Is YouTube Kids Safe for Kids? An Essential Guide for Parents

Kid on a computer, watching a video on YouTube
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Is YouTube Kids Safe? A Summary

YouTube Kids is a child-friendly version of YouTube for kids aged 2-12 years. It’s available as a website and mobile app on Android and iOS. It offers a wide range of fun and educational content for children such as popular cartoon shows, music, and entertainment.

However, since the content is curated by an algorithm, there’s the risk of inappropriate content such as violence and nudity slipping through to kids, which can have serious consequences. This raises the question: is YouTube Kids safe for children?

On the whole, yes, it is relatively safe. But you should make use of the parental controls to enhance your children’s experience of the app. The main parental controls include the ability to:

  • Set an age-appropriate filter for your child.
  • Block or report inappropriate content.
  • Set a timer to limit children’s watch time.
  • Turn off search so that children cannot independently look for videos.
  • View your child’s watch history and search history.
  • Handpick content so that children can only see the videos you have approved.

For more details on all these options and how to use them, read our full article below.

Did you know that several YouTube channels and YouTube videos geared to kids are amongst the biggest in the world in terms of the number of subscribers and total views? Knowing this, it’s no surprise that the leading video-streaming platform launched YouTube Kids in 2015 specifically for its youngest viewers. But is YouTube Kids safe for children? What kind of parental controls and privacy options does it offer? These are some of the pressing questions that we’ll answer in this article. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about staying safe on YouTube Kids.

What is YouTube Kids and How is it Different from YouTube?

Youtube logo with lock over itYoutube Kids is a version of YouTube catering specifically to children between the ages of 2 and 12. It’s available as a free app and website, featuring TV shows, music, educational videos, and user-generated content curated for young viewers.

With its colorful interface, whimsical sound effects, and picture-based navigation, YouTube Kids is child-friendly and fun. Viewers can swipe left or right to navigate through the videos or view channels through the categories at the top of the screen. As of February 2021, YouTube Kids had over 35 million weekly viewers across more than 80 countries.

However, children cannot directly start using this service. A parent must first set it up for their children with customized parental controls in place. You can create up to eight user profiles, each of which can be assigned an age range to only allow content suitable for that group. You can pick from three age groups:

  • Preschool for kids aged 4 and under
  • Younger for kids aged 5-8
  • Older for kids aged 9-12

Despite the algorithm curating kid-friendly videos based on age, there have been plenty of instances when inappropriate videos, content, and advertising have slipped through to kids. This raises the question, how safe is YouTube Kids for young viewers? Let’s consider this in detail below.

Is YouTube Kids safe?

The content on YouTube Kids is sourced from the main YouTube app by an algorithm that filters out unsuitable stuff. But algorithms are not foolproof and cannot judge nuances within the content. So, although YouTube Kids is safe overall, there’s always a small chance that disturbing videos or ads containing some sort of nudity, violence, or other inappropriate things will slip through.

For instance, most recently, the hit Netflix show Squid Game has sparked trendy video content aimed at kids, even though the show itself is hyper-violent and meant for an adult audience. The immense success of the show has made it part of children’s digital culture despite its inherent violence. This is alarming and potentially dangerous for young children.

This is not the first instance where adult content has been repurposed for kids on YouTube. In 2017, the New York Times reported how seemingly innocuous videos featuring popular children’s cartoon characters often contain disturbing, lewd, or violent content. This happens because YouTube’s algorithms categorize the children’s characters as “appropriate” for a young audience without detecting that the actions depicted by the characters are grossly inappropriate.

YouTube’s parent company Google has responded to this by engaging more human monitors in its curation efforts. These monitors can personally review videos to ensure that only child-friendly content is allowed on YouTube Kids.

Furthermore, parents can block and report inappropriate videos. However, the limitation of this is that it often only happens after children have already been exposed to disturbing content.

Videos on YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids organizes content into four categories:

  • Shows, featuring clips and full episodes of popular children’s programs and cartoons such as Thomas and Friends, Peppa Pig, and Winnie the Pooh.
  • Music, featuring classic and contemporary children’s songs.
  • Learning, featuring education-focused clips from sources such as PBS Kids, TED-Ed, and Khan Academy.
  • Explore, featuring a variety of user-created content, toy-related videos (including many “unboxing” clips), and more random “kid-friendly” content.

Apart from this, the “Older” kids profile includes a “Gaming” section that features video content about popular children’s video games such as Minecraft and Pokemon GO.

Ads on YouTube Kids

Just like on the YouTube app, content on YouTube Kids is supported by paid ads. The platform claims that these ads undergo a rigorous review process before being approved as family-friendly. They are targeted based on the videos your child watches and do not include any click-throughs to websites or product purchase flows.

However, many brands and young “influencers” have channels on YouTube Kids that offer advertorial content in the guise of entertainment. For instance, there are videos from toy companies, fast food chains, and game franchises aimed at encouraging kids to buy their products.

The trend of “unboxing videos” is especially popular and intended to motivate children to buy the things they see unboxed by kids in the video. This sort of content is more concerning than regular paid ads, because the latter can at least be avoided if you sign up for a YouTube Premium subscription. Moreover, because these unboxings are often done by influencers that the children already admire, they’ll find it harder to see it for what it is: a creatively spun ad.

How to Make YouTube Kids Safer

Despite the risks, YouTube Kids has its advantages. It offers a plethora of fun and educational content that can help young viewers learn new things, expand their creativity, and gain new perspectives. This makes it worth allowing your kids to access the platform.

The good news is that you can control and monitor how your children use YouTube Kids just as easily as you can adjust privacy settings on YouTube. Some of the action steps are explained below.

How to safely set up an account on YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids need to be set up by a parent before children can watch it. You can either download the iOS or Android app or go to the YouTube Kids website. The homepage shows two options, namely: “I’m a kid,” and “I’m a parent.” If you click on “I’m a kid”, it asks for a parent to complete the setup process, as described below.

Screenshot of YouTube Kids set up, Get a parent to set up YouTube Kids windows

  1. Click on “I’m a parent” and then click “Next.”
  2. Enter your birth year to verify your age and click “Submit.”
  3. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, parent age verification window
  4. You will now see an introductory video. Click “Next.
  5. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, introductory video window
  6. Sign in with your Google account and agree to the YouTube Kids privacy policy. You can skip signing in, but this will limit your access to parental controls.
  7. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, Sign in with parent's account window
  8. Enter your child’s name, age, and birth month. Click “Next.”
  9. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, Create a profile window
  10. Select a profile based on your child’s age and click “Next.” You can read more about a profile by clicking on it.
  11. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, Recommended content settings window with redacted info
  12. Decide if you want to keep Search functionality on or off for your child. This will determine whether or not your child will be able to search for new videos by themselves. (You can change this later, too.)
  13. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, Do you want search on or off window
  14. You will now get a quick tour of the YouTube Kids parental control options. Tap Done to complete the setup process.
  15. Screenshot of Set up YouTube Kids, Parent feature tour window

You can add more kid profiles at any time from the Settings area. This is a locked section of the app that contains all the parental control features that kids cannot access.

Parental control features

smartphone with screen settings iconApart from creating age-appropriate profiles for children, parents have several other options to control the content on YouTube Kids. These can be accessed through the Settings area, which can only be unlocked by entering a passcode or answering a math question. Parents can do the following to control their children’s usage of YouTube Kids:

  • Block and report content: You can do this for individual videos by clicking the icon that looks like three dots and selecting “Block” or “Report.”
  • Disable search: This prevents your child from searching for specific content on YouTube Kids. This can be done by editing the child’s profile from the settings section in the app or website.
  • Set a timer: This lets you set a limit (up to an hour) for your kids to use the app. This option is only available in the YouTube Kids mobile apps on Android and iOS. It’s not available on the website.
  • View watch history and search history: This allows you to see which videos your child has watched on the app. You can also delete this history from the parent area of the app or website.
  • Handpick content that kids can watch: This is explained in detail in the section “How to set up content filters” below.

How to set up content filters

Content filters allow you to select specific videos, channels, and collections that your child can watch. A collection on YouTube Kids is a set of videos and channels grouped together according to topics, such as music or science. You can set up such filters using the YouTube Kids mobile app. Below are the instructions for Android. The process is similar on iOS.

  1. Open the YouTube Kids app and tap the lock icon in the lower right corner.
  2. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app
  3. Complete the math problem or enter your custom passcode to enter the parent area. 
  4. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app, Enter Parent area math problem window
  5. Tap “Settings.”
  6. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app, Settings option highlighted
  7. Select your child’s profile and enter your account password to modify the settings.
  8. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app Settings, Select your child's profile window with redacted info
  9. Under “Content Settings”, tap “Edit Settings.”
  10. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app, Edit Settings window with redacted info
  11. Tap “Approve Content Yourself.”
  12. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app, Review content settings for kid profile window
  13. Follow the on-screen instructions to select videos for your child and then tap Done to exit.
  14. Screenshot of a YouTube Kids app, Select video window

Note: You can modify or turn off the approved content any time from the Settings.

Switch to YouTube Premium to avoid ads

The content filters and other parental controls do not protect your child from inappropriate ads that might slip past the YouTube Kids algorithm. If you’re faced with this problem, you could consider subscribing to YouTube Premium, which starts at $11.99 per month in the United States. The price varies in other countries. This subscription allows you and your kids to watch ad-free videos and access exclusive content, which could help in creating a safer environment.

Talk to your kids

parent talking to kid on couchNo matter what parental control measures you use, the best way to ensure your children’s safety is by helping them understand the dangers. It’s vital to engage in open and honest communication with your kids so they can confide in you if they face problems.

Make time to watch YouTube Kids videos with your child so you can learn what they enjoy. Involve them in the boundary and rule-setting process so they learn to respect it. Otherwise, it’s enticing for children to find ways to secretly watch what they’re not supposed to.

Most importantly, let them know it’s safe to come to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. This way, even if a problem arises, you can deal with it in a healthy and timely way. For more information, check out our guide on how to make the Internet safer for kids and teens.

Final Thoughts: Is YouTube Kids Safe?

The virtual world, just like the real one, is difficult to navigate for young children. However, with the right guidance and support, we can help make their journey more rewarding and joyful. YouTube Kids can offer a lot of fun, education, and inspiration for children. It’s relatively safe to use and offers ample parental controls that you should make use of.

A blanket ban on online activity is not an answer, because there are plenty of positive aspects of the internet that children can benefit from, such as boundless learning opportunities and creative possibilities. Instead, let’s teach digital literacy from a young age and show our kids how they can stay safe online so they can grow into informed adults. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, or visit our other resources on kids’ social media safety:

YouTube Kids: Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question about YouTube Kids and safety? Check out our FAQ section below. Click or tap on a question to see the answer, or comment below if we haven’t covered your question.

The YouTube Kids app is relatively safe with content curated especially for children. You can make it even safer by setting up parental controls such as age-appropriate content filters for your child and a timer for app usage. You can also block unsuitable content, monitor your child’s watch history, and allow only approved content.

Yes, the YouTube Kids app is free. However, just like YouTube, it’s supported by ads. This poses the risk of inappropriate ads slipping through to kids. If you want to completely avoid this issue, you can opt for a YouTube Premium subscription that starts at $11.99 per month in the United States.

To set parental controls on YouTube Kids, follow these steps:

  1. Open the YouTube Kids app and click on the lock icon.
  2. Enter your passcode or solve the math problem.
  3. Tap “Settings.”
  4. Click on your child’s profile and enter your account password.
  5. Set up the parental controls you wish to use, such as the ability to view your child’s watch history and search history, block or report unsuitable videos, set a timer for app usage, and even handpick the content that children can watch.

Learn more in our complete guide to YouTube Kids.

YouTube Kids is a child-friendly version of YouTube for kids aged 2-12. However, older kids can use it too, if they want. It’s available as a website and a mobile app on iOS and Android.

Tech journalist
Mehak has been writing for over a decade and is passionate about helping people have safer, healthier relationships with all things tech. She has a master’s degree in communication and is especially interested in the impact of technology and the internet on global communities.