YouTube launches its app for children in Australia

Christopher Furlong/Getty

Youtube Kids, a version of the service designed to make it “safer and easier” for children, is launching in Australia today.

The app features a different design and parental controls to the normal Youtube app. The interface is bigger and brighter, and includes voice search for those who can’t spell yet.

And there are special playlists built around categories – shows, music, learning and explore. And several children’s shows, like Play School & Thomas & Friends are built right in, to encourage learning.

For parents, they can set a passcode, limit how much content can be accessed, and limit children’s daily viewing with a timer.

The app was first released in America in February, to take advantage of the 200% year on year growth in Youtube videos aimed at children.

But it has already seen push back by consumer advocates, concerned about the unregulated advertising at a captive audience. Opponents claim there is scant distinction between advertising and other content in searches and because of product placement.

“It’s just one, long, uninterrupted ad,” said Jeff Chester of Democratic Media told USA Today. “It turns back the clock 30 years in terms of the role that advertising plays in kids programming.”

But Youtube has rejected these concerns, saying in a statement that it worked with child advocacy groups to develop the service and uses algorithms and manual testing to ensure videos are child-friendly.

“We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids. While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions,” a Youtube spokeswoman told Reuters.

Youtube Kids is now available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

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