YouTube Kids update gives kids their own profiles, expands controls

YouTube Kids, the kid-friendly, more filtered version of YouTube first introduced in 2015, is getting a notable upgrade. The updated app is adding several new features designed to reflect the app’s now aging user base, including profiles that are customized based on the kid’s date of birth, as well as additional security controls for parents and kids.

While YouTube Kids came under fire in the past for not fully locking down the YouTube experience, overall, it’s a safer way to allow kids to browse YouTube compared with giving them access to the main app.

The Kids app is designed with a simpler interface, fun music and curated selections of kid-appropriate content from publishers like DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, National Geographic Kids, Reading Rainbow and Thomas the Tank Engine, among others.

In response to earlier complaints, parents were later allowed to toggle off the app’s search capabilities and set their own private passcode, instead of using the default setting, which spells out numbers as words for parents to enter.

In the new release, parents can now sign in with their Google account in order to create customizable profiles for their child or children.

Based on the kid’s age, YouTube Kids will change the way it looks. This will be useful not only for parents with multiple kids, but also because YouTube Kids itself, by default, looked like an app that was designed more so for preschoolers than the school-age crowd.

With the new profiles, younger children will see an app that uses less text while older kids will have more content on their homescreens, says YouTube.

Plus, kids with brothers or sisters can choose to set their own passcode to keep the others out of their own account. (Parents, of course, can override this if need be.)

The app also introduces a new setup process for parents that includes more detailed information to help them make the right choices related to the parental control options, as well as be more informed about the app in general.

For example, a longer intro explains to parents that YouTube does not manually review the videos in YouTube Kids — meaning there’s still a chance that something inappropriate could get through its automated filters. And it details how to block and report the videos that slip through.

“Remember our systems work hard to filter out more mature content from the app. But no system is perfect,” writes Balaji Srinivasan, the YouTube Kids engineering director, in today’s blog post announcing the upgraded app.

In other words, YouTube Kids is definitely saying that it’s not going to devote additional staff to make YouTube Kids 100 percent safe. It’s just aiming for “good enough.”

A final setup screen offers a longer explanation as to why parents may want to turn search on or off, allowing parents to better understand the risk associated with that decision.

YouTube says it’s now working on a way to allow parents to add more content to the app, but doesn’t go into detail. It’s also looking into building out the experience for tweens, with a focus on the categories that most appeal to that somewhat older demographic.

Though YouTube Kids may not be perfect, it has proven to be popular. The app is now live in 37 countries, has more than 11 million weekly active viewers and has seen more than 70 billion views in the app. (The new kid profiles, however, are only available in select markets for now. The full list is here.)