Most of my blog posts focus on teens and what they are doing online. With touchscreens and tablets, younger and younger kids are playing in the digital world. Like the real world, there are places in the digital world where you do not want your kids hanging out. How do parents allow young kids the freedom to explore while keeping them out of adult spaces?
This is a tough question. Take YouTube. Kids love watching YouTube with so many choices of cartoons, shows, tutorials and music. Here, a child can find a humorous Minecraft video right next to one full of swearing that would make most parents cringe. Kapersky Lab found that kids, clicking on YouTube’s suggested videos displayed beside children’s programs, were just three clicks away from adult content. YouTube does have a safe mode. While this may eliminate some of the adult content, it doesn’t remove all of it.
This Monday, YouTube released its own video app just for kids. YouTube Kids is available on Google Android and Apple IOS. The YouTube Kids app is not YouTube with more parental controls. This app is designed for kids and has only content appropriate for children. Kids can browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Yesterday, I played around with this new app.
YouTube Kids has great content from DreamWorksTV to PBS Cyberchase. It does appear to be aimed primarily at younger kids, I would say less than 8. The app does not require kids or parents to create an account. Simply download the app and start watching videos. YouTube Kids does have commercials. Like YouTube, kids can skip it after 5 seconds and unlike YouTube these commercials are kid friendly.
If a child tries to venture outside the confines of kid appropriate videos by searching for “sex” or other inappropriate terms they see this screen. Parents can also turn off the search function.
YouTube Kids has parental controls. Parents can set these controls by tapping the lock symbol in the bottom left corner. After entering a random 4-digit pincode, parents can turn off the search function, background music as well as set a timer for how long kids can watch videos. The random 4-digit pincode may work well for a child who cannot read but an older child could certainly enter the code themselves and turn off the controls. When using the timer, parents should still keep an eye on the clock.
Google says this is the first step toward a YouTube for families and is interested in feedback. Parents can send their thoughts to Google in “Feedback” within the app. They can also use Feedback if they find content not safe for kids. We need more companies creating family friendly products instead of slapping an over 13 warning in their Terms of Service. Hopefully, YouTube Kids is a sign of more great products to come.