YouTube Kids is introducing more controls to give parents a better handle on what their children are watching.
Now almost two years old, the app designed for younger viewers has not had the smoothest infancy, with criticism over sponsored content and adverts in the platform’s early days. Today, millions of people have downloaded the app and it ranks among the top five apps in the App Store on iOS and has a 4+ ranking on Google Play.
That’s partly due to YouTube’s committment to improving the service, with the latest update a prime example. The new features introduced this month give parents more control over what their kids stream. Parents can now block videos in the app by tapping the three-dot menu next to any video, or an entire channel, so that any attempts to watch the video will prompt a parental consent email to be sent to your address.
By using a Google account, parents can block a video once and it will apple to all of their devices with YouTube Kids installed at once. Likewise, they can unblock all restricted videos a channels at once.
The only bad news is that parents in the UK will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on the new features: the update is currently available in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malaysia, Philippines, India, and Singapore.
It joins a host of other parental control features, including the ability to change how broadly their child experiences the app, with the option to allow or prevent any searches. Timers can also limit kids’ screen time, while age-based custoimsation can filter content on the home screen for preschool ages, school ages or all kids .
YouTube to launch kids app next week
21st February 2015
YouTube is getting down with the kids with a new child-friendly app, which will be released on Monday 23rd February.
The app, which will feature content and an interface targeted specifically at young viewers, is a natural step for the video giant. Children use YouTube an increasing amount, whether it’s to watch their favourite vloggers or people playing Minecraft. With videos on YouTube ranging from new episodes of Morph to more adult content, though, it is hard not to get anxious when your littlun is looking around the site unsupervised.
Netflix already has its own kid-friendly interface to tackle exactly that problem, but this can be done relatively easily for a subscription service, which relies upon user accounts and profiles. For an ad-supported free-to-all site, the challenge is slightly tougher.
YouTube’s engineers, though, could tell it was needed: while viewing time has grown 50 per cent year-on-year on the site overall, family entertainment channels have seen viewing times grow 200 per cent, according to Shimrit Ben-Yair, the project’s group product manager. Indeed, both Amazon and Netflix have begun investing heavily in family content in the past year, while Viacom is also planning its own direct-to-viewer VOD service.
“Unshackled by kids’ lack of preconceptions as to how they ‘should’ get their entertainment, kids’ services are now at the forefront of a surge of innovation connecting digital, media and technology,” Nick Walters, founder of kids’ SVOD service Hopster told TBI Vision.
With children increasingly using the Internet to consume media – 1 in 3 children between the ages of 5 and 15 now have a tablet, according to Ofcom – YouTube’s dedicated kids service was only a matter of time.
“Parents were constantly asking us, can you make YouTube a better place for our kids,” Ben-Yair told USA Today.
YouTube consulted with third-party testers, such as Common Sense Media (a site we highly recommend), as well as the parents within its own engineering teams, to come up with the answer: YouTube Kids.
How does it differ from the (separate) YouTube app, already familiar to adults?
As well as hiding adult content, the app will scale down its home page to eight large tiles linking to popular kids’ shows, accompanied by a simplified menu: a TV icon (for programmes), a radio icon (for music), a light bulb (for education content) and binoculars (for searching).
The image-drive design will remove other, more distracting features, such as user comments – which will also help to avoid offensive or abusive content posted by other users. The search function will also filter out inappropriate results, with words such as “sex” returning a “Try something else” error.
“The images are big as are the tap targets for small fingers, and since most younger children can’t type they can search with voice,” added Ben-Yair.
Parents concerned about the amount of time their kids spend on YouTube, regardless of what they’re watching, will be able to limit viewing time by setting an automatic password lock after a customisable period.
The other major difference between YouTube Kids and YouTube (adults)? It will initially only be available for Android deices.