YouTube Kids rolls out an ad-free option

YouTube Kids, the child-friendly version of YouTube’s service that launched last year and faced criticism for the way it handled advertisements, has today launched a version of the service that will offer parents the option to pay for an ad-free experience. Now, YouTube Kids will be bundled into the YouTube Red subscription program, a paid membership that offers a variety of features, including offline videos, background play and no paid ads.

Explains Google in an announcement, YouTube Red will now be extended to the YouTube Kids application, meaning kid videos can be saved for those times you don’t have a connection, songs can be sung along to even while using other apps, and paid advertisements will disappear.

For YouTube Red subscribers, these features also work in YouTube’s main application, as well as its standalone YouTube Music and Gaming apps, in addition to YouTube Kids. (The Kids app works with the Red subscription in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand for the time being, Google notes.)

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That all sounds great, right? Well…

Removing paid advertisements from YouTube Kids by paying for a subscription doesn’t fully address the complaints some consumer watchdog organizations had with this children’s app. The issue was never really the paid, disclosed ads that appeared on the service. It was the subtler, paid endorsements that YouTube video creators didn’t disclose. It was the fact that kids could surface actual TV commercials when searching for a generic keyword, like “cookies,” and this wouldn’t be subject to YouTube’s paid advertisement guidelines.

It was the fact that big-name advertisers like Coca-Cola, GM, Oreo, Kellogg and others broke the pledge they made as members of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) to not serve ads to kids under 12, but skirted around this promise by way of using YouTube. On YouTube, they could again offer their TV commercials to young audiences, along with product placements and other promotional videos.

In other words, if you’re a parent considering buying the YouTube Red membership for the handy offline access and background play, that’s fine. But don’t be fooled into thinking this truly eliminates all the advertising on YouTube’s platform or in YouTube Kids.