YouTube Kids is Available!
There is much excitement in the air and online about the news… not just about the Oscars, but the newly announced app for kids from Google – YouTube Kids. This new app, developed by Google for the under-five age group provides a quick, easy interface for little ones to access “kid-friendly” videos from YouTube. There are some really nice things about this app, and a few things to be aware of.
Parents (or children who know their number words) can open a settings screen which allows for turning off the background music (a GOOD idea) to turning off sound effects. Parents can also turn off the search feature to keep little ones in just the videos on the home screen. There is also a timer which can be set to limit the amount of time a child is watching the videos… this has a remarkable span including the “limitation” of viewing to ONLY 120 minutes! Relaunching the app allows the child directly back into the app, even if the time limitation was reached.
Full Screen Automatically
When a video is selected the video automatically changes to full screen, making it easier for children to stay focused on the video without other videos appearing.
IF you have the search option available there is a microphone icon which children, or you, can use to search for videos. This makes it easier for children who are not great spellers or typists to find a video on a topic or with a character they are eager to find.
The variety of videos is wide. You will find familiar characters and a few new ones perhaps too.There are also instructional videos and some surprises (especially when you search – more on this below)
This sort of app just makes it more likely that children will be passive consumers of video on their devices. Sitting, laying on the floor, or riding in a backseat watching videos should be just one very, very small part of the way children use technologies. This is not to say we adults can’t join in (more on this below).
The parental controls are easily bypassed. Closing the app and reopening it turns the timer off. A parent who wants to control the amount of time a child is using this app via the timer will need to set the timer each time the app is opened. Of course many four-year olds will also be able to read the number words and enter in the “secret” code to change the settings all by themselves.
This is a tough one. This app includes a lot of content which we love to share with children. Fun videos, songs and also learning and how-to videos. This content is a little too broad perhaps, especially if you intend to have children searching and finding videos in an independent manner. Say your child is interested in all things “bath” or you are searching for bathtime songs. A search for “bath” brings up “bathroom tour” and “bathroom remodel” (hints on organizing a bathroom or remodeling one from home improvement experts) as well as some adults sharing bath tips and some reviews of bath products. Searching “birth” brings up even odder options. I think I would turn search off in parental settings!
This app will need to be supported financially, and it appears placing “child appropriate ads” is the method chosen by Google. The “pay to play” with a little money is my preferred method of payment rather than the interruption and distraction of children, but others may be okay with this choice. We must support the development and maintenance of apps for children one way or another.
How to Maximize this App
While we know that there are times we need a child to spend a little independent time so WE can spend a little time cooking dinner or answering an important phone call, but we also believe the use of mobile devices as pacifiers can, and should, be limited.
Instead, use this app to watch videos together.
Here are some ideas:
- Pause the video and talk about the characters.
- Ask your child to point out colors she is learning or shapes he notices.
- Sing along then sing the songs when you are also away from the device.
- Pause the video and ask, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why did he do that?” or “What would you do?”
- After a video stop and draw or act out part of the story.
- Find books related to the themes or content your child chooses and read them together.
Be part of the action instead of apart from the action and this app may provide opportunities for great fun and learning with your child.