YouTube Kids: Videos for Young Children
Update May 26, 2015: While this app seemed like a great idea when it first came out, it has since been discovered that inappropriate content is appearing in their videos as well as commercials. If Google doesn’t do anything about this, we will no longer be able to recommend this app.
It seems like a lot of popular social media companies are looking to target younger audiences these days. A little while ago, for instance, we reviewed Vine Kids which turned out to be a really fun and safe app. But we always approach these apps with a certain wariness. So many companies release apps for kids that turn out to not be COPPA compliant or that could potentially be exploited by those that aren’t interested in the well-being of kids. Thankfully, YouTube Kids is not an app you have to be concerned about.
Like Vine Kids, YouTube Kids seems, for the most part, to be targeted at preschool and elementary age children. YouTube Kids does not allow you to interact with other people using the app and it doesn’t collect any information from the user. You simply open the app and start watching videos. The content is filtered by Google to ensure that there is nothing inappropriate on the app. The videos come in a wide variety of genres from preschool aged content like Sesame Street and Peppa Pig to more advanced educational videos like TED-Ed.
YouTube Kids has five sections where you can browse: Shows, Music, Learning, Explore, and (once you’ve seen a few videos) Recommended. You can also find content through their safe search feature that does not recognize inappropriate words as you can see below. Their search function even has an option to search with auditory input in case your child is too young to type.
Like regular YouTube, ads play before some of the videos. These ads are not targeted – Google doesn’t collect your child’s data to determine what ads to play – and they are also strictly moderated by Google to ensure that they are all kid-friendly. Still, some parents may not like the idea of their kids being shown ads at all.
The only issue our editorial team found with the app is how they’ve set up the parental controls. While there is no inappropriate content to be found on the app, it still offers parental controls to set time limits, restrict search, clear recommended videos, etc. It’s great that they do that, but these settings can be edited by anyone who can read. When you tap on the settings icon, you’re given four written numbers and asked to enter their numerals. For example, the app will say, “one, two, three, four” and you have to use a keypad to enter the numerals, “1, 2, 3, 4.”
From their icon heavy layout to their auditory search function to their simplistic means of protecting settings, we recommend this app specifically for children who are too young to read or write. Which is why our editorial team was so confused when they watched a TED-Ed video about the possibility of there being multiple universes (not just because our collective knowledge of quantum physics is a little rusty). Certainly there was nothing inappropriate about this video but it left us wondering who Google thinks is going to use this app. Some of the content could be interesting enough for kids up to, say, 12 years old to enjoy but by that time, they will know how to read to change the settings themselves. We hope Google will do a better job of password protecting this setting in the future.