Google launched their YouTube Kids app at the beginning of this year however, many issues still lie unresolved. This should cause parents to be concerned and uneasy with some of the areas left officially unaddressed.
The app is deemed appropriate for children under the age of 13. The intent behind the app is to provide children with a platform to find videos on topics they want to explore while providing a “safer and easier” design and functionality. However, many critics and users have displayed a widespread concern over how the company will comply with regulations such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rule – which gives parents control over what information an operator of a website or online service can collect from children under the age of 13.
Technology has evolved greatly and mostly because of the data provided from various collections. Whether it is from what works, what appeals to user s and basically what is desired – and to no surprise, companies only find this out by collecting data. The app currently works off of a “signed out” basis which means users do not need to input their personal information to create an account or link their activities to an existing Google account. Despite this current platform, Google has already discussed ways to change for the future since there is no real customizable ability or tracking of what users are consuming. In 2013 revisions to the definition of personal information were edited to include photographs, videos, geolocation data and persistent identifiers such as IP addresses and mobile device IDS – key information that links and makes a positive user experience.
Above the security of your child’s information and identity potentially being exposed is also the concern of content that your child will be consuming. To think that Google’s new YouTube Kids app is a children-friendly channel for entertainment is a naïve statement. Parents should never leave the discretion of the parenting to anyone but themselves. Children still have the ability to enter search topics that give “historical” answers that may not be how you would like your children to perceive a specific event or topic.
In the press release announcing the new app, Google said, “For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on all kinds of topics. Now parents can rest a little easier knowing that videos in the YouTube Kids app are narrowed down to content appropriate for kids. You can browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Or search for videos of particular interest to your family, like how to build a model volcano, math tutorials, the amazing (and endless) world of trains – and everything in between.”
Instead of viewing the app as a babysitter or a primary source of education, parents should maintain their cautionary guard and use the app with balance and a realistic perspective. Use the app as a platform to build knowledge but not as a primary source. It’s important to not put your child’s well-being in the hands of others and expect them to have the same beliefs and make the same decisions. As parents, we must take action and make the call ourselves.