Google made good on the rumors and the company’s subsequent promise last December to create a family-friendly version of its popular YouTube service with its launch on Monday of the YouTube Kids app. Available on both the App Store and Google Play free of cost and only in the United States, the YouTube Kids app is described by Google as an “app designed for curious little minds to dive into a world of discovery, learning, and entertainment…delightfully simple and packed full of age-appropriate videos, channels, and playlists.”
Like the general version of the YouTube service, the kid-version offers search functionality that allows users to access YouTube’s main content database, but the app is designed to filter results so that only "kid-appropriate" content is displayed. YouTube Kids also shows family-friendly ads that the viewer can choose to skip after a certain period of time, but prohibits targeted advertising. YouTube Kids is also built with several settings that give parents the ability to disable the default search functionality, set a timer for the amount of time their children can use the app, and customize sound. The comments and upload functionality are disabled -- at least for now -- but product feedback can be provided via the app. Although the settings are designed for “Grown-Ups Only” and can only be accessed if the user enters the four (4) numbers that are spelled out, the efficiency of the lock mechanism is questionable, since it can be easily bypassed by a child who can read.
At least for now, the YouTube Kids app does not require users to input any personal information or link their activity to an existing Google account to use the app, and personal information does not appear to be collected from children under 13 that would require parental notice and consent under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) and its implementing rule (as amended, the “COPPA Rule”).