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 aimed at kids from preschoolers to tweens that features curated, ad-supported TV shows, music, educational videos, and user-created content. As of 2019, there's also a YouTube Kids website. It's worth noting that since there are regular updates, the channels and videos are always subject to change. The app has drawn 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 Premium subscription, there are no ads, and kids can watch offline. Families can also access it via television, depending on their device. To access the full set of filters, parents will need to sign in using a Google account.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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. The "Older" section of the app has more mature content, including dancing to Rihanna's "Love on the Brain" and home video from Britney Spears' Vegas act. 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. The settings section has a parent gate for which users need to complete a simple multiplication problem. Parents can also create their own custom passcode. 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 "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?
Several levels of parental controls make this a solid go-to video app for kids, though its curation cracks and consumer-focused videos make parents work to insure appropriateness. The timer feature on YouTube Kids is a standout, letting parents set clear limits on how long kids can watch. 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. Most importantly, parents can set a safelist of channels so that they can handpick content themselves. Or if parents are worried about what content might pop up, they can disable the search function so that kids are limited to videos from channels that have been "verified" by YouTube Kids.
That said, despite robust parental controls, a great kid-friendly interface, and the filters to -- in theory -- weed out videos with mature content, the quality of the videos ranges widely, and not all content that makes the cut will be something that parents really want their kids to watch. So, to really feel confident that your kids won't run into anything you don't want them to, you have to use the safelist feature. Which, while it's great to have, also puts a burden on parents who are hoping to let their kids watch and explore in a safe space. As with any tool for letting kids view videos -- and particularly for this one -- 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 on YouTube Kids. 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, Kindle Fire
- 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: March 19, 2021
- Category: Entertainment
- Size: 251.00 MB
- Publisher: Google
- Version: 6.08.2
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 10.0 or later; Android varies with device.
- Last updated: April 14, 2021
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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.