Last year, the YouTube Kids app was launched, which the company explained would make life easier for parents by allowing kids to watch only material that was age-appropriate. But critics were quick to point out that at least one objectionable type of content was still in place — advertisements.
Children's advocates say that kids often are not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between ads and regular programming. YouTube was listening and is now offering parents a way to avoid ads entirely.
The Google-owned company has announced that it is combining YouTube Kids and YouTube Red, which is the paid subscription service that takes the ads away from YouTube videos for $10 a month. The membership also allows subscribers to watch content offline and to stream music.
Davey Alba, writing for Wired, says Malik Ducard, head of content for YouTube Kids, promoted the idea that it gives parents more options:
"We've been trying to keenly listen to the community and make sure parents are in the driver's seat. The core driving factor really is choice."
The company has plans to create more parental controls for the YouTube Kids app, such as giving parents the ability to include or eliminate specific channels and videos.
It makes sense that the company wants parents to be happy; in a year-and-a-half, YouTube Kids has exceeded over 10 billion video views. In the iOS and Android app stores, it is one of the top five kids' apps.
Still, critics say the company continues to mix product placement-type ads into YouTube videos, such as hundreds of promotions for junk food. The new paid version has come under attack as well for discriminating against users from low-income families.
Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, says:
"All this calls out for is safeguards for young people that address all platforms, regardless of the device and regardless of application."
Ducard explained that the reason it took some time for the company to build the connection between YouTube Kids and YouTube Red was that it was important to make the incorporation in the right way. The goal was giving parents the control that they wanted, reports Saba Hamedy for Mashable.
The value of the feature that comes with Red that allows videos to be seen offline, writes Christian de Looper for Digital Trends, is that parents can download a few videos for kids to watch on a long car drive. The membership also allows parents to play kids' tunes in the background while still using Google Maps, for example.
A report from The Verge found that YouTube Red subscriptions represent approximately 4-5% of the income that is made by YouTube content creators.
TechTimes' Lauren Keating reports that many parents are already members of YouTube Red without even knowing it. Google Play Music patrons also get a free subscription to YouTube Red.
When a parent signs up for YouTube Red or takes part in its 30-day free trial, they can download YouTube Kids and enter their YouTube Red account data from the parental controls portal to access the new features.