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.
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.youtube.com/yt/kids/
App Store rating: 4+ (according to the Apple App Store, “Made for ages 0-5”).
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?
Parents now have much more control over what their kids watch (updated Sept. 14, 2018).
Any of the options for search and age content can be changed by the parent typing in his/her Google password after clicking the setting icon in the lower right corner (on iOS).
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.
Note: Common Sense Media has written an extensive “Ultimate Guide” for YouTube Kids which explains other, maybe not quite as important aspects of the app. We’re not going to regurgitate them here, but if you’d like to read more, please follow this link.
Chances are, young children are the ones using the app, which by itself, begs parents to always be present. 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. There’s just too much content for them to manage. Which means, parents have to step in and manage it instead.
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.