A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that YouTube Kids is a kid-targeted portal to YouTube that features curated, ad-supported TV shows, music, educational videos, and user-created content. It's worth noting that since there are regular updates, the channels and videos are always subject to change. The app continues to draw lots of public scrutiny and controversy for including some clearly inappropriate videos and ads (with nudity, alcohol, and profanity), as well as fast food and junk food ads that push unhealthy food (some of which look a lot more like entertainment than advertising, making it hard for kids to know they're being marketed to). If parents sign up for a YouTube Red subscription, there are no ads, and kids can watch offline. Families can also access it via television, depending on your device.
What's it about?
YOUTUBE KIDS lets kids roam through a vast menu of YouTube videos geared toward children. Kids can browse by swiping left and right, or they can view videos and channels through the categories that appear at the top of the screen. "Shows" features clips and full episodes of popular children's programming (like Winnie the Pooh and Thomas and Friends); "Music" clips include classic and contemporary kids' songs. The "Learning" section includes access to education-focused clips from sources including Khan Academy, PBS Kids, and TED-Ed, and the "Explore" section features a sprawling range of user-created content, toy-related videos (including many "unboxing" clips), and a more random array of kid-friendly content, as well as channels created by brands such as McDonald's. Some videos have ads. Once kids have viewed a few videos, a "Recommended" menu appears at the top, where kids can view more videos related to those they've previously viewed. In the "grown-ups only" Settings menu, parents can toggle sounds on and off, disable search (which limits viewable videos to only those on the home screen), and clear the watch history. They can also toggle on "approved content only" to restrict what kids can see. If parents choose "verified" channels, it means the content was approved by a human and not an algorithm. That section requires reading skills to access; above a number pad is the message, "Please enter the numbers seven, nine, three, eight." Parents can also create their own custom passcodes. The timer function lets parents limit their kids' use of YouTube Kids, and kids can use a colored progress bar to track how much time remains. After the time has elapsed, a cute "Time's Up!" animation appears, and kids are locked out of further viewing until or unless their parents enter an access code.
Is it any good?
Even though it has drawn controversy for branded content and inappropriate videos slipping through the curation process, this app has potential as a family's go-to way for kids to watch videos online. The timer feature on YouTube Kids is a standout, letting parents set clear limits on their kids' screen time. And kids will love its whimsical visuals and silly sound effects, which will have them swiping through the video gallery with ease. They'll also love the "Recommended" menu, where they'll find suggested videos related to those they've previously viewed.
Though the custom passcode that bars all kids from accessing the "grown-ups only" section and the ability to disable search add control, it would be nice if parents could personally curate and wall off content for their kids, giving them true peace of mind. Bottom line? As with any tool for letting kids view videos, context and supervision are key: Parents should be close by to monitor which videos (and ads) their kids view and to give context and criticism as needed -- and to deal with any unexpected videos that may pop up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which YouTube channels and videos are OK to watch. What are your family's rules? What content is right -- and potentially wrong -- for your family? What should kids do if they come across an inappropriate video on YouTube Kids or elsewhere?
Discuss the video categories in this app: How are the videos in the mostly user-created "Explore" section different from those in the other sections?
Kids might encounter ads and branded content when they watch videos; encourage them to talk about what they see, and help them understand what they've viewed. Discuss the unboxing channels and product-related content: What's the purpose of those channels? What are they designed to make kids want to do? Is advertising harmful to kids?
The "Learning" section has videos from PBS Kids, TED-Ed, and Khan Academy. Talk about when kids might view these videos. Are there different rules for educational content vs. stuff that's just for entertainment? Why, or why not?
Tell your kids whether you'll use the timer, and explain how it limits kids' time in the app. Talk about your family's rules for screen time and why they're important.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, naming, phonics
Math: addition, algebra, counting, measurement, numbers, patterns, subtraction
Science: animals, chemistry, substance properties
Social Studies: history
- Skills: Creativity: making new creations
Emotional Development: empathy, identifying emotions, self-awareness
Communication: asking questions
Responsibility & Ethics: embracing differences, learning from consequences, respect for others
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: February 23, 2015
- Category: Entertainment
- Size: 50.00 MB
- Publisher: Google
- Version: Varies with device
- Minimum software requirements: Android 1.6 and up. iOS 5 and up.
For kids who love variety
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.