YouTube originally announced plans for a child-friendly, parent-pleasing version of its popular video sharing app back in March 2014. "For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics," said Shimrit Be-Yair, mother of two and YouTube Kids Group Product Manager. "Now, parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids."
At first look, YouTube Kids seems to hit a home run for ages 4 and up. A vibrantly colored intro with a whimsical sound bite and the laughter of children splashes the new logo and welcomes you to the home screen. A playful jingle hums away as you navigate the four large icons at the top of the screen that easily define the type of content the side-scrolling channel selection menu will display.
Choose from shows such as Sesame Street or Thomas And Friends, music such as KIDZ BOP and Mother Goose Club, learning channels like PBS KIDS, and explore more hobby-oriented channels like LEGO or Cosmic Kids Yoga.
Before watching your first video, YouTube Kids reminds you to set parental controls by touching an easy-to-spot key icon at the lower right corner of your screen. Any time you attempt to change settings, you are prompted to enter a randomly-generated pin number, cleverly spelled out above each of the four digits. While this may prevent toddlers from accessing parental controls, any child above the first grade would be able to crack it.
Fortunately, the app is completely designed around the safety and security of children, and the only settings you can truly toggle are background music, sound effects, disabling searches for videos, and a shut-off timer. It honestly makes you wonder why they decided to put a security pin number on it at all. What's more curious is that you cannot set a custom security pin.
For head-scratching moments like that, YouTube Kids allows you to give feedback directly to report any issues or make suggestions on improving the app.
YouTube Kids is available for free starting today in the U.S. on Google Play and the App Store, and it will soon be available on Kurio and nabi kids' tablets.