Is YouTube Kids safe for kids? Digital safety guide for parents

By on 07-05-2021

What parents need to know about YouTube Kids, one of the most popular apps designed for children

YouTube Kids App Ratings

Qustodio:  5+ (with 20 min. Max & cowatching), 7+ (with 30-min. time limit)

Apple: 4+ 

Android: PEGI 7 

Common Sense: 7+

Intro to YouTube Kids

In 2015, Google launched YouTube Kids, a more contained environment than YouTube, to make it safer and for those under 13 to browse videos online. While the app has drawn scrutiny from the public and regulators for letting inappropriate or not “family friendly” content slip through and for targeting ads at kids, today has shifted to Facebook’s proposed Instagram for Kids. According to our research  YouTube Kids is the video app that kids spent the most time on in 2020 — over 70 minutes per day in the US. Nevertheless, it is the app that parents block the least.

But is YouTube Kids really safer than other social media sites or apps targeted at kids? Is YouTube Kids really safer than YouTube? Most importantly, is YouTube Kids really safe for kids? These are questions we’ll answer in the article below, so you can make your digital parenting decisions with greater confidence. 

Qustodio’s Digital Safety Guide to YouTube Kids

What is YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids is one of the most popular video platforms for children under 13 —though by the time your child is age 8, they will probably want to switch to the ‘real’ YouTube. As the name implies, YouTube Kids is YouTube with a focus on kids. It attempts to weed out violent or inappropriate content from millions of videos and to provide educational or child-friendly videos such as how to build a model volcano, and shows such as ChuChu TV, Masha the Bear and Peppa Pig and native parental controls such as time limits. 

What do kids like about YouTube Kids?

  • YouTube Kids is easy for even the youngest kids to use. 
  • Children love repetition and unlike the more static television of our youth, today’s kids just have to click a button to watch something again, or do nothing in the case of automatic replay.
  • YouTube Kids gives children a sense of control over what they see by giving them access to all kinds a videos. This ability to choose is something that they probably don’t get in other areas of their lives.
  • YouTube creates mimetic desire. Mimetic desire is the pleasure kids get from watching other people get joy from playing a game or unboxing a toy. 

Is YouTube Kids safe for kids?

A study done by Common Sense media found that 27% of videos watched by kids 8 and under are intended for older target audiences, with violence being the most likely negative content type. While there is currently no way to make the content your child sees on YouTube Kids 100% safe or appropriate, YouTube has come a long way in its efforts to improve its content filters, its content provider approval process for videos for kids, and to provide more robust parental controls. Combined, these all help make YouTube Kids a generally safe place for kids to watch videos. Parents should also be aware that YouTube Kids is ad supported.

How can I make YouTube Kids safer for my kids?

  1. Set screen time limits (and stick to them). Apps and streaming platforms are designed to be addictive and children generally have not developed self control. Use YouTube Kids native time limit feature and/or a parental control app like Qustodio to put them in place. Qustodio does not recommend screen time to kids under 5 (except for video calls with family). For 5+, it depends on the child, but in general 15 to 30 minutes is plenty for younger kids, and 1 hour max for 8+. See also, these screen time recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). 
  2. Select ‘approved content only’ mode.  This ensures your kids are only able to watch videos, channels or collections that you’ve hand-picked and approved, and prohibits search. YouTube Kids allows you to select content levels based on your child’s age.
  3. Block videos you don’t approve of. You can also ‘recommend’ videos you approve of that they have watched before so they can watch them again.
  4. Switch to Premium to avoid ads.
  5. Co-watch and monitor content. Especially for young children, make sure you sit down with them, or that they watch videos in a common area so you can have an eye on what they are viewing. It’s a great way to know what your kids like, strike up fun conversations, and be ready to react when something goes wrong. When co-viewing is not possible, check in on their viewing history. 

Qustodio’s final advice on YouTube Kids

While there is still no way to guarantee your child won’t see something inappropriate (e.g. nudity, violence), we think YouTube Kids is mostly safe if you take the time to set up kid profiles and parental controls to limit the kind of content they can view and the amount of time they can connect. We recommend parents encourage their children to use YouTube kids for as long as possible before switching to regular YouTube. No matter which YouTube you use, we also recommend co-viewing and monitoring what they are watching. If you have the budget, switch to Premium to avoid all the ads.

Qustodio’s Smart Parenting Tips newsletter is designed to help you stay informed as a parent and raise your children in the digital age with a bit more confidence. No scaremongering. Nothing trendy. Just the best advice from real experts.

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