Which Music-Streaming Service Is Best for Kids?

Angela Zimmerman Manager, Editorial Partnerships Categories: Healthy Media Habits, We Recommend
Manager, Editorial Partnerships
Which Music-Streaming Service Is Best for Kids?

Music streaming has come a long way since the days of Napster. But it can still be a challenge to find music you don't need to turn off when your kids are around. That's changing.

With big hitters such as Apple and Amazon and radio players such as iHeartRadio competing for listeners, music streaming is becoming bigger, better, and even more family-friendly. Many services now offer kid-safe channels and other features for families, including educational content and controls that block explicit lyrics and limit social sharing.

However, more options can mean more confusion. Companies constantly tweak features, acquisitions are rampant, and start-ups come and go (remember MOG, Rdio, and Beats?). In this saturated climate, even Jay-Z's Tidal is facing an uncertain future.

For most parents, the choice of a music-streaming service boils down to three key questions: What's in it for kids? Does it filter explicit lyrics? How much does it cost? We've identified the top eight music-streaming services that are best for families and tell you exactly what you need to know. Keep in mind that these services regularly introduce new terms and features, so before you tune in, check out their FAQs or the help section of the one you choose.

Amazon Prime Music
Similar to the way Pandora Radio "learns" your preferences, Prime's stations become more personalized based on the feedback you provide. The free downloadable Amazon Music app also lets you stream your music library from the cloud in addition to listening to Prime Music.

  • What's in it for kids: A lot -- if you pay for Amazon Prime. Members get access to over a million songs, personalized ad-free radio stations with unlimited skips, expert-programmed Prime playlists organized by mood or genre, and offline playback. The catalog is nowhere near as robust as others, though, and Amazon doesn't offer a family plan, so only one device can stream at a time.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? No, but there's an entire children's section featuring fun playlists for all ages, from "Nature Sounds for Babies" and "Nursery Rhyme Party Time" to "The Littlest Hipster."
  • Cost: Ad-free music streaming is part of the $99 annual Amazon Prime subscription.

Apple Music
Apple Music provides access to more than 40 million songs, hand-selected music and playlists, an ability to listen offline, the 24/7 global radio station Beats 1, plus the ability to engage with artists through Connect.

  • What's in it for kids: Once you complete the "For Me" discovery exercise, you'll get expert-recommended artists, curated playlists, and albums and genres based on your preferences. Kids can download music for offline listening, post their favorite songs, playlists, and albums to Facebook, Twitter, Messages, and email, and connect their iTunes libraries with the larger Apple Music library.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? Yes. Parents can restrict access to music, videos, and podcasts with explicit content in their iTunes preferences.
  • Cost: There's a free three-month trial. Monthly subscriptions range from $9.99 a month or $14.99 for a family account, which allows up to six users.

Google Play Music All Access
It's a one-stop shop for unlimited music streaming, music shopping, and music storage (users can upload 50,000 songs from their own libraries).

  • What's in it for kids: While its music discovery and recommendations aren't as strong as competitors', the store has a large section devoted to children's music. And since you can play your own collection from anywhere and opt out of the radio service when the kids are around, it's easy to keep any questionable tracks away from young ears.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? You can block explicit songs on the radio feature but not on on-demand streaming.
  • Cost: The music storage and use of the store is free for users with Google accounts; Google Play Music All Access is $9.99 a month (you can try the service for free for 30 days).

iHeartRadio
iHeartRadio brings commercial radio to your desktop or device, with hundreds of stations (by city, genre, and format) to choose from.

  • What's in it for kids: The "iHeartRadio Family -- Music and Radio perfect for kids" app is a kid-safe option for families with young kids. Stations include Radio Disney Jr. and iHeartCountry Kids, and educational audio shows feature characters such as Dora the Explorer and Elmo. You can create your own custom stations from more than 20 million songs and fine-tune and personalize your song preferences with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? Yes, but the explicit filter will disallow custom stations.
  • Cost: Free (with ads).

Pandora Radio
A pioneer in web-based music, Pandora strives for ultimate personalization and aims to feed users only music they love.

  • What's in it for kids: While Pandora's unique music-prediction process keeps its catalog small, it offers great features for families. You simply pick a station (one of your own creation or one already created), and the music runs for hours. The Family genre includes stations such as PG Comedy, Children's Indie, and Family Musicals. Profiles can be public or private.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? Yes. The filter is applied to the entire account, not specific stations.
  • Cost: Free (with ads); Pandora One is $4.99 a month or $54.89 annually.

SoundCloud
For budding DJs, musicians, and audiophiles, SoundCloud is the promised land of audio platforms. SoundCloud Go is the company's paid subscription service, and because it has so much member-generated content, its claim to be the "world's largest music and audio streaming catalog" may just be true.

  • What's in it for kids: Got musically inclined kids? They can upload, record, and share their own audio files on SoundCloud, as well as peruse endless playlists and follow labels, musicians, curators, and fellow fans in genres from hip-hop to comedy. SoundCloud Go has over 135 million tracks, which subscribers can listen to offline and without ads. However, parents looking for an easy way to share music with their kids will need to be proactive, as there are a multitude of social platforms for kids to get lost in and no simple way to find kid-friendly stations.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? No. However, if you hear something that's offensive or not kid-appropriate, you can block the user who uploaded it.
  • Cost: The free version comes with two hours of uploads a year. For $55 a year, "pro" users get four hours of uploading. For $135 a year, "pro unlimited" users can upload as much as they want. After a free 30-day trial, SoundCloud Go costs $9.99 per month ($12.99 through the iOS app). Pro unlimited users get a discounted rate.

Spotify
With more than 30 million songs, tons of social features, exclusive artist sessions, and a dedicated kids and family channel, Spotify is an easy choice for families that love music.

  • What's in it for kids: Spotify's revamped Kids and Family category is incredibly robust, especially for parents of kids age 0 to 5. It includes playlists focused on vocabulary and language development and voice-over prompts by celebrities such as Fantasia, Tyler Perry, and Wiz Khalifa encouraging parents to interact with kids while listening and enjoying everyday activities. For families listening together, it's super kid-safe. But for older kids who have free rein to listen to anything and to follow artists and friends, the social tracking and large song selection can make for some iffy content.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? No, but clean versions of songs are available in many cases, and the Family channel keeps things PG.
  • Cost: Free (with ads); $9.99 a month for unlimited access to the catalog; $4.99 a month for students. The Family Plan is $14.99 per month for up to six members.

YouTube Music and YouTube Red
YouTube Music is a free mobile app focused entirely on music. Because it's basically a music-only YouTube streamer, it offers a deep, diverse catalog of artists and videos. YouTube Red is a subscription service offering additional benefits and content (including gaming). 

  • What's in it for kids: The basic YouTube Music app compiles a daily playlist called "My Mix," which combines your "liked" and "listened-to tracks" as well as songs it thinks you'll enjoy. One cool feature is the ability to toggle between audio and video seamlessly, with the video picking up exactly where the song is playing, and the inclusion of fan-shot videos of live performances -- something competitors can't offer. If you subscribe to YouTube Red, you'll eliminate ads and be able to search for artists and music by name or category, download playlists to listen to offline, and keep music on in the background while using other apps. YouTube Red subscribers also get a free Google Play Music subscription.
  • Ability to filter explicit lyrics? No. Though many of the videos are harmless, it's not difficult to come across others with mature sex, violence, language, smoking, and drinking references.
  • Cost: Free with ads or $9.99 per month for YouTube Red perks.

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About Angela Zimmerman

As manager of editorial partnerships, Angela is responsible for packaging and distributing articles and reviews to Common Sense's many content partners, helping people far and wide access advice and information around... Read more
Does your family use a streaming music service? What are some of the things you like like, and dislike, about it?

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Comments (20)

Educator and Parent written by emmal2

Research was done for explicit lyrics, any information about a service that filters explicit album covers? I am surprised by using Apple Music, we have all filters on but if the kids are browsing explicit covers will be shown.
Parent written by lectra

Heads up regarding Spotify. They have had over 5,000 requests via kudos on the "explicit button" tread for some means of filtering "explicit" content. The requests started in 2012. All requests have been ignored. Until recently they were publishing the written version of lyrics as well. Yet they are promoting a family plan. Base line their only concern is $$$$$.
Parent written by johncats

Spotify do not support user choice and refuse to install a filter for obscene material (some people call it explicit) even on paid family subscriptions. Several thousand community requests from concerned parents has not even been acknowledged by spotify (except "We do not censor music"). Unless you want your children and friends/workmates exposed to playlists that CANNOT be altered and increasingly contain more and more explicit material - EVEN IN THE CHILDRENS SECTION - then Spotify is not for you
Parent written by bobesca

Rhapsody has a "Kids Mode" that features a more mid-friendly interface (although my child had no problem using the regular interface) and curated playlists especially for kids. It also allows parents to send "approved" music over to Kids Mode.
Teen, 15 years old written by JohnnyH2000

Excuse me? Apple Music has clean versions AND The ability to filter out explicit lyrics based on your national content laws. Do your research.
Educator written by matttonk

You should note in Google play that the filter only works on radio stations made available offline, i.e. downloaded to the device. If not when playing a clean version of a song it can default to the stations original song with explicit lyrics. But to download stations you need a paying account. So the filter only works if you pay, and have already downloaded the entire station.
Parent written by Tazdrago

I can't believe you even have spotify listed, spotify is far from kid friendly as you can get. Even songs NOT marked with explicit are full of swearing. and you have no way to filter it out. It's now got to a point the service is almost useless, as I have kids and unless I want to walk around with earphones in all day I no longer trust the playlists.
Parent written by Daddydosanddonts

I use a really good site that lets me know if the songs have anything bad in them, It tells me if it has drug references, any talk of sex, swear words, and violence. Heres the link to it if you want to know www.lyricscanner.com . I really enjoy it, i'm finding out that there is a lot of inappropriate songs that I wouldn't want my kids to listen to.
Parent of a 12 and 16 year old written by joyousgia

My family and I really like Songza. If you stick with their family friendly mixes, you are ok.
Parent written by sbevans73

I apologize, but Spotify is not kid friendly. We just set up a couple of roadtrip playlists for both of our children - aged 8 and 6. My eight year old loved it and wanted to add some songs of his own, so I showed him how. I just looked over his list and saw one with an explicit language tag. I listened and it was most definitely not appropriate (it even made me blush). My mistake obviously, so I looked up how to filter or add parental controls. It doesn't exist. I did find a 3 year old post on the help site asking for this feature, but there are no signs that Spotify is working toward this. In fact, they just released a family plan, but again there is no option for filtering or blocking content.
Parent written by astroMD77

I'm with you. I've been posting on that thread in Spotify for years already. Sadly, no other system comes close in terms of ease of use and catalog. I am REALLY hoping that the rumored relaunch of Apple's Beats service includes some kind of parental controls.
Adult written by kidzsearch

KidzSearch streaming safe radio has many stations and is very easy for kids of any age to use. It is free with no signup or subscription required. http://www.kidzsearch.com/radio.html
Parent written by Daddydosanddonts

If you want to know if the songs you are listening to have anything bad in them check out www.lyricscanner.com , you just put in the song and it will tell you if its good or not. My family loves it.
Teen, 17 years old written by CloudIsC00L723

Don't forget iTunes Radio! It's a pre-installed feature in the "Music" application in the latest iOS 7 update for Apple Devices. I like this service a lot because not only does it offer a lot of the same features as Pandora, but it offers noticeably better quality audio (than Pandora's free service), less intrusive ads (15-30 second audio ads but nothing that you can accidentally tap while in the iTunes radio page), and a surprisingly reasonable ad-free (plus other features) service called iTunes Match. For about $25 a year, not only does iTunes Match allow users to listen to iTunes radio ad-free, but users can also stream all of their music on their iTunes library (including those imported from CDs) on all their Apple devices. While $25 a year might seem like much, keep in mind that Pandora One costs $5 per month and there are twelve months in a year. I'd also like to point out that the explicit filter is easily accessible but it can't be password-protected. Therefore, kids can easily turn the filter off and on whenever they want. Otherwise, if you own an Apple device, this is a really cool feature that I'm surprised hasn't had it's own article or review yet.
Parent written by guatdad

Thank you for the article. I have been searching for something for my older daughter. I will have to take a look at Fanlala Radio. I have tried the others and disappointed. One correction for you. On iHeartRadio, if you create a custom station, you have to allow Explicit lyrics. If you select a station, you do not have to allow Explicit lyrics.
Adult written by Angela Zimmerman

Thanks so much for writing in! I contacted iHeartRadio to get clarity on the explicit filter, as my article reflected the information provided on their website, and they said that checking the explicit filter "would disallow custom stations while listening." I've updated the article with the accurate information regarding this point. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy! Cheers!
Adult written by JohnKoz

I noticed you didn't mention Xbox Music, was that a deliberate omission because you felt it was too difficult for children to use, or perhaps it was inappropriate or risky? My wife and I, along with our 3 children currently have unlimited music passes to Xbox Music and use that for all our listening today on our phones, computers and tablets. Should we be concerned about something?
Adult written by Angela Zimmerman

Hello John! Thanks for your comment! Our omission of Xbox Music doesn't in any way indicate that it's inappropriate or risky for kids; rather, we opted to go with a sampling of popular/notable services instead of including every single one of the dozens of options. I have noted your inquiry and will contact you if we review or write-up Xbox Music at a later time. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Xbox Music's FAQs or Help Section, or reaching out to their user support team, to get the most up-to-date information surrounding their filters or parental controls. Thanks again for your interest in Common Sense. Cheers!

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