It's 7 p.m. -- do you know what your children are watching? Parents can now rest assured that their young blank slates can avoid NSFW videos, PETA-riling clips and possible allusions to pedophilia by watching YouTube Kids, a child-friendly app that the video-streaming platform revealed Tuesday (Feb. 24).
"Today, we're introducing the YouTube Kids app, the first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind," the company wrote on its blog, nearly on the nose of its 10-year anniversary. "The app makes it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore, and is available for free on Google Play and the App Store in the U.S.
The YouTube Kids app is a joy, even for adults. Users can select from four main categories -- Shows, Music, Learning and Explore -- and within those swipe left through channels including Lego, PBS Kids, Kidz Bop and Sesame Street, all backed by a bouncy, unavoidably optimisim-inducing soundtrack.
"A really important element is audio," product lead and group product manager Shimrit Ben-Yair tells Billboard. "Another important element is the animation. The categories icons at the top animate and pop up when you tap on them, and we wanted to use very natural gestures. Kids resonate with the 'slide' gesture for browsing. Lastly, we wanted there to be no 'paper cuts,' to use a design term; for example, the tap targets are bigger for clumsy little fingers, the video autofills the screen without tapping it and the next video autoplays. We were invested in making it as seamless as possible."
Ben-Yair adds that the impetus for YouTube Kids came from data showing "tremendous growth" in family usage of YouTube's main hub. While the latter saw a 50 percent year-over-year growth, kid-focused content showed 200 percent year-over-year growth. Right now her team is focused on the mobile app, which narrowed its content through a mix of algorithmic filtering and a manual quality control with a human team, but haven't ruled out the likelihood of a web-based YouTube Kids.
"There are lots of parents on YouTube," Ben-Yair adds. "I have two kids, a three-and-a-half-year-old and a nine-month-old, and it's a resource to answer my kids' million questions."