The “YouTube Kids” video app rated 4+ from Google has just been released in Australia after a long wait. This child friendly version of the YouTube app was released in the U.S February 2015 and promoted as suitable for under 5 year olds. However when it was released in the United States there were a lot of complaints about the advertising within the app, and some parents found some videos contained some adult content and swearing. On review of the app this week I haven’t found any adult content yet within any of the videos I’ve watched. Reviews on the U.S iTunes store show that there are many complaints about swearing and other unacceptable adult content found within the videos. However what I did find was that the level of advertising, often disguised as entertainment is very high, and from the other reviews I’m reading, some parents are finding that side of the app quite unacceptable. See Google’s statement here on the paid advertising within this app.
It is important to note that, as you can see above in the screen shot from the sign up screen, Google do not guarantee the safety of this app, and point out that humans are not involved in the curation of the content.
You can’t block any videos from future viewing if you don’t want your child to see them. You can however give feedback in the settings if you see something you don’t like, or flag the video as inappropriate from the 3 vertical dot menu top right of the video. Note: Flagging a video won’t block it from your child’s view.
The advertising scheduled between each video seems to be advertising other shows on the app with a few community service ads for cyber safety which is fine, but many of the actual videos hosted within the app are simply commercials. There’s advertising for Play Doh, Lego, kids toys and game apps, often disguised as entertainment. Many Game App developers have released entertainment videos that are basically a narrative form of advertising for their app. For example the game apps from Outfit7 Limited “Talking Angela” “Talking Tom” etc have videos hosted on YouTube Kids. This aspect of the app is disappointing, and any child searching for “Star Wars” for example will get a whole lot of videos that are blatant advertising for Lego instead (see pic above).
Beware Of Click Bait!
Quality control on this app is at a minimum so there’s many mis-named videos that are titled for click bait, such as “Frozen Full Movie” which ends up being advertising for some Kinder Surprise or a toy.
Other than all the advertising, there are music videos, popular cat videos, episodes of Ellen where she is featuring talented kids and all the popular cartoons. I saw so many versions of the song Frozen on there! For the Minecraft lovers there are heaps of “Lets Play” videos from all the favourites kid friendly channels, ABC Kids have videos on there also. If your child is into science or dinosaurs there are plenty of videos on this app if you allow the search function. There certainly is a lot of variety, but it is easier to find exactly what you want with the search option enabled.
You can set a few parental controls in the app, like time limits for use. You can also turn the search option off. Disabling the search option might be important for much younger children or if you only want your child to see the recommended videos on the app. If the search option is enabled it doesn’t mean they can search all of YouTube, it just means they can find other videos they want to watch like cat videos, or all the videos with Dora The Explorer or…..Frozen! To change any parental control settings after you have initially set it up for your child, just click the lock icon on the lower right of the app screen and put in the password, it is best to create your own password rather than use the suggested one.
Would I Recommend It?
I would definitely recommend this app over the adult YouTube app with the adult content restrictions set up, but only IF you are comfortable with the constant blatant advertising and marketing within it. This app is certainly not perfect, but it is a much better alternative to the adult version of YouTube for younger children. I’m hoping that Google will improve the options and parental controls and quality.
I would like to see better parent controls, so that you could limit the videos your child sees, or have the ability to restrict the app to a particular play list that a parent could select. I would also like to see better curation of the videos so that there are not videos that are basically blatant advertising disguised as entertainment.
Adult supervision is essential for this app. Make sure you know what your child is watching, and ensure your child knows to come to you if they see anything upsetting through this app.
For children younger than 7 years old I’d still recommend the established professionally curated apps like ABCKids iView
Have you tried YouTube Kids? What do you think of this new app?
Update: Feb 2017
Added Parental Controls. You can turn off video suggestions and set the app for the age of your child. Either Pre-School age or School-Age