YouTube is an extremely popular video service that has pretty much become the dominant way to watch and share videos online, and it’s available for everyone. While that’s an awesome thing, seeing as we have a ton of content available, it also becomes worrisome as a parent, seeing as it is increasingly hard to control what your kids watch. The service hosts videos for all ages and all brackets of people, and for a parent to select which videos are allowed and what’s appropriate to watch is not always a feasible option. Thankfully, Google has made things a little easier on that end with the release of the new YouTube Kids app for Android. Let’s take a look!
This brand new app is meant to make things easier for parents, serving as a standalone YouTube client that only shows appropriate content for your kids. But even better, the app also goes out of its way to show educational material in order to stimulate learning, all while having fun. To start with, it’s worth mentioning that the app is at this moment only available in the United States, and you can find it by clicking this Play Store link. However, if you’re interested in the app and are not a U.S. resident, you can still install it yourself outside of the Play Store by simply downloading the app, available here, and initiating the install process yourself.
Once you install and open the app, you will see a little animation and then the main screen. The first thing you’ll notice is the friendly background music that really fits in with the spirit of the app and makes it feel very friendly. The first time that you open the app, there will be a small section on the side urging you to customize the app with the appropriate settings by tapping the lock icon on the lower right:
Once you try to do that, you will see the screen below:
This is the security measure that the app uses in order to make sure that an adult is in charge: it assumes your kid cannot read, and it asks you to input a four digit combination that changes every time. Once you do so, you will be able to change the settings, set up a timer and give the developers some feedback. For now, let’s take a look at the settings:
The options are kind of sparse, but then again, the app does most of the work for you anyway so there’s no point in changing things around too much. It would be nice if you could do things like customize the content to a certain age, but the app really works fine as is. As you can see, the app offers you options to disable the background music and sound effects of the app, which is nice. Another very important option that you might want to take a look at is the “Search” option. By default, the app lets you search for videos and other content, and you can disable that feature here and just stick to the basics. As we mentioned, another option that is available to you is the timer, which allows you to set a time limit for the app in order to control your children’s usage. It’s a nifty feature that makes sense on an app of this kind and helps make your life a little bit easier, since it’s one less thing that you have to worry about:
So, now that we’re done with the setup, let’s take a look at the main content. As you can see, the app offers a big, children-friendly interface that shows you a ton of kid-appropriate content:
You may also notice the icons above: the app is divided into 4 categories and splits content between them. The first one is “Shows”, and it shows you content that is grouped by show instead of individual videos. For example, clicking on one of these shows basically takes you to that channel and lets you browse all of their videos. These channels may include full episodes or just short videos with those characters:
The next category is “Music”, and as you may have guessed, it shows you the main kid-friendly music channels on YouTube. Tapping on one of the channels shows you their main songs and a nice collection of related content:
Next, you have “Learning”, which groups together the main channels with educational content in an easy-to-digest fashion:
Lastly, “Explore” groups other channels that are kid-friendly and contain all kinds of content, including funny viral videos and other things like that. All age-appropriate, of course, and it seems like someone actually took the time to curate the selection and make sure it’s decent:
As we mentioned before, the app includes a “Search” feature. It allows you to search for new videos outside of the selection on the main screen, and it basically acts like a real search feature. Of course, Google does something smart here and limits the content to somewhat acceptable things and age-appropriate videos – searching for something like “robots” produces the content you see below:
However, from previous experience, I wouldn’t bet on Google’s search to be right every time, and more than likely there will be content that is going to slip through the cracks. While the app does a good job by excluding terms that are adult or violent in nature from the searches, it’s not going to be perfect and it will definitely not replace parental supervision, so if you enable this feature, be advised. The interface when you go into a video is pretty standard and easy to understand. The app also lists together related videos and easily allows you to jump to the next one, which is a great way to keep things flowing, meaning you will not have to set up the next video in advance as the app will just figure it out:
Another thing to look out for is the fact that your kid could exit the app at any time and do other stuff on your phone. There is no option to lock the phone to that app natively, as that’s something that Android doesn’t really encourage or support, although it would be nice if the app asked you to enter the pin code when you left it, same as it does when you try to go into the settings. But if you’re in Lollipop, there is something that you can do to make sure your kid doesn’t exit the app: just use the new screen pinning feature, which allows you to lock an app that is currently running and prevent the user from leaving it by pressing the home or back button:
Overall, this is a great app and a decent first effort from Google’s part into this new segment. This kind of application is lacking in numbers on Android, and the quality greatly varies between the few that exist. This app seems to be the best of the bunch at this point, and Google really did a great job at making sure it’s well designed, kid friendly, easy to use, has a ton of content and all the right features. I can’t wait to see what future updates might mean for this app. In the meantime, we are left with an app that does its job, and then some, in a really stylish and well-designed manner.