By Patricia Monticello Kievlan,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Solid parental controls help sort variable videos.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Kids can learn a variety of things from YouTube Kids, depending on 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. Lots 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.
Variety and quality of representation relies on videos kids watch. Some creators are inclusive and offer positive representations, but that's not true across the board. Because caregivers can curate videos, they have some control over videos -- and representations -- kids see.
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Ease of Play
With big buttons for little fingers and easy navigation, browsing and watching videos is a snap.
Violence & Scariness
There's mild cartoon violence in some clips. There's 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 style. Curated content is 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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Curated videos are 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). The "Older" category can contain scantily clad people, suggestive dance, and references to sex, though parents can also hand-select channels to prevent kids from seeing this content.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Curated videos updated periodically. The presence of potentially inappropriate content may fluctuate; parents have reported videos containing profanity. But parents can hand-select channels to prevent kids from seeing this content.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Some videos contain kid-focused ads (e.g., for TV shows and websites like Mother Goose Club and Discover the Forest. Some look more like contests and entertainment than ads, making it hard for kids to know they're being marketed to. You can skip most after a few seconds. Videos featuring branded content aren't marked as advertising, are mixed in with other videos. Parents have reported seeing occasional ads with inappropriate content. Some videos are focused on products (e.g., backpacks, toy sets), often titled and filed under "Unbox It" (e.g., a video on the Brick Queen channel features unboxing of a Pokémon toy). Other branded content includes videos featuring Disney dolls, Hasbro products, and whole channels from brands such as McDonald's (with videos about Happy Meal toys). A YouTube Premium 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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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 2022, 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). Currently, though, YouTube Kids shows some paid ads before videos so the other content, according to the Parental Guide, can be offered for free -- but they're labeled as ads. Certain categories, like food and beverages, have been excluded, according to the developers. Kids may also see products mentioned in user-created videos, although YouTube Kids reportedly doesn't allow videos with references that are paid advertising.
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.
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. Also, parents can set up accounts for their kids that are pre-populated with content customized for their child's age by selecting "Preschool" for videos geared toward kids four and under, "Younger" for kids five to seven, and "Older" to include content for kids age 8 through 12, like more gaming and music videos. Note that if you choose "Older," there's a warning that kids will see more mature content; it can include words like "f--k," scantily clad dancers, and mildly sexy content, though direct searches for those things don't work. For more control, parents can customize exactly what videos their children see by creating an account with the "Approved Content Only" setting, where parents select specific channels and videos that kids can view. A recently introduced feature lets parents share videos and channels from the main YouTube platform to their kids' limited access YouTube Kids accounts, instead of having to select items solely from YouTube Kids. Parents can revoke access to the videos at any point. Some content can't be shared, though -- including age-restricted videos, live footage, and shows or movies parents paid to rent or buy.
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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. If there are videos kids love on YouTube that don't appear in YouTube Kids, caregivers can add them from one platform (YouTube) to the other (YouTube Kids).
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 the 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 safe list 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 safe list feature. While it's great to have, this 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?
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, but when might kids 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, Arts: music
- Skills: Creativity: making new creations, Emotional Development: empathy, identifying emotions, self-awareness, Communication: asking questions, Collaboration: cooperation, Responsibility & Ethics: embracing differences, learning from consequences, respect for others
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: March 19, 2021
- Category: Entertainment
- Publisher: Google
- Version: 6.08.2
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 10.0 or later; Android varies with device.
- Last updated: April 13, 2021
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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