you will be using the main YouTube mode for your school.

But remember the safeguarding considerations above: those with content approval status and who are logged in can see any video, so the utmost caution is required!

NB - this list previously included deactivating YouTube for students. This is no longer required since the latest age-related changes.

That's to allow individual videos - can Google Workspace help BLOCK individual videos?

The 'blue bar' experience above is to allow not block individual videos but there is a (quite manual - ask your tech team to do this for you) way to block individual videos from appearing within Google. It will only work if users are forced to use and log into, Chrome (possible on Windows using Active Directory) and might be appropriate if you are happy with your particular restricted mode but want to block videos that are causing issues in your school. To do this, ask a Google Admin to add the URL to 'Blocked URLs' on this page.

What about teachers preparing at home and thinking a video is allowed when it's not?

Quite simply the best way to avoid a teacher planning a lesson with a video that is then blocked in class is to do their lesson planning while logged into a school Google profile on the Chrome browser, then they will see the exact same behaviour from YouTube videos as when they are in school.

What about students at home?

If you are using HomeProtect to filter your school managed devices, you need to set the mode depending on the device itself. We sent you instructions on how to do this when you signed up.

For personal devices, however, things are not quite so easy. This guide isn’t about home use, but if you use Google Workspace, tell parents to make sure their children use the school chrome profile and then they will be filtered.

All home internet providers offer family browsing settings which may be of use; and for advanced technical users, router settings can force this mode as well. Advise parents to visit parentsafe.lgfl.net to find out more about settings, including for YouTube and Family Link.