YouTube Kids is MTV for Generation Z.
It creates stars overnight. It’s a glimpse into trends and pop culture.
But is it good for kids?
How my family found YouTube Kids
My kids found YouTube Kids right around the time of the launch of the mobile app.
Both kids regularly watched YouTube on a smartphone or tablet but inevitably during a viewing session, an inappropriate video would pop up. I’d either have to quickly click to a new video while getting yelled at by a small child, or take the device away altogether.
Another parent turned me onto YouTube Kids and, for a while, it was a life-saver.
The app was developed by YouTube as a service created for young kids. The service is curated and contains selections of content, parental control features, and filtering of videos not deemed to be appropriate to the target audience.
Around this time, I was a stay-at-home dad to my young daughter but still working full time as a freelance writer. Occasionally, an assignment needed immediate attention and toddlers aren’t always good at letting parents get real work done.
I’d pop on YouTube Kids, hand over my phone, and get work done while the little one stayed happily occupied.
Her early viewing habits consisted mostly of Kidz Bop inspired music videos with preteens girls and boys dancing around to poorly rewritten songs covering up the original but sometimes questionable lyrics.
Eventually she discovered – thanks to the YouTube search algorithm – content focused on her interests. Mostly blind bags opens, slime making and creating disgustingly massive snacks out of candy.
My story is much different than the average parent in 2018. However, YouTube Kids’ dominance in my single dad house might be slightly different.
About five months ago, I cut the chord on cable and my TV came equipped with Roku. This means the kids have the ability to stream YouTube Kids to the television through an app.
‘Elsagate’ and a new YouTube Kids
The number of views and subscribers on YouTube Kids is impressive yet alarming.
At first, the YouTube Kids service was only available only on Android and iOS mobile devices but has since been released on LG, Samsung, and Sony smart TVs, and Android TV. The app is now available in 37 countries.
The guidelines and restrictions for content became much stricter in November 2017 due in part to Elsagate – named after the Disney Frozen character – and the media storm around and subsequent deletion of the Toy Freaks account.
I feel slightly better with the new guidelines in place and the fact that the app is available on TV. The kids don’t stare at tiny screens for extended periods of time. This article about the possible long-term effects of screen time on young kids rattles around in my brain every time I find them staring at a smartphone, Amazon Kindle for kids or even the television.
My YouTube Kids experiment
The weather and a fluctuating fever for the 5-year-old had the three of us stuck inside for most of the weekend. On Saturday morning, I sat down on the couch while the kids shoveled cereal into their mouths and watched YouTube Kids for the first time.
I watched a ton of YouTube Kids. More than healthy, even for a 41-year-old man. I decided to write about the experiment but wouldn’t allow the kids to be guinea pigs. I’d shut off the television, force them into their room to play with toys and not tech, and continued watching on my phone.
Before diving into this article about YouTube Kids, I want to make the point that overall the streaming video service is not a harmful platform. Just so long as parents enforced rules about watching, practice moderation, and take more than a minute to set up the parental controls.
Here are my honest and unbiased observations about YouTube Kids after 48ish hours of viewing.
The positives of YouTube Kids
For every ridiculous half-hour video involving a set of hands opening up toys, there are hundreds of creative and entertaining video.
Many of the YouTube Kids videos spark creativity and encourage children to try new things that don’t always involved turning candy into other giant forms of candy.
More than a few YouTube channels include videos where it’s obvious the creators put real thought and effort into production values, topics, and even the acting.
YouTube Kids inspires children to be more outgoing and try something new for hundreds and possibly thousands of people to consume.
It also makes killing time as a single dad much easier.
Instead of just coloring – which is fun for kids but adults have a limit – my daughter wanted to do a video based on what she saw on YouTube.
The ideas on YouTube Kids are a way to encourage creativity plus I’ve got a nice video memento for when she’s old enough to realize dad is dragging down her star potential.
TV on the Go
YouTube Kids is good for getting a kid’s favorite TV show, or network, while in the car, grocery shopping or wherever you need them distracted for a little while.
There’s a Nickelodeon channel with all the most popular shows, a Disney Channel, a vast catalog of Nick Jr. shows and much more.
**Just be careful — watching YouTube Kids while not on WiFi will EAT data and you’ll have overages in no time.
How To Videos
YouTube Kids is good for instructional videos. These How-To videos are usually good for “scratching certain itches” that young kids might have involving video games or other addictive stuff.
For example, my son spends cumulative hours watching people play video games on YouTube. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than playing car games and Minecraft for hours. It doesn’t seem as bad.
And the how to make slime videos. SO MANY slime tutorials!!!
The negatives of YouTube Kids
Here are a few drawbacks of hours, days, weeks and months of YouTube Kids consumption.
Child Star Syndrome
One negative of YouTube Kids might affect only the stars. Some of these kids will possibly have serious issues as adults. Imagine child star syndrome on a larger scale. A good example is the recent documentary The Mind of Jake Paul.
Other former child stars melted down without cameras pointing in their faces, showing up only in tabloid papers and on TMZ. The YouTube stars the “meltdown will be televised” since they control the channels to distribute.
Those sneaky commercials
This doesn’t happen as often on YouTube Kids but occasionally the kids will watch videos on YouTube. Some of the commercials are now running up to 2 minutes and LOOK like YouTube Kids videos. The only way to tell it’s an actual commercial, and not a video, is the SKIP AD button in the bottom right corner.
While the ads are limited on YT Kids, watching kids play with toys, opening blind bags, and videos that feel like one long McDonald’s Happy Meal toy ad, it does make it feel like kids are just watching hours worth of commercials.
This is where moderation comes in handy, mom and dad.
Creating unrealistic life expectations
It was interesting to see the progression of YT Kids starts from the first innocent videos to recent releases.
One minute they’re little kids doing gummy challenges and the next they’re swimming with dolphins on an all expenses paid trip thanks to a sponsor.
This fact probably escapes kids under the age of 10 but I did notice my kids went from begging to go to McDonald’s for lunch to begging to go to Bermuda.
The conclusion to this insane YouTube Kids experiment
Besides the behavior issues mentioned earlier, the drawbacks to long term consumption of YouTube kids doesn’t seem too detrimental.
Sure, nothing is good in excess but kids watching YouTube for an extended period of time doesn’t seem any worse than my generation watching music videos for hours on end.
At least YT Kids is monitored for content.
If you’re not sure just how much time your kid spends watching videos, there’s an easy way to check. iPhones and iPads now feature Screen Time monitoring, broken down by Entertainment, Social, Reading and Reference.
If the number of hours watching YT Kids seems too high, it’s probably too high. Set some stricter controls or just take the device away and play some fun games with the little ones.
How To Download YouTube Kids
If you haven’t signed up for YouTube Kids yet, the day will eventually come.
It’s a painless process. Here’s a quick overview for iPhone users. Android would be the same except for the App store.
First, Download YouTube Kids in the App Store
Next, Input The Year You Were Born
Step 3 Involves Reading The Content Disclaimer. (Unless you trust YouTube. Then go ahead and skip the reading and hit OK.)
The Next Screen Asks To Choose The Search Option
Do you want to give your kid control to search or do you want YouTube Kids to make suggestions.
Step 5 Involves Enabling The Microphone
This comes in handy for the little, little ones who can’t spell. The microphone gives little kids the ability to say what they want to watch and they’re nothing funnier than children yelling commands into a phone.
Final Step Asks To Sign Into YouTube Using Your Gmail Account
Finally, this is optional, but it doesn’t hurt to sign in using your Gmail. It makes kid’s activity easier to monitor.
Most popular YouTube Kids channels* (by subscribers)
*While many of the most popular Youtube kids channels originate from other countries, these lists focus on US-based channels and users.
Ryan ToysReview (16.87M subscribers)
Ryan has the #1 most popular YouTube kids channel dedicated to a kid who plays with and reviews toys. In addition to providing reviews a kid would watch and could understand, Ryan also has fun doing easy science experiments.
FunToys Collector Disney Toys review (10.9M subscribers)
FunToys is another channel which plays with and reviews toys for kids. This channel features only an anonymous pair of hands, and a woman’s voice, unboxing and explaining various toys. With a total view count in the billions, this channel easily tops the list of most popular YouTube kids channels.
Baby Big Mouth (9.4M subscribers)
Third in the collection of most popular YouTube kids channels is Baby Big Mouth. Many videos feature surprise eggs, which helps kids learn colors, sizes and shapes, while they wait in suspense to find out what’s inside. The top video, with 453 million views, uses ooze and glitter putty to help kids learn colors.
LEGO (6.5M subscribers)
Naturally, LEGO is in the list of most popular YouTube kids channels.
The Lego channel features stop motion videos and webisodes with some of the kids’ favorite Lego Mini-figure characters.
With instructional videos, scavenger hunts, challenges, and episodes galore, your kid will be entertained for quite some time.
EvanTubeHD (5.M subscribers)
With almost 6 million subscribers, EvanTubeHD rounds out this collection of most popular YouTube kids channels.
Evan’s channel is dedicated to fun in all forms. If challenges are your kid’s ‘big thing’, there is no better channel to be on.
Most Popular YouTube Kids Channels For Songs & Music
Little Baby Bum (16.7M subscribers)
Little Baby Bum was started by a couple who couldn’t find a good channel for nursery rhymes and children’s songs. Itquickly rose to become the #1 best YouTube kids channel for songs.
The channel’s most popular video, with over 2 billion views, is “Wheels on the Bus,” complete with nice 3D animations.
Kids TV – Nursery Rhymes And Baby Songs (10.2M subscribers)
The second best YouTube kids channel for songs is Kids TV.
“If You’re Happy And You Know It,” “The ABC Song,” and even nursery rhymes like “Jack and Jill” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” are just some of the classics available on this channel.
Kidz Bop kicked off in the Britney Spears era, and is rocking along with over 30 albums.
It’s is the most popular YouTube Kids channel for pop songs. Especially if your kids are a bit older and have outgrown the nursery rhyme phase.
Popular songs are altered to have kid-friendly lyrics.
Hazel Rabbit & Friends – Kids’ Songs (724K subscribers)
If you’re looking for the best Youtube kids channel for songs, you’ll automatically look for songs familiar to your kids. Hazel Rabbit & Friends has a wide selection of children’s classics, like: “Old MacDonald Had A Farm,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and “Five Little Monkeys.”
The Kiboomers – Kids Music Channel (505K subscribers)
The Kiboomers is a music channel for kids ages 2 and up. With classic favorites like “The Happy Birthday Song,” as well as fresh new music like “The Freeze Dance.” This is definitely in the top 5 best YouTube kids channels for songs.
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