YouTube already has community guidelines that cover pornography and other potentially offensive content.
Safety Mode is intended to give users the ability to limit access to legitimate content that may not be suitable for certain environments or age groups, such as a video of a news event that shows graphic violence.
It doesn't work all the time, however. "Safety Mode isn't fool proof, but it provides a greater degree of control over your YouTube experience," explains YouTube associate product manager Jamie Davidson in a blog post.
The opportunity to set Safety Mode is available through a link near the bottom left-hand corner of YouTube pages.
It's not yet available to all users -- YouTube is in the process of rolling it out over the next few days.
Safety Mode can be enabled and then locked by logging in to one's YouTube account.
In theory, this prevents Safety Mode from being disabled without the account password.
In practice, a tech-savvy teen or tween will be able to bypass Safety Mode by clearing browser cookies, using a different browser, or employing a proxy. And the less technically inclined can always use a computer where authority figures have paid less attention to online content access.
Safety Mode thus may be more effective as a means of placating regulators concerned about protecting the public -- an issue for which Google executives are being tried in Italy -- than as a functional barrier against objectionable content.