YouTube Kids is a wonderland of magical content where a child’s developing brain can spiral out of control until their connection with reality has been gently severed. I’m joking. YouTube Kids is great. Especially as a babysitter. Of course, I’m kidding again. But the idea of YouTube Kids being a babysitter isn’t too far off — and here’s what parents need to know about YouTube Kids.
Why? You see, YouTube Kids has a problem. It’s a problem that not only child safety experts are concerned about, but even some members of Congress. YouTube Kids has an autoplay feature that makes sure your child’s viewing experience is never – ever – interrupted.
So let’s say your son or daughter is watching Thomas & Friends. The show ends, and YouTube’s recommendations algorithm chooses another show for your child that automatically plays. And it will keep doing that until the end of time, or until an adult shows up and stops it.
Furthermore, the algorithm won’t necessarily select content that is appropriate for your child. Amanda Kloer, a campaign director with the child safety group ParentsTogether, told Vox Recode that in just an hour she was able to find a slew of objectionable material on a preschool-age child’s YouTube Kids profile. Kloer found a video showing kids how to make their shirt sexier, and another where a boy teases a girl about her weight. She even found a video in which a cartoon dog extracts various items from an unconscious animated hippo’s butt.
If anyone can get me an interview with that hippo, I’ll be in your debt.
Now, here’s the worst part. You can’t turn the YouTube Kids autoplay feature off. Oh, you can turn the YouTube autoplay off. Just not the YouTube Kids autoplay. Why? A lot of people want to know the answer to that.
YouTube told Vox Recode that “in the coming months” users will be able to control the autoplay, but they were not more specific. Furthermore, they didn’t even say why they made the decision, and they didn’t say why it would take months to make such an important and seemingly simple change.
Best YouTube Kids Shows
In the meantime, let’s take a look at a few shows on YouTube Kids that are fun and safe for your little scamps.
This mega-popular cartoon, which follows the adventures of a little girl and her ursine friend, is approaching 100 billion views! Not only that, the show holds the Guinness World Record for the most watched cartoon episode on YouTube. The show’s creators say Masha and the Bear became a hit “due to its smart ability to entertain and educate both children and adults on such timeless life values as real friendship, care, support, and freedom of creativity.”
Well, of course the world’s favorite neighborhood is on this list. Sesame Street has been educating and entertaining children since November 10, 1969. Over 4,500 episodes later, it’s still going strong, led by a furry and feathery cast including Big Bird, Grover, Rosita, and Elmo. The show recently featured celebrity guests like Stephen Curry, Issa Rae, and Hailee Steinfeld.
Hosted by Rob, a talented artist and father of four, this show teaches kids how to draw everything from a dolphin to Darth Vader to a Mermaid Kitty and a Valentine’s Robot. Usually joined by a child assistant (sometimes one of his own kids), Rob couldn’t be more enthusiastic about drawing, and he presents each lesson in a fun, relaxed, and graspable way.
If your child loves food, check out the giddiest, spunkiest baker on the planet, Rosanna Pansino. This isn’t like watching Martha Stewart make a casserole. Rosanna (affectionately known as Ro) shows kids how to make fun and easy recipes like a Godzilla Cake and Harley Quinn’s Perfect Egg Sandwich. Just keep an eye out — in lessons of what parents need to know about YouTube, this is a big one. Ro sometimes posts non-cooking related content that might not be appropriate for your child — like paid promotion within videos, or an episode about her dad’s passing from cancer.
This one’s for the really little tykes. In Baby Einstein, your babies will join wild animals on silly adventures, where they’ll learn about things like language, music, counting, the alphabet, and much more. Baby Einstein’s latest series is called “Manners Manor.” Starring a cute giraffe, this adorable new show will teach your kids all about manners in a fun and thoughtful way. The show’s creators say “Manners Manor” teaches children that curiosity is “the most important skill” for learning to be “successful and adaptable in an ever-changing world.”