YouTube is releasing an app for kids today in an effort to help protect kids from inappropriate content on their website but also to help segment the audience more. This effort is a way to organize content on YouTube better just as the networks have done with the TV rating system. As YouTube becomes more advanced with their licensing system, content aggregator, and music system already in place, they have a financial incentive to keep offering relative material to certain audience members, namely kids and eventually teens.
It always amazes me how parents are so quick to keep their kids from sitting in front of the TV all the time but never quick enough to say the same for what they watch on YouTube. How many times have you caught your child laughing at all the animal videos only to think how cute it is to see them laugh. It is easy to write that off as nothing harmful but pure enjoyable to them as a child. Why is that any different than if they were to sit in front of a TV and watch the Animal Planet channel? The truth is that it is not. The child is not getting any kind of stimulation (side note: for all future purposes and understanding your child does not need to be stimulated or educated every waking second of their child life, they too need down time just like an adult so over stimulating is just as bad as under stimulating) but the act of laughing itself makes the whole thing seem ok but now that there are YouTubers who provide material for children now it only makes seem to create a separate entity within the YouTube world just for kids.
Instead of searching for videos on certain things kids will have categories to pick from to find their favorite show. This will make it easier for content providers to connect with kids who are interested in learning new things. The search function will still be there but it will limit what videos they can still find. Yes, the silly cat videos will still be there but just be aware that this is another sneaky way to try and add in a kind of work around to creating a rating system on YouTube.
The app itself will have 8 categories for kids to tap on. A few of the major players in those eight categories will be Jim Henson studios, Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Thomas the Tank. Sesame Street will add in more interactive content for children to use including the many others who will be creating content specifically for little kids. The app will also include a voice search function, just like the regular YouTube website and app, which Google feels kids will use more often than typing since most kids won’t know how to spell certain words.
Functions of the App
The app itself is designed with a lot of feedback in mind from many of the developers themselves who worked on it to many organizations that work to create guidelines for parents. A few of the features of the app include
- Time Limit Option – Parents can select how long their child is allowed to use the app everyday. When the time is up the app will ask for a password to continue what they are doing or shut off until next time.
- No Distracting Comments – The app has disabled the comments options to keep kids from getting distracted by this but also nothing on the video screen either.
- Voice-Search – Kids can search the app using just their voice. This is helpful for little hands that haven’t learned their ABCs yet.
- Big Button Options – Excellent for little fingers that don’t have the dexterity that older hands have. This makes it easier to click on videos and find their favorite shows. Titles of videos will be replaced with larges pictures of what they want to see, since visualization is key to this app’s design.
- Four Playlist options – Music, Shows, Learning, and Explore
The app will not be available to Apple users’ until late April. It will only be available for all Android devices starting today.
Making Money by the Rules
The creation of the app creates a very fine line that Google has to walk since the app caters only to children that means that Google must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, not to mention a slew of other laws. This means that Google cannot collect personal information about a child without the parent’s consent. This can make it difficult for how it plans to collect information so they can sell it for advertisers.
Currently Google is planning on creating original content just for the app itself, and because they are Google they have the enormous cash reserves to be able to do it in the beginning with no problem but any business person will tell you that is not a sustaining model in the long run. They will need to figure out how to make money off of this content that will only be viewed by children. It is a strong case that Google will introduce a subscription base model for this app in order for kids to access their favorite shows once they are hooked on them. The only challenge to that is kids don’t stay young forever so they will need to figure out how to keep getting new viewers.
Google has the option of placing ads on their app of course this can pose many problems since most kids, including teens and adults, are not able to tell an online ad from content within the video itself. They will need to be careful if those ads try to take them out of the app and onto the internet where they can run into problems. Once you get a child out of the app and onto an advertiser’s website, the rules for child compliance change since the child was not supposed to be there in the first place, just another sneaky way advertisers get around the rules.
Of course for many online companies that do comply with the rules of protecting children’s online privacy they view this opportunity as a goldmine of being able to target kids specifically, especially toy makers, candy companies, and movies for kids. They know that anyone watching will be their target audience, which is very difficult on the YouTube website itself, here they know that only kids will be watching, since it is for kids 12 and under. YouTube is for people 13 and over but who follows those rules?
New form of Entertainment
The app is a shift in how online entertainment is going. Netflix already has an option for kids where content is aggregated by age and pre-selected for young viewers but many kids know how to get out of that if there is no password. It won’t be long before more and more websites start catching on the potential to market and create content for young viewers since so many are already walking around with tablets in their hands at a young age now that tablets and mobile technology is getting cheaper and cheaper.
If you would like to download the app for your child click on this link.