Getting to know YouTube Kids

Google has released a YouTube app specifically built to be safe for kids to browse and watch all on their own.

YouTube Kids on an iPad. Jason Cipriani/CNET

On Monday Google pushed publish on its YouTube Kids app for iOS and Android devices. The free app eliminates the not-so-kid-friendly parts of the popular video-sharing site, and makes only educational shows, music and cartoons available for viewing.

In other words, that tinge of dread or fear you used to experience as you'd hand over your smartphone with a cartoon pulled up is gone. No matter where your child "accidentally" taps within the app, safe content is all there is to be found.

Within the app you'll find the categories Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Each category can be accessed by selecting its dedicated icon along the top of the screen or by continuously scrolling through the video thumbnails.

Some examples of the shows to be found include DreamWorks TV, National Geographic Kids, Reading Rainbow and my children's all-time favorite Yo Gabba Gabba. The familiar YouTube controls and icons are present throughout, with added childlike flair.

Beyond discovering content, something all kids have an innate ability to do without any instruction, there's a hidden section of the app for parents.

The security mechanism only works if your child hasn't learned to read yet. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

On nearly every screen within the app you'll find a somewhat transparent lock icon in the lower-right corner of the app. Tapping on it reveals a prompt, requiring four numbers to be entered before granting access to the parental controls screen.

After successfully entering the numbers, you're given the option refine the app a bit more. For example, you can Set a timer ranging anywhere from 1 to 120 minutes. When the timer expires, a friendly picture is displayed letting your kid know viewing time is over.

The background sound effects are annoying. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Perhaps more importantly hidden in this section is the Settings screen. Specifically, the option to disable the background music playing while browsing for content (I can imagine it getting old as your kid aimlessly taps around the app). You can also disable the sound effects as your child swipes his or her way through the app. Additionally, you can disable the search feature forcing your child to view only what has been directly curated by Google.

In the brief amount of time my kids have seen the app, they've fallen in love with it. One can only hope a similar offering is released across set-top boxes and smart TVs.

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