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YouTube Kids gets new parental-control features

After a controversy over disturbing clips on the child-focused app, Google-owned YouTube says it's rolling out new safety options.

YouTube logo

YouTube's kid-focused app is getting new safety features.

YouTube

YouTube Kids unveiled on Wednesday new features meant to give parents more control over what their children watch, following an outcry late last year over disturbing videos that landed on the app.

Google-owned YouTube will be rolling out three control features:

  • Channels curated by YouTube and "trusted partners" like PBS.
  • The ability for parents to handpick every video and channel a child can access.
  • A mechanism that, when a parent turns off the app's search function, limits clips to those verified by the YouTube Kids team.

The video app has faced criticism since November, when The New York Times reported that inappropriate clips were slipping past the app's filters. YouTube Kids is supposed to pull only child-friendly content from the larger YouTube site, but the automatic vetting process reportedly wasn't always up to the task. One video, for instance, showed Mickey Mouse in a pool of blood while Minnie looked on in horror.

At the time of the report, YouTube called the content "unacceptable" but said such clips weren't widespread. In the 30 days prior to the Times story, less than .005 percent of videos viewed in the app were removed for being inappropriate, the company said then, and it added that it was trying to reduce that number.

In late November, the company introduced new steps for protecting kids, including tougher application of community guidelines and faster enforcement through technology.

In Wednesday's blog post, YouTube said the new curated collections of channels will begin appearing this week, as will the search-related feature. The parent-approved content feature is scheduled for later this year. Parents who want to stick with the original version of YouTube Kids can do that.

"For parents who like the current version of YouTube Kids and want a wider selection of content, it's still available," the company said. "While no system is perfect, we continue to fine-tune, rigorously test and improve our filters for this more open version of our app."

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