Think of YouTube Kids as digital training wheels for the little video viewers at your house – something a lot of parents have been wanting for a very long time. We all know how popular but not always appropriate YouTube is for kids. Problem solved. Designed for kids through age 8, YouTube Kids carefully screens videos so the littlest online viewers can satisfy their seemingly over-active curiosity safely.
It’s age group-appropriate in terms of content as well as how kids navigate the app. If they’re pre-readers, they can just tap, swipe or talk to pick a video to watch – they can browse or search by voice (even a whisper), whether it’s for how to learn or make something or just to be a couch potato.
What I like about YouTube Kids is how kid-customizable it is. It’s easy to use, and there’s so much content that there’s something for every Curious George. It’s fun but not all fun and games. There are four categories of content at the top of the screen, each with a cute icon that looks hand-drawn: Tap the screen and you get “Shows”; you get music by tapping the little boom box. Learning is representing by a lightbulb, and tap the little binoculars and you get to Explore. The familiar magnifying glass symbol off to the side gets you to voice or text search.
Parents get to settings that can only be reached by people who read the words representing the 4-digit password (different each time) to be tapped to get into the app’s settings. There, you can set a certain amount of time – from a minute to two hours – for your child to play in the app (before “Time’s Up!” is announced and the app locks down). Parents can also use the settings to turn off Search, get Help, change Sound Effects, Send Crash Reports, read about Privacy, etc.
Research shows that video is a key area for good family safety practice – and not just because video is so appealing at such young ages. Kids themselves have told researchers that they get disturbed by some videos they see online. So YouTube Kids is training wheels for parents too, really. It encourages us to be engaged with our children’s video interests and, in the way the app’s designed, even shows us how to some degree. I think you’ll have a lot of fun trying it out with your kid – or watching the kid figure it out! One thing we all know already, whether good or bad (and probably somewhere in the middle): it’ll be easier for them than learning how to ride a bike. There’s a YouTube Kids video for that, BTW.
- YouTube itself calls this app its “first building block in tech for tykes,” so apparently there’s more in the pipeline for kids at YouTube and Google. Watch this space!
- Here, too, is a post about the app from mom and YouTube Kids product manager Shimrit Ben-Yair.
- A pre-launch story about YouTube Kids in the Wall Street Journal last Fri.
- About kids’ own views of online video and other connected media: “Online risk in kids’ own words: A research milestone”
- “All our research actually shows children also are people…. Children are not somebody things [just] happen to…. It’s not like they turn on the computer and stuff comes. Children are active agents in their own lives, good and bad…. They use Internet now to express themselves, to socialize, to talk about their frustrations, what the don’t like, what they do like,” said Norwegian researcher Elisabeth Staksrud of EU Kids Online in a recorded talk published on Vimeo.
- Some 2013 Pew Internet research on video-sharing and past coverage of YouTube developments here at NetFamilyNews
Disclosure: As a nonprofit executive, I’ve advised companies such as Google and Facebook on youth online safety for a number of years. The ideas expressed, here—informed by that work, as well as 20+ years of writing about youth and digital media—are entirely my own.