March 9, 2015

New App: YouTube Kids

Ten seconds is all it takes for a child to open YouTube, and come across a video lined with vulgar language, precarious concepts, and/or inappropriate images.  Although YouTube has a rich supply of kid-friendly, uplifting videos, these videos are often entangled with videos inappropriate for children. But, a partial solution to this problem has come. YouTube has just released its new app, YouTube Kids. With this free app, kids can explore a collection of age-appropriate material, and parents can feel comfortable with what their kids are viewing. We are thrilled with this huge step YouTube is taking to make its content appropriate for its vast audience.

YouTube Kids has a very simple layout, making it very easy for kids to use and for parents to alter the settings. Opening the app, there are four primary options for browsing. The child can select Shows, Music, Learning, or Explore. Shows include a variety of popular kids channels like Sesame Street; Music includes anything from Kidz Bop to piano covers by The Piano Guys; Learning includes several educational channels like TedEd, and Explore acts as a miscellaneous option, including anything from Kid President videos to “how to” videos for crafts.  If a child is looking for something specific, they also have the option to search for a video.

Parents have the options to leave feedback, set a time limit for child viewing, and turn the search option on or off. To access these options, the parent simply taps on the lock icon in the lower right hand corner and enters a four-digit code, spelled out above the keypad, to unlock the options. The timer can bet set from 1 minute to 2 hours.  After the designated time is up, the app will lock down. The feedback tool enables parents to report anything questionable that appears in the app.

YouTube Kids is a great option for families wanting to censor what their kids are viewing.  However, there are still ways in which the app can improve.

  • Parents should be able to block certain channels they don’t want their kids watching, even if it is considered age-appropriate.
  • The locking system for accessing the settings for parents should also be improved. Instead of having the code spelled out above the keypad, parents should be able to set their own four-digit code.  The app currently allows anyone who can read to unlock the settings.
  • The website should consider making a similar app for kids in their teens and pre-teens who do considerably more browsing on YouTube than younger children do.

If you don’t want to constantly monitor each video your child watches on YouTube, then YouTube Kids is a great tool to keep your child safer online.

While we are happy about this great new tool, YouTube remains on the 2015 Dirty Dozen List as a top contributor to sexual exploitation. The way in which YouTube is structured makes pornography and other explicit content easily accessible on the Internet. The website has strict terms of use, but does little to enforce or monitor what users upload. With no filtering, it’s very hard to avoid the explicit content that engulfs the site. By not adequately monitoring or restricting inappropriate content YouTube relies on users to go through a rigorous process if they want to report the content for removal, forcing them to watch the inappropriate content in order to report or flag it. Often, pornographic videos show up as recommended videos even when one is watching something totally innocent, even while watching under Safe Search as it is very inadequate.

Hailey Billat

Communications & Strategy

Hailey Billat is an Intern at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE).  She is currently a student at Brigham Young University and plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with an emphasis in OB/HR.  Hailey is passionate about NCSE’s mission and hopes to make an impact in freeing the world from sexual exploitation.

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