Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids

Is YouTube Kids really safe for kids? How does it work, and how do you set filters and parental controls? Learn more about this kid-targeted, but sometimes iffy, YouTube-lite app. By Caroline Knorr
Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids

So many kids love watching videos on YouTube, it seemed like a slam dunk for Google to create a special app specifically for the online video service's youngest fans. And while YouTube Kids offers a colorful, easy-to-navigate environment, a wide range of high-quality videos, a few parental controls, and fun features for kids, it's been dogged by concerns over its advertising, branded content, and inappropriate clips slipping through the curation process. So is YouTube Kids right for kids -- or not?

With its whimsical visuals, silly sound effects, and picture-based navigation, YouTube Kids is fun and friendly -- and doesn't look at all like its parent site. Kids can roam through a vast menu of YouTube videos geared toward their age group by swiping left and right, or they can view channels through the categories at the top of the screen. Despite the drawbacks, YouTube Kids definitely has the potential to be a family's go-to for kids to watch videos online -- if you supervise and enable safety settings.

Read Common Sense Media's full review of YouTube Kids, and learn more about how it works and how to use it safely (if at all) with answers to parents most frequently asked questions below.

What is YouTube Kids?
What type of videos are on YouTube Kids?
Is YouTube Kids safe?
Are there ads on YouTube Kids?
How do I set parental controls on YouTube Kids?
How do I set content filters on YouTube Kids?
How do you set up profiles in YouTube Kids?
What age is YouTube Kids for?
Why does YouTube Kids have disturbing videos?
What is YouTube doing to make the app safer for kids?
What can I do if my kid sees disturbing content?
What are the alternatives to YouTube Kids?


What is YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids is a kid-targeted version of YouTube that features curated, ad-supported TV shows, music, educational videos, and user-created content. You can create user profiles for each of your kids, so the app can tailor its selections individually. One of the best features of YouTube Kids is the timer, which lets you set a limit (up to an hour) for your kids to play on the app.

What type of videos are on YouTube Kids?

"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.

Is YouTube Kids safe?

YouTube Kids is mostly safe, but there's a small chance kids could see nudity, violence, or just weird stuff, as well as ads for stuff like junk food. Technically, the app is a portal to the main YouTube service and uses an algorithm to filter out the grown-up stuff and funnel the kid stuff to the app. But inappropriate videos can make it past the algorithm. Google has been stepping up its curation efforts by engaging human monitors to personally review videos flagged as inappropriate on the main app and offering "verified" videos (viewed and OK'ed by a human). On the plus side for parents, YouTube offers fair warning that kids may see something that you don't want them to see and you can block and report inappropriate videos.

Are there ads on YouTube Kids?

Some of the videos have ads, like on YouTube. If parents sign up for a YouTube Red subscription, there are no ads, and kids can watch offline. But kids will still have access to branded channels from fast food or toy companies.

How do I set parental controls on YouTube Kids?

The main parental control setting is the ability to allow your kid to search for videos in the app or not. Disabling search limits videos to only the ones that have been verified as age-appropriate by people on the YouTube Kids team. You can select "trusted channels" and topics in the Collections section, as well as restrict the "recommended" channels to only ones that have been viewed and OK'ed by a human.To access these settings, you unlock the "grown-ups only" section by using either a random passcode (written out so that pre-readers can't use it) or a custom passcode you create. Then you log into your Google account and select the user whose profile you want to add controls to.

How do I set content filters on YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids doesn't offer content filters. To limit what your kids can view, you can use the parental controls to allow only verified content or videos from a kid-friendly content partner. Otherwise, the app aims to show "younger" or "older" videos based on the user's age, what you've watched, and terms you've searched for. If there's something you definitely don't want your kids to see, you'll have to block those videos when they come up.

How do you set up profiles in YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids lets you have different profiles for each user -- but the profiles simply allow YouTube to track that user's search history and video views. Once you download the app, you log in with your Google account and set up profiles for your kids in the settings menu. Kids will like the ability to select their avatar and their own passcode (which parents can override) to prevent snooping siblings from sneaking into their profile.

What age is YouTube Kids for?

The app store says YouTube Kids is for 4 and older, but Common Sense Media recommends it for kids 7 and older. In addition to the ads, the commercialism, and the potential to see inappropriate videos, we think it's better to wait until kids are slightly more mature or to view videos together with your younger children.

Why does YouTube Kids have disturbing videos?

You may have heard about or seen some videos that look like they're for kids but are clearly not. These videos may use familiar characters from kids' TV shows, such as Caillou or Peppa Pig, or they may use cartoon graphics such as cars and trucks. The videos have seemingly kid-friendly titles and begin normally, but then become strange and even extremely disturbing. Whoever creates these videos -- which have been termed YouTube Poop -- has figured out how to use tags (the code that helps Google categorize content) to fool the algorithm. Disturbing videos are more common on the main YouTube channel, and YouTube is aware of the problem and trying to remedy it with more human monitors. But there's a possibility disturbing videos could pop up in the kid's app, especially if you allow your kids to search.

What is YouTube doing to make the app safer for kids?

In addition to parental controls, video collections, and turning off search, YouTube has made some policy changes to try to improve the app. The company announced that when videos are flagged on the main YouTube app, they will automatically be age-restricted and therefore blocked from the Kids app. It will also remove the financial incentive of producers of some of this strange content, by eliminating their ability to serve ads on the age-restricted content. The addition of human monitors reviewing flagged content and proactively looking for disturbing content -- which Google instituted after concerns surfaced about disturbing videos making it through the algorithm -- should help a lot. And the app's partnership with content providers such as PBS and Kidzbop further reduces risk. Still, it's important for parents to keep an eye on things and actively make use of the product's built-in controls to keep kids' experiences fun and safe.

What can I do if my kid sees disturbing content?

As with any media product that contains user-generated content, it's wise to supervise closely and watch together when you can. If you find a disturbing video, you can block it, which makes sure the video doesn't surface again. You can also report it, which alerts YouTube of the offensive content so that their team can review and remove it if necessary. If your kids are scared by stuff they see, try these methods to comfort them.

What are the alternatives to YouTube Kids?

It might be the biggest, but YouTube isn't the only fish in the sea. You can find streaming video apps with stricter parental controls, tighter curation, various video sources, and other useful, family-friendly features. Give these a try.

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About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (7)

Adult written by Gramma3girls

I want only English speaking video for my 3 year old. I block and I block and I block. And it makes no difference. I have searched for the answer and can't find a way to limit the video to English only.
Teen, 13 years old written by TheApparentSnicker

You're confusing YouTube Poop with another thing known as ElsaGate. As a longtime YTPer myself, i wanted to say that YTP is nothing to do with Elsagate. YTP creators acknowledge that some of their material is not suitable for children. There is a big difference between Elsagate and YTP. Elsagate lures toddlers towards it, and claims to be completely child-friendly. YTP, on the other hand, often warns that it is often not child-friendly, and sometimes warns parents to avoid videos with the title "YTP". YTP do not upload videos with titles like "MICHAEL ROSEN LEARN COLOURS WITH MICHAEL ROSEN FULL MICHAEL ROSEN EPISODES 2018 KIDS CHILDREN WATCH NOW WATCH KIDS".
Adult written by Lightning M.

I have been making kid friendly videos from the very beginning, as a matter of fact my channel is called " kid friendly videos" with over 2500 videos all child/kid friendly with fun stories and lots of toys etc , no bad words at all, and all toy related. Trouble is, YouTube keeps putting other videos above mine which in some cases are not kid friendly, but that is how it seems to be,., I used to get 400,000 views a day, but now lucky if I get 30K. I am actually giving up, as my new uploads used to get lots of views now only get a few thousand and are almost at zero views per hour after one day.
Teen, 13 years old written by ChaoticMC

It's great that your informing parents about this stuff, but I have 2 complaints. First. They aren't YouTube poops. There are so many things wrong with that. First of all, YouTube poops aren't just edited kids cartoons, but it can be anything like commercials or movies or whatever that was edited for the purpose of humor or satire. Second of all, YouTube poops are mostly never intended for kids, and if one somehow got to the YouTube kids app, then blame YouTube. Third of all, these inappropriate videos are made for the purpose of affecting kids behavior, by disguising as a normal cartoon and showing them inappropriate stuff that will make the kid think is normal, or appropriate stuff that will make the kid scared. Not only that, but they completely target children. Go to YouTube and search up any gibberish you can think of, and I bet you will find one of these videos. It makes sense, as toddlers would be typing gibberish on the keyboard and find one of these videos. The main thing is, YouTube poops aren't the same as these videos, but most importantly, the purpose of these videos is to affect how kids think. There are posts on the subreddit (about these videos) reddit.com/r/elsagate where they share how a child behaved after viewing these videos. One post described their child being completely afraid of toilets, and another described their child being completely anxious. These videos are trying to normalise bad stuff to children, and trying to get kids scared of normal stuff for their own gain. This is a subject that needs to be worked on a lot, but unfortunately there isn't enough attention being payed to it.
Kid, 11 years old

This looks like something for a baby. I think that kids aged 8-14 can use normal YouTube, but with Restricted Mode.
Kid, 11 years old

I just use regular YouTube and it’s fine as long as you are like 8 or 9.

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