YouTube Kids has been around for almost 10 years now. It is a colourful and interactive platform that is designed to be easy to navigate and fun for kids preschool to 12. Anyone who has children in their house will certainly be familiar with the pull children seem to have towards the Tube, they love it! There is not limit to the ridiculous and sometimes harmful content that is available. Although most can agree YouTube Kids it is certainly more appropriate than YouTube for young minds and eyes, like any other product marketed to children, I have reason to pause and assess whether it really is a platform for young children. Is the language and content child appropriate? How do they decide what is appropriate? What if you have a diverse age range of children? What parental controls are in place? And then there is the infamous YouTube black hole that is oh so easy to fall through as it is the platform making suggestions for future content which is an algorithm that can be manipulated. So, let us take a look at the nut and bolts of the platform.
How does it work?
It is quite simple to set up through the app. You create an account with your details including date of birth. You will be asked to set a passcode to protect the settings you have chosen, and you will be prompted to select whether you would like to disable the search function. When it is enabled your child can search content as you would on YouTube but if you choose to disable search your child will only have access to videos on the home screen and those suggested to them based on the type of videos they have viewed previously.
What sort of content is available?
YouTube Kids has four categories of content shows (clips and episodes of popular children’s television programs), music, learning and exploring (which includes the ever popular unboxing videos they so love). Common Sense Media reports that children mostly access the platform for entertainment not for educational purposes. Major brands like McDonalds also have channels available on the platform.
Once you are in the app you will need to click on the padlock icon in the bottom right corner which will allow you to set up parental controls on each profile. You are asked about the name and age of each of your children to create individual profiles for them. You can set a timer and the app will lock after the time has lapsed. Within each child’s individual profile you can select the type of videos available to them based on age, you can also change the search function on and off as you wish, clear the search history, pause watch history or search history to stop the app using the information to suggest new content to your child. You can also report/block videos by clicking the three dots at the top of the video. This will report to the platform but you always have the option and we would recommend you report any inappropriate content to the eSafety Commissioners online safety reporting portal.
YouTube have received a lot a flack about the safety of their YouTube Kids platform and as a result they have a robust parental control information page at www.youtube.com/kids. It has been written by the brand itself though so be discerning with the information provided.
There are a number of points of concern when it comes to allowing your children to view algorithm informed content. For example, children’s characters such as Elsa, Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig, children’s cartoon images like toys or even animals, are used to create disturbing content. These videos usually have kid friendly titles but far from kid-friendly content. The people creating these videos are able to manipulate the google algorithm by using child friendly tags which inform how content is categorised. Meaning if the tags and the title are kid friendly they can easily turn up on your child’s suggested videos. It is a lot more common on YouTube but still has also been reported on the Kids site.
YouTube Kids doesn’t have content filters either so to be able to reduce the chances of your child seeing content that is harmful it is important to set up the parental controls.
Another factor to consider is the subliminal advertising that your child is exposed to. Advertising is highly prevalent with 95% of the videos containing banner or sidebar advertising on the platform.
I would recommend you look to Common Sense Media’s app review as you have their assessment but also children and parents alike can make comment on their thoughts of the platform to further inform you decision about the suitability for your child.