Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2016
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YouTube Kids

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Kid-targeted videos are best with adult guidance

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science

  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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Pros: Catchy sounds and easy navigation make for an engrossing, endlessly engaging viewing experience.

Cons: The content is uneven, and kids could come across inappropriate videos or ads.

Bottom Line: With adult guidance, this is a fun way for young kids to browse online videos.

YouTube Kids offers a range of educational videos for the pre-K and early elementary school-age set. Teachers can use videos as supplemental resources, with hundreds of clips and full episodes available from favorites such as Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger, Peg + Cat, and more. In addition, both the "Learning" and the "Music" sections feature scores of educational songs and sing-alongs you could use as whole-class activities.

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YouTube Kids is a kid-friendly portal to YouTube that features curated TV shows, music, educational videos, and user-created content; since there are periodic updates, the channels and videos are always subject to change. The app has drawn controversy for including some clearly inappropriate videos and ads (with nudity, alcohol, and profanity). While the bulk of the content that most kids will encounter isn't problematic, the fact that any made it into the rotation means that YouTube's curation process isn't perfect (details of how titles are curated are slim; publicly, Google says it's "a mix of automated analysis and user input"), so adult oversight is key.

Kids navigate by swiping left and right or browse more systematically through the search feature or through the menus that appear across the top of the screen. "Shows" features clips and full episodes of popular children's programming; "Music" offers a wide range of kid-beloved songs (think "Wheels on the Bus" and "Let It Go" on the same playlist); "Learning" includes access to education-minded kids' shows (including Khan Academy, PBS Kids, and TED-Ed channels); and "Explore" offers access to a sprawling range of content created by users and by vendors who market to children. Plus, kids can access expert-created playlists from channels such as National Geographic Kids and creators such as Kid President. Once kids watch a few videos, a "Recommended" menu appears at the top, where kids can view more clips and shows related to those they've previously viewed.

A "grown-ups only" section requires reading skills to access; above a number pad is the message, "Please enter the numbers seven, nine, three, eight." Parents can also create their own custom passcode. Settings options let parents and teachers customize kids' experience by toggling sounds on and off, disabling search, and clearing their watch histories. Upon first log-in, parents can view a tutorial that helps them choose (and flag) content for their kids. There's also a timer function, where parents can set a limit (between one and 120 minutes) on their kid's viewing time, and a colored progress bar at the top of the screen displays how much time remains. After the time has elapsed, a cute "Time's Up!" animation appears and locks kids out of further viewing. Adults must enter a code for access to resume.

The app interface feels designed for young kids, and the majority of featured content is aimed at that group. Though a smattering of featured channels and videos are clearly for the tween/teen demographic, YouTube Kids feels most relevant for pre-K and elementary school educators. Considering the age of the primary target audience, the biggest drawback of YouTube Kids is that it's still YouTube, and some of the same appropriateness concerns exist here as on the larger site. Kids can't see user comments, but they might stumble upon videos with inappropriate content. Some videos feature direct ads, and whole channels are dedicated to products such as Hasbro toys, Lego, and even McDonald's, as well as lots of videos in which kids can watch someone "unbox" a wide variety of toys. There's clearly some filtering in place, but adult supervision and guidance will still be key. 

With a whimsical visual style and great sound effects, the app itself is fun to browse even before videos begin. Extra-big buttons make it easy for kids to play and pause, and simple icons help kids easily understand broad categories for the videos they'll find. Parental-control features are present: Adults can disable search, and the timer function lets adults limit and control kids' access. But note that once kids are able to read spelled-out numbers, they'll be able to access the parental section, so enabling a custom passcode is worthwhile. The "Recommended" videos menu is a great feature: After only a few video views, kids get a custom list of related videos that improves as kids view more content. It would be even better if teachers could customize this experience further, with multiple accounts for multiple kids or an option to tailor their own playlists of videos for their students, perhaps by being able to save certain videos to a favorites list. It would also be great if kids could easily access previously viewed videos.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

As a tool for kids to browse kid-centric videos, this app is tops. Stellar sound effects and intuitive icons are highlights of the user experience, making this a fun, engrossing way to access a world of video content.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Though learning content is only a subset of the offerings, kids can find stellar positive and educational messages throughout that could easily transfer to school and real life.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The interface is very intuitive and easy to browse, but there's no channel guide or tutorial.

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jill B. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Kid-centered videos that are great for education.
I'm not sure how secure it is. I can type in some inappropriate words and they wont show, however students can get off on the wrong video quite easily. One of the best features is the speech search. Kids who can't type what they are looking for can easily say it and search for it that way.
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