YouTube has been the go-to website for video content for over a decade, and its popularity has only grown over the years. Every new movie, video game, song or TV show is available in some form on YouTube, be it in the form of trailers and edited scenes or music videos and commentary.

To its credit, the website’s safety practices have evolved over the years, but anyone can still upload videos to YouTube — many of which are inappropriate for children. Yes, there are content reviews, and the platform does remove videos for violating its terms. But the chances of your child coming across vulgar or violent content intended for adults are still there.

A child-friendly app is the perfect solution for this issue — YouTube Kids. But how does it filter content? Is YouTube Kids safe?

Below is a parent’s online safety guide to YouTube Kids, including how it works, what you can do to make it safer and age-appropriate alternatives you can look into.

What Is YouTube Kids?

YouTube Kids is an app Google developed to provide a child-friendly YouTube experience. It offers parents control over the content their children can access, the ability to block and approve content and a customized experience for certain age ranges.

When you first set up your child’s profile, you’ll have three age-based content settings to choose from:

Screenshot of YouTube kids with three options for choosing content experience: Preschool, Younger, and Older.

  • Preschool (Ages 4 & under): Content curated for this age range is suitable for children in that stage of development. It focuses on simple concepts through animated stories, colors, shapes and words.
  • Younger (Ages 5-8): Content for this age range features more diverse interests and a little less cartoons.
  • Older (Ages 9-12): This content setting features a lot more videos around music, gaming and vlogs. It’s the closest the app gets to the wider network of videos on the platform and is most likely to see mature content fall through the cracks.

YouTube Kids states, “Systems work hard to exclude mature content, but not all videos have been manually removed.” The concern here is that the app, despite its added security features and tight parental control settings, could still expose children to content that isn’t age-appropriate.

That said, the app offers options for parents to limit and monitor their children’s YouTube time, from turning search off to pre-approving channels and determining restricted content.

Is YouTube Kids Safe?

illustration depicting child on mobile device with a checklist of YouTube safety tips for parents.

While generally safer than YouTube, YouTube Kids is not entirely safe. Because it’s all community-created content, anyone with an account can upload content. YouTube employs algorithms and content reviews to make sure everything meets their standards, but the content isn’t approved pre-upload.

A lot of the website’s content management relies on viewers flagging inappropriate content in reports, leading to reviews that get the content removed if it violates the terms of service.

In the time it takes for the content to be seen, reported, reviewed and removed, your children may come across it.

That’s what YouTube Kids tries to prevent, though they still warn parents that their children may see such content and encourage them to report it. It’s simply not 100% risk-free.

Parents can disable the search feature entirely, limiting their children’s access to the curated YouTube Kids channels and content. Ideally, this would prevent unwanted content, but inappropriate videos can sometimes make their way through the cracks.

Screenshot of YouTube Kids Search Settings asking Do you want search on or off?

Types of Ads Displayed on YouTube Kids

YouTube Kids has expressed that they “only show Paid Ads that are approved as family-friendly.” They also mentioned that paid advertisements undergo a rigorous review process to ensure compliance with the platform’s policies and that their ads are appropriate for the app.

Another child-friendly element of these ads is the absence of click-throughs to carts and purchase pages. So, your four-year-old won’t be able to take your credit card for a spin while on the app.

YouTube Kids Parental Controls

You can monitor your child’s activity through the app’s parental control settings. The dashboard allows you to customize each child’s profile and set their content based on their age range. You can turn the search feature on and off, block videos or channels and disable video recommendations based on watch history and search terms.

The controls will be accessible through the parent menu, where you can set a passcode to limit your children’s accessibility. You can also access them through your own YouTube account.

Image of a parent using their laptop to access parental control features with a stylus.

Screenshot of YouTube Kids Profile Parental Controls for a profile named Jody.

Approved Content Only Mode

Instead of opting for age-based recommended content, you can use this feature to limit your child’s access to content you’ve seen and approved from creators that you know and trust.

To activate this feature, navigate to your child’s account and set their content experience to “Approved Content Only.”

Limit Screen Time

You can use the parental settings to set a timer for your child’s session on YouTube Kids. For example, if you set the timer for 20 minutes, it will display a notification on the child’s app informing them of the remaining time. When the timer runs out, the app shuts down automatically.

You can easily use this feature by clicking on the timer icon on the app.

Track Viewing History

Once set up with a child profile, the app automatically begins tracking every video they watch and every search query they use. You can clear the history at any time, but the app maintains a record of their online activity that you can access when you visit their profile.

Block Videos

This feature can be used on any video to block content you don’t approve of. You can either block a specific video or an entire channel. It’s a good idea to routinely check your child’s online activity on the app and view history to make sure that you block and report any inappropriate content.

Each video you watch will have a menu attached to it that allows you to block it.

Implement Family Link

Family Link is an app where parents can manage their children’s devices and screen time as well as monitor their online activity. It works in tandem with YouTube Kids but isn’t restricted to it. I recommend using Family Link because protecting your child’s online privacy goes beyond the YouTube app.

YouTube Kids vs. YouTube

The idea behind YouTube Kids was to quarantine a section of YouTube that contains family-friendly, fun and educational content. YouTube has been around for a very long time and hosts millions of videos, with hundreds of new ones every day.

Let’s not forget that people use this platform for everything, from cooking and home maintenance, to tutorials on how to tie a tie. YouTube will always overshadow YouTube Kids in the vast amount of information that it holds.

YouTube Kids is newer. It’ll never accumulate that wealth of video content. But it gave seasoned creators like animators, voice actors and cartoon franchises a new home and an audience that encourages content creation.

Comparison chart breaking down differences between YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Safe YouTube Kids Alternatives

YouTube Kids is a great choice for a safe online experience for your kids. But there are other apps and platforms that you can use to nurture their curiosity, educate them and keep them safe from inappropriate or harmful content.

Apps like Kahoot, PBS Kids Video and PlayKids host various games, cartoons and learning materials for children.

YouTube Kids FAQ

Keep these answers to common questions about YouTube Kids in mind as you explore its kid-friendly content.

Are There Ads on YouTube Kids?

Yes, YouTube Kids features ads that appear briefly before videos begin playing. Ads that appear on the app undergo a rigorous review process to make sure that they are compliant with the platform’s policies and that their ads are appropriate for the app’s audience.

What Are the Cons of YouTube Kids?

The lack of a pre-upload review process is one of YouTube Kids’ few cons. Content that isn’t age-appropriate is usually found pretty quickly through the review process, and creators face more thorough vetting, but there remains the possibility of age-inappropriate content being accessible on YouTube Kids.

Is YouTube Kids Free or Paid?

YouTube Kids is accessible for free, but there is the option to get YouTube Premium, which provides an ad-free experience and slightly more control over your viewing experience for both YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Keep Your Child Safe Online With Panda Security

Keeping your child safe online is a constant and unending process that requires vigilance and routine check-ins. YouTube and the internet beyond it can be dangerous and unpredictable.

Make sure that your kids are safe while they navigate the internet on any device and discover how Panda Security can help you keep them protected.