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How to Filter Content on YouTube

Examining some of the best approaches to filtering content on YouTube without blocking the website entirely.

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Tech Lockdown Team
Updated April 4, 2024

If you are focused on setting up restrictions on your devices to block unwanted and harmful content, you'll find that it's easy to block websites that fall into an obvious category like Adult Content.

But how should you handle a website like YouTube, which is classified as a Video Streaming website, but can often host content that you might want to filter out?

Filtering YouTube content requires a more thoughtful and focused approach and we'll provide you with several recommended approaches in this guide.

Blocking Words and Searches on YouTube

One effective way to filter content on YouTube is to block keyword searches to limit the discovery of new channels and videos.

Enforcing YouTube's parental control feature (strict or moderate mode) will also filter search results. However, you can go a step further by using a blocking application to block search phrases.

Using Blocking Applications to Filter Keyword Searches

Some blocking applications can block search terms. For example, in the Tech Lockdown premium guides , we walk through using applications like Cold Turkey to block searches on Google and YouTube on Windows and Mac computers:

If you want to block keyword searches on Android and iOS devices (iPhone/iPad), you can use tools like Cloudflare to block search terms:

Learn more about how to use Cloudflare to filter searches on all your devices in our premium guides .

Blocking Thumbnails on YouTube

Another recommended approach involves blocking YouTube thumbnails. Thumbnails are the preview image that showcases the content of a video. As a result, blocking thumbnails is actually a fairly comprehensive approach to filtering unwanted content on YouTube. 

Blocking thumbnails on YouTube will replace the typical thumbnail preview with a blank space:

This change will work whether you are signed in or signed out of YouTube and for both the YouTube app and when accessing YouTube in the browser.

Using the Hosts file to Block Thumbnails

Similar to enforcing YouTube parental controls , we can modify the hosts file on a Windows or Mac computer to block the web addresses that YouTube depends on to show thumbnails.

# YouTube Thumbnails

Use a Network Filter to Block YouTube Thumbnails

Just like with parental controls for YouTube , we can use a DNS Filtering service to block thumbnails on smartphones, computers, or even on our home router. 

We do this by adding a few web addresses that YouTube uses to host their thumbnails to a DNS Filtering service. For example, you can use the Tech Lockdown filter to block these web addresses:

By blocking these web addresses specifically, we can still use YouTube properly, but we won't be able to see any video thumbnail previews.
Filter YouTube Content
Filter YouTube Content
Remove Thumbnails and enforce Restricted Mode
Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Create and enforce a Content Policy on all your devices.

Enforce Parental Controls on YouTube

The most well-known approach to blocking videos and channels on YouTube involves enforcing YouTube's parental controls via YouTube restricted mode.

You can manually toggle on YouTube restricted mode when you're signed into a YouTube account using the account dropdown menu and selecting "Activate Restricted Mode." However, this method of content filtering is easy to bypass.

A better approach involves enforcing YouTube restricted mode at the network level. Here are two ways to do that:

Force YouTube Strict Mode on Computers using the Hosts File

If a desktop or laptop Windows or Mac computer is frequently used to access YouTube, you can modify the hosts file to force YouTube strict mode so that the option can't be toggled off.

## Youtube Safe Search ##

Use a DNS Filtering Service to Enforce YouTube Restricted Mode

A more comprehensive approach to enforcing YouTube's parental controls involves using a DNS Filter to force on restricted mode. A DNS Filtering service is similar to the hosts file technique, but it can work smartphones and computers. Additionally, you can install a DNS Filter on your home router to enforce YouTube parental controls on all devices using your home internet connection.

Using the Tech Lockdown DNS Filter , we can toggle on a YouTube restriction level like "moderate" or "strict":

Get Powerful DNS Filtering

Set up filtering on all your devices and prevent common bypass techniques.