Kid-friendly YouTube launched in S'pore

Sales manager Ang Wing Lai, 45, and his children Nicole, nine, and Jonas, four, checking out YouTube Kids during the app's launch yesterday at Google Asia-Pacific's new office at Mapletree Business City II.
Sales manager Ang Wing Lai, 45, and his children Nicole, nine, and Jonas, four, checking out YouTube Kids during the app's launch yesterday at Google Asia-Pacific's new office at Mapletree Business City II.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Video-sharing platform's free app lets parents control the clips their children can watch

No longer will parents have to worry about children surfing YouTube for Mickey Mouse videos - and landing instead on starlet Miley Cyrus' clip of her sexually explicit song Wrecking Ball.

The popular online platform has come up with a family-friendly alternative - YouTube Kids. The app, launched here yesterday, has controls that allow parents to restrict the videos and channels their children can watch.

Parents can set their own passcode, turn off the search option and even limit their children's screentime with a built-in timer.

Aimed at children aged between two and eight, the app has larger images and bold icons, with a voice search that lets kids who cannot spell or type to search for videos.

Children can browse channels and playlists in four categories: shows, music, learning and explore. There is also a "recommended" section. The app also does not have the "like" option and comments section, and does not display the number of views.

"It is a safe platform for parents and kids to come together to create new content, to share content, share experiences," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who attended the launch at Google Asia-Pacific's new office at Mapletree Business City II.

He added that because it is not possible for parental controls to be absolute, it is still up to parents "to apply due diligence".

Mr Don Anderson, head of Kids and Learning Partnerships at YouTube Asia-Pacific, said there are no third-party brand advertisements in the app, but it is looking at introducing family-friendly advertising in the future.

The app comes as children's content-viewing habits change, said the vice-chairman of the Media Literacy Council, Professor Ang Peng Hwa. "The trend is that children are watching more online content than television, and there is unfettered access to all channels," he said. "YouTube Kids offers some form of control and management."

Parents such as Ms Claudia Lim, 35, welcomed the app, especially as her two daughters, aged three and five, are YouTube "addicts" who watch more content online than on television. Describing her efforts to get them off YouTube, the account director said: "We had to turn off the Wi-Fi. Now we can use the timer."

Another parent, Ms Nurul Aini, 34, liked the app because of its educational content. "There is learning, and the parental controls are also helpful," said the actress and television presenter who has a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.

The app was first launched in the United States in February last year, and has since expanded to 24 other countries, including Singapore. It has content in more than 70 languages. It is available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store for smartphones or tablets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'Kid-friendly YouTube launched in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe