Google first launched the kid-friendly version of YouTube called YouTube Kids back in 2015. Aside from being easy to navigate and having a fun interface, importantly, the app is also meant to be a safe place for kids to explore online videos.
Just last year in November, however, it was found that disturbing videos, like of well-loved cartoon character Peppa Pig wielding guns, and Paw Patrol dogs committing suicide, still do slip into the stream of videos on YouTube Kids. And, of course, it got parents worried. In response, YouTube has announced new parental control features for YouTube Kids in a statement released last April 25.
1. Can only watch videos from pre-made “collections” Turn on this feature and you'll be led to a list of “collections.” The collection titled “Sesame Street,” for example, has videos that have been selected by the Sesame Street Workhops. There are also collections titled “Art, Crafts, & DIY,” “Learning,” and “Music” which are videos chosen by the YouTube Kids team. The collections you pick for your child will be the only videos she’ll get access to and watch on the app. This feature is set to roll out this week.
2. Has a stricter “search on” experience Parents have always had the option to turn search on or off in the YouTube Kids app. 'Search on' is the safer option, but even if your child is using the app with 'search off,' YouTube has now put in measures to make it a safe experience. Rolling out this week, turning search off will only give your child video suggestions from channels that have been verified by the YouTube Kids team.
3. Can only watch the videos mom or dad has handpicked For those looking for full control, this is YouTube’s answer. “We’re rolling out a feature later this year that will allow parents to specifically handpick every video and channel available to their child in the app,” said YouTube.
Keep in mind that, even with the added safety features, YouTube Kids may not still be 100 percent safe. On the app store, YouTube Kids says it “uses a mix of filters, user feedback and human reviewers” to keep the videos in the app family-friendly. But, “no system is perfect,” it adds. Upon installing the app on your phone, it does tell you that “It’s possible your child may find something you don’t want them to watch.”
Nonetheless, if you do let your child watch videos on your phone, YouTube Kids can be a better option because, for the most part, it limits what your child watches to age-appropriate content only. Plus, it also has parental control features that YouTube doesn’t, such as whether you allow your child to use the search bar or not, and a timer for how long your child can use the app.
With the features set to be added to YouTube Kids, this may be a good time to download the app and see if it’s a tool you can use with your child. Always remember that it's still mom and dad's responsibility to monitor a child's device use. A tablet is not a babysitter!
Screen time recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that children below 18 months should avoid screens altogether. Those between 18 and 24 months are allowed screens provided that parents choose high-quality programming. For kids ages 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be at a maximum of 1 hour a day.