When my eldest daughter first started dabbling on the World Wide Web, I took a close look at the kinds of parental controls available online to keep her safe. I was relieved to see that the popular website YouTube had a built-in safety feature and by turning it on, I could block any potentially inappropriate videos from popping up. Unfortunately, I learned pretty quickly that it also blocked most of the videos that I wanted to watch, too.
We're not talking "Fifty Shades of Grey" clips here. We're talking about any music video with even a mild curse word or scantily-clothed model (i.e., all music videos.) Also banned were comedy clips, movie trailers, foreign commercials, or even health-related videos. And yes, I could go back into the settings to turn the safety feature off, but toggling back and forth got old pretty quickly.
Fortunately, it sounds like YouTube and parent company Google have addressed this issue.
Google announced today the launch of a new app called YouTube Kids, which will give kids a safe place to surf and stream. The app, available in both Android and iOS formats, will contain loads of kid-friendly programming from the likes of "Sesame Street," "TuTiTuTV," "Reading Rainbow," "Thomas The Tank Engine," "Yo Gabba Gabba," National Geographic Kids, Jim Henson TV and Dreamworks TV. It will have an exclusive original series called "uTech" starring LeVar Burton of "Reading Rainbow" fame, and it will focus on next-generation technologies. The commenting feature has been disabled to keep profanity out. And YouTube Kids will also include a programmable timer so that parents can control how much their kids are watching.
Now that she's almost a teen, I'm not as worried about my daughter accidentally seeing something that she shouldn't on YouTube. She is savvy enough to know what's off-limits and young enough not to be interested in the stuff that's not. Of course, it's still a good idea to keep a close eye on what kids are watching, no matter how old they think they are.
But for parents of younger kids, YouTube Kids is a great way for parents — and kids — to watch what they want to watch without worrying that something else may pop up on the screen.
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