YouTube Kids

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
YouTube Kids App Poster Image
Kid-targeted videos best with parental guidance.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational value

Kids can learn a variety of things from YouTube Kids, depending on the channels they choose to watch. The learning content has channels that directly instruct kids in certain areas such as number sense, computation, reading, and days of the week. Content in other areas also has learning potential; for example, Reading Rainbow and Sesame Street help teach letter recognition and reading. There's also a lot of non-educational content available, as well. Bottom line? YouTube Kids definitely has content that facilitates learning, but with so much to choose from, parents might have to specifically steer kids toward that content to make it happen.

Ease of play

With big buttons for little fingers and easy navigation, browsing and watching videos is a snap.

Violence & scariness

Mild cartoon violence in some clips. Some potentially creepy images for younger viewers, as in "Figaro Pho," which features a character who faces phobias and is drawn in a Tim Burton-y style. Curated content updated periodically, so degrees of violence and scariness may fluctuate. Also, sometimes scary images are embedded in what at first seem to be kid-friendly videos (for example, some videos at Vids4kids.tv).

Sexy stuff

Curated videos updated periodically. Presence of potentially inappropriate content may fluctuate; parents have reported videos containing racy and explicit images (from crotch grabbing during a Michael Jackson dance tutorial to nudity).

Language

Curated videos updated periodically. Presence of potentially inappropriate content may fluctuate; parents have reported videos containing profanity.

Consumerism

Some videos contain kid-focused ads (including some for TV shows and websites such as Mother Goose Club and Discover the Forest, as well as ads for fast food or junk food from companies including Burger King, Coca-Cola, and ConAgra Foods -- some of which look a lot more like contests and entertainment than ads, making it hard for kids to know they're being marketed to); the good news is you can skip most after a few seconds. The videos featuring branded content aren't marked as advertising and are mixed in with other videos; also, parents have reported seeing occasional ads with inappropriate content. Some videos are completely focused on products such as backpacks and toy sets, often titled and filed under the term "Unbox It" (for example, a video on the Brick Queen channel features the unboxing of a Pokémon toy). Other examples of branded content include videos featuring Disney dolls and Hasbro products, as well as whole channels from brands such as McDonald's (which features, among other things, videos about Happy Meal toys). A YouTube Red subscription eliminates ads.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Curated videos updated periodically. Presence of potentially inappropriate content may fluctuate; parents have reported videos containing wine and beer.

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.

Though much of the content most kids will encounter isn't problematic, the fact that any made it into the rotation means YouTube's curation process isn't perfect (details of how titles are curated are slim; publicly, Google says it's "a mix of automated analysis and user input"), so adult oversight is key. Parental control features are available -- such as a timer, the ability to block videos or channels, and a way to disable the search feature -- and parents can create their own passcodes. Kids can also have their own profiles and even set their own passcodes to keep siblings out of their profiles, but parents can override it. In addition to direct, kid-targeted ads, the app has whole channels dedicated to products such as Hasbro toys, Lego, and even McDonald's, as well as lots of videos in which kids can watch someone "unbox" a wide variety of toys. Some videos have mild cartoon violence, potentially creepy images, and somewhat suggestive content (crotch-grabbing during a Michael Jackson dance tutorial, for instance). Parents may want to talk with their kids about the product- and brand-centered channels before letting kids find them on their own and monitor kids' viewing in case adult content sneaks through. Bottom line? Though YouTube Kids is well made and fun to use and offers a lot of videos that are perfectly fine for kids, the outliers and frequency of branded content mean it's essential for parents to stay involved -- just as with any media product that contains ads or potentially iffy content. YouTube Kids falls under the general Google privacy policy, which does allow for some sharing of information and doesn't contain a clause specific to the app

User Reviews

Parent of an infant year old Written byMZabel April 12, 2015

Common Sense Media needs to revisit this review

I'm a pediatrician and was excited about this app when it launched since so many patient's parents ask me about sites and apps their kids can use safe...
Educator and Parent of a 4, 7, and 8 year old Written byoffshoreowl March 28, 2015

Use of Bad Language in searchable content

As much as this has been a wonderful app, as soon as my children were able to search for videos there was a problem. Some of the videos contained the use of bad...
Teen, 15 years old Written bychocolatecake123 August 23, 2017

Potential for inappropriate videos

I'm no parent, obviously—as my bio on here says, I'm actually just a 15 year old girl. But there's been a bizarre trend for the past year or so o...
Kid, 12 years old May 25, 2016

Not what I thought

YouTube Kids was what I thought was for kids but it isn't. It's more for toddlers and very young children. On the other side it is still good for chil...

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. 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.

App details

For kids who love variety

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