In a post on the company's official blog, YouTube yesterday announced that its paid subscription service -- dubbed YouTube Red -- will now encompass YouTube Kids, enabling "a whole new set of features for the family to enjoy" whenever parents sign up for Red. Available in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, the move comes about 15 months after YouTube Kids came under fire by some prominent child advocacy groups, who claimed the app was deceptively targeting its underage viewers with ads.
Stemming from restrictions placed on kids entertainment from the 1970's, the worry centered around a child's undeveloped ability to repel targeted advertisements, since most don't understand that they're being targeted in the first place. The groups asked Google to look much deeper into YouTube Kids because of such concerns, even going so far as to ask the company to remove all of its popular "unboxing videos" from the kid version of YouTube because, "They're an ad, in essence, for toys."
YouTube is now hoping that bundling Kids into its $9.99 per month Red service will address some of these concerns. The biggest bullet point is that paying for Red brings ad-free videos to everywhere on YouTube, which will now include Kids for families under the Red umbrella, the company saying that this is a way to "let your kids learn and laugh along with their favorite characters without paid ads." Google also dropped a few other pros of its new Kids-friendly bundle, which essentially echo the benefits of YouTube Red's main service.
Parents who sign up for YouTube Red enable a whole new set of features for the family to enjoy, including:
Ad-free videos: Let your kids learn and laugh along with their favorite characters without paid ads. Offline videos: In the car or on grandma’s couch—automatically have videos when you need ‘em, even if you don’t have a connection. Uninterrupted music: Keep family sing-alongs going while you use other apps on your phone.
There might still be cause for concern for parents out there, however, since the only direct removal of advertising comes in the miniature ads sometimes placed before videos. In the original list of concerns and complaints from 2015, the FTC was asked to investigate specific aspects of YouTube's basic structure in its new Kids app, especially "branded channels," like one for McDonald's, which could potentially "take advantage of children because they do not understand that the entire channel is actually advertising."
YouTube has made no such move to moderate content like this in its app for children, and originally stated last year that it "consulted with numerous partners and child advocacy and privacy groups" when building YouTube Kids. In today's blog post, the company said that more updates to the Kids app are incoming, and hinted at more regulatory control for parents in the future: "we’ll be making some changes to the app that’ll give parents more choice on how to customize the content that appears or doesn’t appear in their YouTube Kids experience."