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YouTube Kids App – YouTube for kids, revisited

youtube kids appA few weeks ago I wrote about how YouTube wasn’t the place to put kids’ videos. Parents have no control over the videos children watch, comments, or ads that they see. At the time of that blog, there were rumours YouTube was working on a project for kids, but the details weren’t known. But now we know what they were up to … developing the YouTube Kids app.

On February 23rd they released YouTube Kids on iOS and Android platforms. Apparently they had been listening to parent complaints and requests, quietly working on a solution in the background. The app shows selections of children’s videos and audio from sources like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Dreamworks TV. They also plan an original series called uTech. It will host LeVar Burton (of Star Trek and Reading Rainbow fame) and cover technology topics for kids.

I’ve taken some time to look through the app, because my family desperately needs something like it (as you’ll know if you read my previous blog about it). And so far I’m impressed with YouTube Kids. The app launches with a kid friendly musical start and icons for the most popular children’s shows. The menu at the top lets kids switch between shows, music, and learning videos. Another icon lets them explore videos of all kinds. Under the explore option is my son’s favourite YouTuber, Stampylonghead and his videogame videos. Kids can also search for videos manually, or parents can disable search too.

Beyond just offering a selection of kid-safe videos, the app also offers some parental control. The search can be disabled as I mentioned, but parents can also set viewing limits. This is a feature that is sorely missing on the iOS platform in general and I, for one, welcome it. The app protects kids from profanity by disabling all comments as well.

The one drawback so far is my son can’t access his own channel. He posts his Minecraft videos and animations for his friends to see, but a search for his name or channel doesn’t return anything on the app. I haven’t been able to find anything from Google on the process they use to determine what is “kid friendly” but I imagine there is some manual review involved, and a channel probably needs to have sufficient views to warrant the effort. Perhaps there’ll be a more formal application process later on.

YouTube Kids is a huge step forward for making the most out of the incredible kids’ content on YouTube and for giving parents some peace of mind. We’ll still preach that YouTube isn’t the right place for all videos. To have total control over the viewing experience you need to use a private hosting platform like PlanetStream. But it is good that YouTube is working to make video safe for kids, and for that I’ll applaud them.

Oliver Burt

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