What is YouTube Kids?

Discover why your child’s experience may not always be child-friendly

Words by
Abby Alger

JUN 07, 2023

What is YouTube Kids?

Discover why your child’s experience may not always be child-friendly

Youtube Kids is a video library site designed for kids by YouTube, a Google subsidiary.

YouTube’s library includes gaming videos, content for learning and exploring, exercises for kids, art tutorials, and cartoons, to name a few.

While it is a separate app platform, videos on YouTube Kids are curated from YouTube.

All of the videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids rely on user-generated content. So while it aims to populate only age-appropriate videos for children, some inappropriate content still slips through.

two little girls looking closely at a phone screen

Is YouTube Kids Safe?

While there are thousands of hours of content on YouTube Kids that is considered safe for children, kids can still access inappropriate material. YouTube Kids is a safer alternative than unrestricted YouTube though, and parents can steer kids to healthier content that is educational, or direct them to interactive videos that get them moving.

Wholesome YouTube Kids Channels

Note: This list is not comprehensive and is subject to change. Parents should ensure each program meets their family’s standards.

  • Common Sense Education – digital citizenship and internet safety videos for K-12.
  • Kids Learning Tube – sing-along songs paired with animation help kids learn about everything from Earth Day to anxiety.
  • Art for Kids Hub – elementary kids can follow along with these art lessons taught by a dad of 4.
  • SciShow Kids – K-4th grade science questions answered by host Jessi and her rat robot, Squeaks.
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga – kid themed yoga for preschool – 6th grade, including Frozen, Moana, Minecraft, Star Wars and Trolls.
  • BrainPOP – animated learning videos for grades 4+, with BrainPOP Jr. for K-3.
  • Nat Geo Kids – animal and nature videos for kids of all ages.
  • Khan Academy Kids – educational content for toddlers – early elementary school.
  • Bright Side – engaging riddles and random fact videos for older kids.
  • PBS Kids – clips and some full episodes from popular PBS kids. Best for ages 5-10.

Limited filtering

The name of the app may lead parents into a false sense of security. Although YouTube Kids has a a parent-directed filtering system based on the child’s age—including artificial intelligence, human review, and community flagging—it can’t catch everything.  As such, some inappropriate videos slip through those filters. Learn more about explicit content on YouTube.

Inappropriate content

Remixed or knockoff cartoons that are harmful to kids can slip past filter criteria and into your child’s account. 

Some cartoons are dubbed over with explicit language or sexually suggestive audio. Others pirate characters from popular kid’s cartoons and create distorted storylines that can scare children, such as main character deaths.

Peppa pig dentist trip

Writer James Bridle’s blog post exposed one version of Peppa Pig where a trip to the dentist becomes a place of torture, another where Peppa eats her father, and yet another where she drinks bleach. [1]

While parents can flag inappropriate videos and block them from their child’s profiles—and these particular videos have now been taken down—variations are created as fast as they are removed.

It’s Impossible for Parents to Monitor This Amount of Content

YouTube Kids pulls content from YouTube. Youtube proper has nearly a quarter of a million videos (500 hours/minute or 720,000 hours/day) uploaded daily.

500+ hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

little boy throwing tantrum over a tablet

Does YouTube Kids Have Parental Controls? 

YouTube Kids provides several robust parental controls. You can approve content, block any video or channel, turn off the search feature, and set a timer to limit screen time (only available in-app). However, no parental control or filter works perfectly.

To set a time limit, click the padlock icon at the bottom right of the screen. Choose “Set time limit” and slide the dot left or right to your desired length.

how to set time limit on youtube kids

If inappropriate content comes up, parents must block it by clicking on the three dots and selecting “Block this video.” 

While prevention is an option, it is difficult to achieve because a parent may not realize what they need to block until their child has already been exposed to something inappropriate.

Prevention rather than intervention

Some parents prefer safe devices for their kids that do not allow social media apps. They can still be safely connected to their child without the worry of what kids may be exposed to.

two small children smiling while they look at a tablet

How Can Parents Set Up YouTube Kids?

An adult’s Google account is required to create a YouTube Kids account. 

Once the terms and conditions are agreed to, create a profile for each child and set their viewing preferences. Each profile asks for your child’s age. 

What age is YouTube Kids for? 

YouTube describes this platform as being designed for kids ages 4-12. There are three categories: 

  • Preschool: Under 4
  • Younger: Ages 5-8
  • Older: Ages 9-12
youtube kids content suggestions

Children over 13 can still use YouTube Kids’ profiles, or you can create a restricted profile on YouTube for them. However, the flagship YouTube app has fewer parental controls, more explicit content available, and is overall less safe for kids

illustration of three kids watching a fast food ad on tv

Targeted Ads on YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids allows targeted ads to children. Targeted ads are advertisements that are curated based on a user’s data, preferences, watching history, etc. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that commercials are dangerous for children whose impulse control and critical thinking skills are underdeveloped, making them easily influenced. [7]

“To young children, advertising is just as credible as Dan Rather reading the evening news is to an adult.”

– Dan Kunkel, PhD [6]

Adolsecent’s growing brains struggle to discern between bias in advertisements and reality. [6]

Can YouTube Kids Collect My Child’s Information?

Yes. Parents have to agree to data collection to start a YouTube Kids account. In the fine print YouTube Kids uses Google to collect your child’s information—their name, age, birth month (if you entered it when signing up), viewing history, and preferences.

Google claims that collecting this information is so that children can have a better customized and curated experience. However, it is clear that this is a business model where platforms turn users into the product.

The harm from children’s data collection

Not only can data collection cause harm to children by feeding them targeted ads, but researchers also believe there is risk of jeopardizing kids’ futures due to data profiling.

Data profiling is a process using machine learning and algorithms to “to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.” [2]

The upcoming generations may have massive data available to profile them in high-stakes ways—possibly affecting their university or job offerings, financial future (insurance or credit score), or increasing their risk of identity theft. [3]

Profiting from Data Mining

In 2018, Google and its parent company, Alphabet, made a 30.7 billion dollar profit. [3] A significant portion of that wealth was likely linked to data collected from children using targeted ads. 

Due to collecting personal information on minors without parental consent and using persistent tracking identifiers [3], YouTube was fined 170 million dollars in 2019 for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). [3]

Because of Google’s immense wealth, this fine was merely a minor inconvenience —hardly enough to encourage them to honor child privacy or promote responsible behavior. To comply with the law, they added a passive parental consent section into the YouTube Kids setup that many parents miss.

illustration of youtube with money coins coming out of it

How YouTube obtains parental consent

YouTube Kids obtains parental consent to collect data on children in the fine print of their agreement when setting up a profile.

“YouTube Kids . . . does track information about what kids are watching in order to recommend videos. It also collects personally identifying device information.”

– Associated Press [4]

Parents may not realize they are agreeing to allow YouTube to collect private data about their kids—as stated in the Terms and conditions—when entering their password to set up an account.

Notice how the app will collect information about the content kids view, the ads they click on, the rate at which they scroll, and their screen habits (i.e. time of day and duration on the app).

Youtube Kids Collects your child's data

Opting out of data collection with a YouTube Kids account is impossible. You must delete your child’s YouTube Kids account if you want to stop Google from collecting data.

happy family with two kids on a couch

Parent Choice

Parents and caregivers can use this information to decide if YouTube Kids is a fit for their family. Despite the potential online danger, we can best prepare kids to be safe on tech by teaching them digital citizenship skills and permitting age-appropriate amounts of technology.

Kids can learn digital literacy to identify what content is harmful and what is safe. When it comes to making decisions with your kids, you know them best.

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