YouTube Kids rolls out with family-friendly content, parental controls

Want to create loyal consumers who naturally gravitate to your product? Get ‘em while they’re young and impressionable, and give them exactly what they want… to a point.

That’s YouTube’s strategy for its new kid-focused app “YouTube Kids,” a family-friendly version of its mainstay that rolled out today in the United States. It’s the first Google product, it says, that’s “built from the ground up with the little ones in mind.”

It may have been designed for “the little ones,” but there potentially are big dollar signs in those bright little eyes.

Kids have been, and remain, the largest consumers of video. Nielsen, in a recent study, found that kids aged 2 to 11 watch more than 111 hours of traditional, linear TV each month, as well as nearly 11 more hours of time-shifted video and more than 9 hours of video accessed through DVD/Blu-ray devices.

Amazon, meanwhile, reports that 65% of the most replayed programs on Amazon Prime Instant Video “are shows for children.”

In a February 2014 paper research firm Smarty Pants wrote that, “From a kid’s point of view, Netflix and YouTube are one-stop shops for all their video needs.”

As Marjorie Cohn, head of television at DreamWorks Animation, told eMarketer: “(Kids) are absolutely accustomed to the idea of on-demand.”

Enter YouTube Kids.

Google says the new app makes it “safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore.

The app was designed to be easier for kids to use, with a brighter and bigger interface that’s “perfect for small thumbs and pudgy fingers.” For parents, we’ve built in options that let you decide how your family uses the app, including the ability to set viewing limits with a timer.

The app will automatically filter out potentially objectionable content and allows parents to personalize the built-in parental controls. Parents can set a built-in timer (with alerts that tells the child when a session is over), mute specific audio tracks like background music and sound effects, and can even block Google’s bread and butter, Internet search.

And, it’s available free on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S.

YouTube says it will offer content in four categories: “Shows,” ”Music,” “Learning” and “Explore.”

While “search” can be made limited, it’s still available to augment channel and playlist browsing. For the time being, YouTube Kids won’t be offering kids content recommendations, as YouTube does. But, some reports say, that could change over time.

Content on YT Kids includes titles from Dreamworks TV, Jim Henson TV, Sesame Street, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends and a plethora of other video and musical content for the family.

YT Kids will be free – and ad supported. YouTube says it will make sure the ads are appropriate for all audiences.

YouTube Kids Product Manager Shimrit Ben-Yair told the Guardian that YouTube decided to develop YouTube Kids because millions of hours of “family entertainment” was watched on YouTube daily.

“For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on a variety of topics,” wrote Ben-Yair and VP of Engineering Pavni Diwanji in a blog post. “And today, we’re launching YouTube Kids, a new family-friendly app that makes it easy for kids to explore a vast selection of videos on any topic. 

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn