YouTube has released new updates for its Kids App that offer better parental control of the video content children watch online, as well including video streaming via Apple TV, Chromecast and gaming consoles.
The Google service had come under fire after watchdog organizations revealed that inappropriate content could be reached by children using the app.
When first launched, the YouTube Kids App was warmly welcomed by parents who appreciated content tailored to the younger audience. The Kids App offers curated, children-friendly, educational and entertaining content that families found useful.
However, parent complaints and criticism from consumer watchdog organizations revealed that inappropriate content was slipping through the filters and reaching children, with content including alcohol use, drug, sex and violence.
With the latest update to the YouTube Kids app, parents can restrict the content children access through it and make it easier to protect them as opposed to trying to limit content on the YouTube network where tight control is virtually impossible. TechCrunch says:
“ [K]ids would often stumble upon content through YouTube’s recommendations via search which was not exactly “kid-safe.” For example, an innocent search for Elmo videos could see kids ending up on a video of Elmo cursing.”
With YouTube Kids, Google wanted a family-friendly app — a kid-appropriate version of YouTube:
“When we announced the app, we said YouTube Kids was our first step in reimagining YouTube for families.”
Parents can choose to enable the family-friendly video search or disable it. If the search is disabled, then the child can only watch a selected set of video content. The latter is a feature to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Users will now be able to watch content from the app on a TV screen using Chromecast, Apple TV, game consoles or a smart TV. With the new updates, children and families can watch curated video playlists from Kid President, National Geographic Kids and other channels. Ads are also screened by YouTube.
Based on parent feedback, YouTube now lets parents use a personal passcode rather than a spelled-out password for the sake of ease, Venture Beat reports.
Despite all efforts to make the app child-friendly, two consumer groups, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood revealed that the app can lead young users to inappropriate content. A children’s advocacy group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the issue of exposing children to age-inappropriate content.
YouTube reminded parents the app is not perfect and that they should flag age-inappropriate content when they see it.
The app has been downloaded 8 million times since its launch back in February and it’s among the top 5 kids apps on the App Store. It was developed after YouTube consulted organizations such as ConnectSafely.org, the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe).
The highly curated app features content from DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, National Geographic Kids, Reading Rainbow, among others.