I wasn’t surprised to learn that YouTube Kids
reportedly isn’t as popular as YouTube would like it to be. The app takes a child-friendly selection of YouTube content and silos it off from the main service. The problem? As Bloomberg tells it
, many kids drift away to the main app long before their 13th birthday, which is when YouTube would like them to.
It may be the selection of content dragging kids away, but in my experience, YouTube Kids has another problem — it’s overdesigned.
Let’s say a child is begging you to let them watch Peppa Pig on your phone. And let’s say you feel it’s the right time for that. You open YouTube Kids and have to sit through several seconds of unnecessary intro animation and music. Then you have to navigate an app that forces landscape mode on you, which might be difficult with a wriggling child in your hands. And the interface is slow and more cumbersome than it needs to be, and it plays a music loop that can’t be switched off even in the parental settings.
Fire up the YouTube app, tap search, and ‘Peppa Pig,’ and you’re playing what you want in no time at all. The problem with using the main app is what you gain in speed you lose in risks of accidentally playing a fake or 'satirical’ version of the show, not to mention having Peppa Pig polluting your viewing history. But hey, that’s why YouTube’s Incognito Mode was made, right? (Kind of, I suppose).
YouTube Kids only makes sense as an app if you’re going to leave a child with a device for a long period of time unattended to watch YouTube videos. Then the 'fun’ music and animation, and the forced landscape mode aimed at tiny hands, make sense.
But I really wouldn’t recommend leaving a child browsing the YouTube Kids. While the company recently experimented with manually curating all the videos on the site, Bloomberg reports that didn’t go well:
“YouTube conducted a trial recently to see the impact of hand-picking every video that appears in the Kids app. It’s something critics have proposed; many of the app’s scandals involve kids stumbling onto user-generated videos that would not have snuck past careful human censors. In the internal trials, however, kids between seven and 12 grew bored of the limited library and went to surf regular YouTube, according to people familiar with the test. ”
When it comes to YouTube and kids, supervision is very much advised.