Is Spotify safe for Kids?
Even on a music streaming app, kids can still find sexual and graphic content and even watch YouTube videos. Without effective parental controls, there’s no way around most of this.
For Younger Kids, we recommend using Spotify Kids, which we highlight later.
App Store Ratings:
- Apple App Store: 12+ (Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes, Sexual Content and Nudity, Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References, Profanity or Crude Humor)
- Google Play Store: Teen
How does Spotify work?
Spotify is available for free with ads and also offers Spotify Premium for a monthly price based on your plan. Be aware, they change their prices all the time! Click the link above to see what they are currently offering.
Their interface offers a few different menus: Home (where you find suggested content, including Clips – we explain below), Search (where you can find just about anything on Spotify), and Your Library (where you can find your playlists, liked songs, and downloaded content).
Users can stream music, make playlists, watch Clips, view events, buy merch, and listen to podcasts. Without effective parental controls, sexual content is easily found.
Artists have specific pages that look a little different. At the top of an artist’s page, you’ll see three tabs: Music, Events, and Merch. Events show where they are currently touring, and Merch will open up an internet browser and take you to “shop.spotify” which lets users buy apparel, records, and other items the artist offers. The Music tab is one of the places you can watch short-form videos.
What else do Parents need to know about Spotify?
It’s more than music! Podcasts and shows are everywhere, and Spotify even has its own short-form video format, called “Clips.”
What are Spotify Clips?
In the Music tab of an Artist’s page, you can see their most popular songs, albums, and a section titled “Videos from ___” which features videos from the artist, up to 30 seconds long. Here’s an example from Ed Sheeran’s Spotify page:
The other place where you can watch Clips is by tapping one of the three videos on your Home page, found under the heading titled, “Discover new songs.” When tapping on these videos, you will get a clip from a song along with the video and a few hashtags that relate to the genre. From here – users can click the hashtag and continue viewing more clips from more artists. The content depends on the kind of music they often listen to, the specific hashtag they click on, and whether or not explicit content is enabled.
In our testing, this didn’t populate much inappropriate content, but it’s tough to tell exactly what could be found by scrolling through video after video and tapping through different hashtags. You can’t search for “clips” yet, which is good! However, searching for inappropriate content is extremely easy on Spotify (see below).
Just about all the videos found on Spotify are music videos, or maybe a clip from a live performance which could include the artists talking to the audience. However, there is a “hack” that lets users watch YouTube videos.
Watching YouTube on Spotify
Apart from inappropriate content, searching for “YouTube Videos” and toggling to show results for podcasts and shows will reveal multiple “podcasts” that are just YouTube videos. Spotify supports video podcasts, so you can watch your favorite podcast show, but this feature has also made home to users upload YouTube videos. While there doesn’t seem to be any explicit videos posted in this format, things always slip through and there are always risks online – especially for an app with so few effective controls.
Explicit and Sexual Content is Everywhere on Spotify
Finding inappropriate and explicit images and audio is so easy to do on Spotify. Even with explicit results turned off. Searching for “sex” and other terms populate some pretty shocking results for a “music streaming” app:
As you can see, for whatever reason two commas “,” reveal highly inappropriate and borderline pornographic thumbnails (one of which we had to blur out), podcast audio, and playlists with descriptions that can have links and words of all kinds. Searching for “sex” yields much of the same results. Even worse, this was with Explicit Results turned off… And this is not a new problem, we posted about this on Instagram back in December of 2022 – Spotify has a Big Problem.
Spotify Lacks Parental Controls
And the problem still exists, with no parental controls in sight. Spotify has released some simple tips for parents to follow (Spotify Parental Guide) but this is nothing compared to having true control over the app.
You can Disable Explicit Content (kind of)
While this function doesn’t prevent much content, it’s still worth making sure this toggle is turned off:
- Go to your account by selecting your profile picture or first initial in the top left corner.
- Select “Settings and privacy”
- Select “Content Preferences”
- Ensure the toggle is off and grayed out.
To lock the toggle, you have to turn it back on. When you do, Spotify will ask if you would like to lock this feature with Face ID. If your phone has the ability, please lock it. Then ensure it’s disabled and grayed out before exiting. This way, if your child tries to enable the explicit content toggle, they will need your face!
Again, we want to point out – that the explicit results we showed earlier were found while the explicit toggle was disabled. It only prevents songs with the “E” next to them from being played. Spotify’s definition of “explicit” seems to be rather forgiving.
It’s Social Media (almost)
Spotify seeks to be as social as possible. You can add friends, work on playlists together, and see what others are listening to. Thankfully there isn’t any way to message friends or other users at all. But it can still be a very social experience for some users, which can be a great thing! Sharing music is a wonderful aspect of life, but please keep tabs on this and only let your child be friends with people you approve of. There have been stories of users secretly messaging each other by sharing playlists and writing in the descriptions. Almost like sending encrypted letters. Kids are sneaky! And predators know the loopholes too.
To keep your kid’s account as private as possible:
- Go back to your account settings
- Select Privacy & Social
- Disable all of the toggles
This way, friends won’t be able to see your child’s playlists, recently listened to songs, and recently played artists.
If you are the only one who is friends with your child’s account – these can be good tools to help keep track of what your kid is listening to. If you track their activity this way, there is another feature you need to know about:
“Private session” (see image above) allows users to hide all listening activity for up to 6 hours at a time. It’s Spotify’s “incognito mode.” If you rely on their activity to keep up with what they listen to, this feature might ruin that plan. If you suspect your child is private browsing, call this feature out! Seek to solve this issue through an open and honest relational approach.
Why do private sessions even exist? That’s a great question… Thankfully, for younger children, Spotify has another option:
What about Spotify Kids?
Similar to YouTube, Spotify has a version of their app that’s made for kids. It has actual parental controls, but it is made for much younger children. Tweens and teens probably won’t enjoy this app very much.
4+ Apple App Store Rating, E (Everyone) Google Play Store Rating
Spotify Kids Pricing: it comes with a Premium Family subscription (6 accounts).Spotify Kids has custom playlists and two age-based options (ages 0-6 or 5-12) for curated content.
The app has bedtime stories, top hits, suggested channels, and a searchable library. Account creation includes setting up a 4-digit code to get access to the “Grown Ups” section of the app. Here you will find the Listening History of each child. And if you find a song that you don’t think is appropriate for your child, just tap the block icon.
There are still a few PG-13+ titles and albums in the age 5-12 category, but it’s much better than what’s accessible on the normal version of Spotify. Still, parents should always be involved when young kids are using tech.
Again, remember that tweens and teens probably won’t enjoy Spotify Kids. But for those younger ages, this can be a great option!
Bottom Line: Is Spotify Safe for Kids?
Without supervision, the answer is no. The 12+ / teen rating is incorrect. With the amount of inappropriate images that can be found, sexual “podcasts” (ASMR), and lack of effective controls, Spotify poses a lot of risks – even with supervision. If you allow your child to use Spotify, please do the following:
- Check in frequently with your child. Ask them what they listen to and check their Home, Search, and Library feeds. Not by spying – let your child know that the cost of having Spotify is you being able to check it.
- Disable explicit content. As we showed above, go through and disable this so they can’t listen to “explicit” songs. If your phone allows you to lock the setting with Face ID, please do that. Otherwise, check that toggle often as they can simply turn it off.
- Make their listening activity private. Follow our instructions above to make sure their activity is private. Or – If you wish to use their listening activity to check their Spotify use, just ensure they aren’t using the “Private Session” feature – which hides listening activity for up to 6 hours. Check these toggles often to ensure they are set the way you want.
- Approve all friend requests. Spotify doesn’t have much predatory activity, but it has happened through sharing playlists with friends and using the descriptions as a form of communication. Please approve every friend request yourself.
- Bark is a wonderful tool that can help monitor your child’s Spotify activity. We highly recommend using their services!
If all of these aspects are met, your kid should be relatively safe. However, one search of the word “sex” or typing in those two commas “,” could still yield borderline pornographic content, audio, and images. Please be careful, and consider if Spotify is worth the potential risk for your child or family.
What if I have more questions? How can I stay up to date?
Two actions you can take!
- Subscribe to our tech trends newsletter, the PYE Download. About every 3 weeks, we’ll share what’s new, what the PYE team is up to, and a message from Chris.
- Ask your questions in our private parent community called The Table! It’s not another Facebook group. No ads, no algorithms, no asterisks. Just honest, critical conversations and deep learning! For parents who want to “go slow” together. Become a member today!