News flash! YouTube Kids finally has a website!
Is YouTube Kids Safe for Kids?
A comprehensive app review for parents
This might be one of the most popular questions we receive from parents during our evening presentations. Our stance with ANY application that is connected to Google and/or YouTube is that you VERIFY before TRUST. Both Google and YouTube have a tarnished history in protecting our kids from junk. I just don’t trust either of them. But, YouTube Kids seems to be trying. Please read our updated app review below with the latest news.
What is the YouTube Kids App?
App Store description: Google-owned YouTube launched the toddler-oriented app in 2015. It has described it as a “safer” experience than the regular YouTube video-sharing service for finding “Peppa Pig” episodes or watching user-generated videos of people unboxing toys, role playing their favorite cartoon characters, or teaching kids how to dance. According to Google, “Videos available in the app are determined by a mix of algorithmic filtering, user input and human review.” It has been a huge success, with >70 billion video views since inception.
Company website: https://www.youtubekids.com/
App Store rating: 4+ (according to the Apple App Store, “Made for ages 0-5”).
What do parents need to know about YouTube Kids?
Does YouTube Kids have parental controls?
Its history is very tarnished. Just do a Google search for “YouTube Kids news” or “YouTube Kids suicide” and you’ll find an endless stream of articles decrying horrible videos (sexualized cartoon characters, violence, self-harm) that slipped through the machine learning controls.
Related post: How do you Configure YouTube’s Parental Controls?
How to Set up YouTube Kids parental controls:
- Click the profile image in the upper left to create a parent profile.
- Enter your birth year (the app will confirm).
- Select a Gmail account, read the terms and conditions, enter password, and login.
- Create a child profile by entering their first name and age (birth month is optional).
- Select Content Settings for each child. There are 3 choices: Preschool (0-4), Younger (ages 5-7), and Older (ages 8-12)*. See image (1) below.
- Click the padlock in the lower right corner. See image (2) below. Instead of a password, you’ll be prompted to answer a math problem like 8×7= _____ to prove you’re an adult. If you’re using this app with kids up to 8-10 years old, they’ll easily be able to crack this math. There’s an option to “SET MY OWN PASSCODE,” which you’ll want to do.
- Select “Settings” (the gear). See image (3) below.
- Reselect the child account you just created.
- Re-enter your Gmail password.
- Scroll down to “Allow Searching” and toggle on or off as desired. See image (4) below. If you keep search off, then the app will allow access to a more limited set of videos that have been human verified as being OK for the age category.
- Scroll down to “Pause Watch History” and keep toggled on. This allows the app to “learn” what videos you prefer. See image (5) below.
- Add more child profiles as you desire!
- Note – you can also create a pure whitelist of videos.
*Based on our searching, the Older category allows access to Ted Talks, music videos (some of a mature nature), LGBTQ explanations, Ellen episodes, Saturday Night Live skits, etc.
There are ads in YouTube Kids. But, they’re supposed to comply with a strict set of guidelines, explained here. We wish there weren’t any ads.
The Bottom Line – is YouTube Kids safe?
Mostly, but if it has YouTube in the title, then we only trust it if we’re watching it with them. It seems YouTube has improved controls enough where we think it’s fine for kids to be using the app as long as they are supervised. It’s Google! And, thus far, their products have a less-than-stellar track record.
We Recommend Jellies!
A non-YouTube Kids option with even stronger controls (every video is approved by a real person) is Jellies, which was created by a smart dad who was tired of YouTube’s shenanigans. It’s 30 days free and then $4.99/month.