YouTube Updating its “Kids” App with Better Parental Controls

YouTube is updating its dedicated “Kids” app, first launched in February this year, in the wake of parent and consumer group complaints that its protections against inappropriate content were insufficient. YouTube Kids is divided into categories — Shows, Music, Learning, Explore — but also offers a search feature that can lead to videos outside of the curated lists. The newly updated app, which includes support for Chromecast and Apple TV as well as guest-curated playlists, is expected to be available in the next few weeks.

According to TechCrunch, shortly after its launch, YouTube Kids, which has now been downloaded 8 million times, “came under fire from consumer watchdog groups who claimed YouTube was not doing enough to protect kids from inappropriate content, including references to sex, drugs, alcohol and more.”

youtube2The Kids’ search function led to recommended videos that were often inappropriate, and the site didn’t let parents know they could disable search — or explain how to do so.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, demonstrated how that search feature could be used to create a recommendation list of inappropriate videos containing everything from profanity to pornography.

The newly tweaked app will ask parents whether or not they want to disable the search function, which would restrict the videos available, and also offer the ability to set a passcode instead of a spelled-out code. YouTube will also describe how to flag a video, noting that flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and removed if necessary. But, YouTube warns parents, “no system is perfect.”

“Without 100 percent manual curation, bad videos can slip through,” says TechCrunch.

The Kids’ app was developed in consultation with Common Sense Media, ConnectSafely.org, the Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) and WiredSafety.org, and includes content from DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, National Geographic Kids, Reading Rainbow, and Thomas the Tank Engine among other well-known children entertainment brands.