YouTube is about to release a childproofed version of its mobile app, with built-in parental controls, a simpler interface, and no comments.
The new app, dubbed YouTube Kids, will launch on February 23, but only for Android devices in the United States at first, TechCrunch reports. It’s unclear how much of YouTube’s content will be part of the new app, but initial partners include Jim Henson TV (the makers of Sesame Street), DreamWorks, and National Geographic. There’s also no word on how advertising will differ from the main app, if at all.
A screenshot shared with USA Today shows much larger buttons for videos and menu options, and the search function will filter out naughty words. Parents will have additional controls, including a mute switch and the ability to shut down the app after a time limit.
The YouTube app is part of a bigger push by Google to bring its online services to children. In addition to YouTube, Google plans to offer kid-friendly versions of search and Gmail, though the latter may be especially tricky as it requires a Google account. Google doesn’t technically allow users under age 13 to sign up, as the Federal Trade Commission requires parental consent and enforcesadditional rules on data collection.
Why this matters: YouTube has seen an explosion in kid-related activity lately, as a new generation of tech-savvy users starts having children and recognizing the tranquilizing power of a phone or tablet with videos on it. USA Today reports that viewing in YouTube's “family entertainment” channels grew by 200 percent year-over-year, compared to 50 percent growth site-wide.
Still, companies like Netflix and Amazon have done a better job of catering to youngsters, with kid-friendly sections and services. And with Nickelodeon getting ready to launch its own streaming service, a proper response from YouTube had to come sooner or later.