YouTube is one of the biggest resources on the planet for content that can entertain, educate, and in the best cases, entertain and educate your kids. Of course, YouTube is also filled with a lot of stuff you probably don't want your four-year-old watching – at least enough of it to make any parent wary of handing their kid an iPad and letting them run wild in YouTube land.
Google is attempting to help with this problem. Today, Google has unveiled the new YouTube Kids app, a lite version of YouTube that it says is tailored to kids' needs – mainly easy navigation and content control. We've known Google was working on building a YouTube Kids app, from the ground up, for some time now.
The YouTube Kids app does exactly what you'd expect it to do. It attempts to filter out non-kid-friendly content, gives parents better control over the experience, and makes it easier to navigate.
"For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics. Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids," says YouTube Kids Group Product Manager Shimrit Ben-Yair.
So Google is curating content for the Kids app. The app experience has been whittled down to four main categories of browsing – Shows, Music, Learning and Explore – but there is a search feature on the app.
Google admits that some stuff might slip through the cracks –
"When your child browses the app's home screen, they'll find a vast selection of kid-appropriate channels and playlists. When families search in the app, we use a mix of input from our users and automated analysis to categorize and screen out the videos that make parents nervous. And for added peace of mind, parents can quickly notify YouTube if they see anything questionable directly from the app," says Google.
But even with that slim chance of something adult-oriented slipping through, it's clearly a much safer prospect than just handing your kid a phone and a browser open to YouTube proper.
— YouTube (@YouTube) February 23, 2015
The app also has a handful of parental controls, like a timer feature that will shut down your kids' watch time when it's up and a quiet mode where you can disable all sounds while still allowing your kids to watch the videos.
And most importantly, parents can turn off the search function altogether.
Google says this new YouTube Kids app is just its first step – the "first building block in tech for tykes." Reports have indicated that Google is getting more serious about building products and services for the sub-13 crowd. As tech becomes a more integral part of our daily lives and parents become more comfortable with letting tech help raise their children, products and services geared toward kids will continue to become more and more important.
Take for instance Vine, Twitter's video app, which just launched a standalone app for kids. Or look at StumbleUpon's 5by. Despite the app's fast growth, one drawback is the lack of a "kid-mode". CEO Greg Isenberg recently told WebProNews that kid-friendly features are "likely something we’ll explore in the long term."