Despite its popularity with kids, YouTube isn’t really designed with youngsters in mind. Its content spans all the way from mild to exceedingly mature, and comments left on YouTube videos are infamously vitriolic.
But as YouTube grows in popularity – it now makes up nearly a fifth of all Web traffic – parent company Google is considering how elements of the site can be made more appropriate for kids.
A Google spokesperson confirmed to multiple news outlets that the YouTube Kids app will be available for Android smart phones and tablets starting next week (no word on iOS availability yet, though presumably support for Apple devices isn’t too far behind). The app will be designed differently from the main YouTube software, with larger icons and less scrolling for kids to navigate. In addition to original content, the app will also allow access to existing kid-friendly series such as "Reading Rainbow" and "National Geographic Kids." Crucially, it will also allow parents to set a timer to limit how much video their kids can watch each day.
YouTube Kids will be divided into four sections: Shows, Learning, Music, and Explore. Kids or their parents can look up channels and playlists in each of those four categories; alternatively, parents can search for specific topics to find videos for their kids. The app won’t allow users to search for curse words, and will automatically limit search results to content that is age appropriate.
YouTube Kids will be debuted at the Kidscreen Summit, a conference for children’s media and entertainment companies. YouTube executive Malik Ducard will deliver the summit’s keynote address.
The app got an endorsement from "Reading Rainbow" host LeVar Burton, who said in a statement, “At a time when a child's access to media can be overwhelming and filled with empty calories, I'm excited that YouTube Kids is making this commitment to give families a safe environment to spark curiosity while still entertaining.”
It’s worth noting that YouTube Kids will join some existing software that allows parents to control what their kids watch on smart phones and tablets. Many Android devices have a “kid-friendly” setting designed to block access to apps or content that aren’t appropriate for youngsters. The iPhone and iPad have parental controls that allow adults to restrict certain apps when their kids are using a device. But YouTube Kids will augment those controls by giving kids access only to those videos that are appropriate for their age.