YouTube Kids Is Getting Some Totally Sensible Parental Controls

Gif: Google

Like AOL Kids before it, the YouTube Kids app never really seemed to live up to its kid-friendly potential. Since it came out in 2015 to make browsing online videos “safer and simpler for kids,” the service has gotten a good bit of shit for both its ads and all the weird stuff its algorithms let through—like that video of a cartoon pig drinking bleach.

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That’s led to a whole lot of controversy for Google, YouTube’s owner, so the company promised to address it sometime this year with more options for parents who might not want their kids to watch, say, Spider-Man and Elsa from Frozen kiss. (Yes, it’s weird.) Starting today, YouTube Kids’ expanded parental controls are live for Android users, and they’re “coming soon” to iPads and iPhones.

Parents can now pick the specific videos, channels, or groups of channels they want their kids to have access to. The “approved content only” feature can be turned on via the “My kids” section of the app, under the “Content level” setting. This is completely optional, too. If you’re happy with YouTube’s filters, or if you want to tweak them so they’re a little less restrictive as your kids get older, you can do that, too.

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YouTube never guaranteed fool-proof filters—it admitted as much today on its blog, saying: “We work hard to make videos in the app family friendly, but no system is perfect.” YouTube Kids isn’t perfect, but the service has a better chance of meeting expectations with a simple, clear-cut feature like a whitelist. At least YouTube didn’t just pledge to continue fiddling around with its obscure algorithmic filters.

Senior news editor at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

I have given my kid unfettered access to youtube, and the entire internet for that matter since he was 2 and a half years old. I check up on him every so often and I found that I didn’t even need to ‘parent’ his youtube or internet behaviors.

The thing is, kids tend to gravitate towards age specific stuff on their own. When my kid was 3 he watched a lot of 3 year old stuff on youtube. He found the cartoons on his own. When he was 6 he watched 6 year old cartoons. He’s 10 now and he’s watching channels like minute physics. I’ve seen nothing at all wrong with my kid’s progression of youtube surfing. I don’t think it would have benefited me or my son at all to have filtered his youtube abilities. In fact I think the opposite. I think in allowing my son all the freedom in the world I have enabled him to explore as he sees fit. I think it’s worked out so far.