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REVIEW: YouTube Kids

By Eleanor Levy

Last week saw the launch of the YouTube Kids app in the UK and Ireland.

Download it and you – and the small people in your life – will have access to child-friendly content that’s been pre-filtered to take the nasties out. 

The response so far from parents and those who work with families has been largely positive, and we can see why. 

The basics

On downloading YouTube Kids, you can switch search options on and off, depending on how much freedom you want to give children using it, and also set a timer to limit their time on the app. All good so far. 

The parental controls are easy to use and you can change them as your child grows.

The content we found was definitely child-friendly – with a good selection of entertainment and educational material.

US users have complained that some adult content has crept through, but this doesn’t seem to be a wide-ranging problem and we haven't had a problem when using it so far.

We typed in the word 'naked', for example (purely in the interests of research, obviously) and got the curt message 'Search for something else'.

The app does collect data to support its ‘Recommendations’ feature, but you don’t have to sign in with a Google or YouTube account. You can set a pass code if you choose to.

What you'll find

Once in, kids will be able to watch the same content they find on the normal version of YouTube. Along with the likes of Minecraft and Peppa Pig, they'll find popular children's YouTube channels such as animated nursery rhyme site Little Baby Bum, and cheesy US mini consumerists Evan and Jillian (Evan TubeRAW).

As with the full version of YouTube, you’ll also find children's classics to draw in parents and grandparents, including old favourites like Morph, Paddington Bear, Hector’s House and Chorlton And The Wheelies.

It certainly feels like a safe environment to let children explore on their own, or under supervision, to develop confidence online. 

There’s a good selection of educational content. I had a go at making snowflakes using Python code, courtesy of Geek Gurl Diaries, and am slightly embarrassed by the sense of achievement generated when I created my first square. 

Pester power

One concern is the presence of advertising on the site. Though ads don’t include the option to click through to purchase and are clearly labelled, you can’t escape them, although you can skip to the content you’d like to see after a few seconds.

You can also access ‘unboxing’ videos. For those not familiar with this phenomenon, these basically consist of people filming themselves unwrapping items, usually tech, they have just bought. Harmless and a little sad in the adult world, it definitely glamourises the idea of ‘buying stuff’, so those concerned with pester power may wish to avoid these by disabling the search function. 

Is it worth downloading?

YouTube Kids has been available in the US for nearly a year and already over 10 million people have downloaded it. Given the interest on social media when we posted about its launch over here, it looks like families on this side of the pond will embrace it in a similar way.

Overall, it’s a useful tool for parents to encourage safe and confident internet use. And anything that helps introduce the surreal delights of Morph to the next generation of children, has to be a good thing in my book.

 

 

YouTube Kids is free to download for phones and tablets. It can also be viewed on televisions using Google Chromecast, Apple TV and via games consoles.