The Trouble With Kids Video Apps

We cre­at­ed Jel­lies because as par­ents we felt let down by pop­u­lar kids video apps. Those apps didn’t take our children’s safe­ty seri­ous­ly. They didn’t give us con­trol over what our chil­dren watch. Even worse, those apps bom­bard­ed our fam­i­ly with ads, com­mer­cial­ism, and oth­er low-qual­i­ty, inap­pro­pri­ate content. 

Today’s kids video apps fail to pro­vide a secure and edu­ca­tion­al envi­ron­ment for our chil­dren. Here’s a glimpse at some of the seri­ous prob­lems with pop­u­lar kids apps, and why many par­ents are look­ing for alternatives.

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Problem 1: Your Child's Safety Depends on Algorithms

When you install a kids video app, you expect your child to be safe while using it. Unfor­tu­nate­ly many kids apps don’t take your child’s safe­ty as seri­ous­ly as you might think. Some well-known kids apps use algo­rithms to sort through scary, inap­pro­pri­ate con­tent. Algo­rithms, how­ev­er, don’t work.

Fam­i­lies real­ized the dan­ger of rely­ing on algo­rithms last year when thou­sands of scary videos slipped past YouTube’s safe­guards and onto their children’s screens. Although YouTube tweaked the way they police video con­tent online and in the YouTube Kids app, inap­pro­pri­ate videos are still get­ting through to kid view­ers. Even today, YouTube Kids warns parents:

“While our automated filters try to keep out content that is not appropriate for kids, we don't manually review all the videos. It's possible your child may find something you don't want them to watch.”

This auto­mat­ed, reac­tive way of polic­ing con­tent allows video pub­lish­ers to con­tin­ue to find ways to trick the sys­tem. We believe the best way to ensure kids are watch­ing con­tent that’s safe is by man­u­al­ly review­ing every video before chil­dren get a chance to see it. That’s why our cura­tors watch every sin­gle video in Jel­lies at least once to make sure it meets our strict standards.

Problem 2: Recommended Content is Very Limiting

Many of the rec­om­mend­ed videos in kids apps focus on unbox­ings, child celebri­ties, and oth­er low-qual­i­ty mes­sag­ing. For exam­ple, often the first videos your child encoun­ters in YouTube Kids are high­ly com­mer­cial­ized Ryan Toys­Re­view videos and addic­tive Fam­i­ly Fin­ger songs. If you want your child to watch some­thing with more sub­stance, you need to search for it.

What’s more, kids video apps use algo­rithms to rec­om­mend videos based on your child’s view­ing his­to­ry. Instead of intro­duc­ing chil­dren to a vari­ety of qual­i­ty videos and encour­ag­ing them to explore new top­ics, your child only sees more of the same. This makes it even more chal­leng­ing for your child to find a vari­ety of new, high-qual­i­ty con­tent if toy play and sur­prise egg videos dom­i­nate their view­ing history.

We don’t allow unbox­ings, child celebri­ties, sur­prise eggs, and overt com­mer­cial­ism in Jel­lies. Our human cura­tors build every top­ic to teach chil­dren about the world around them and to inspire them to try new, fun, and cre­ative things. Your child will ride on big trucks, dive deep under the sea, explore new coun­tries and cul­tures, and learn to count, spell, and col­or by watch­ing Jel­lies videos. We believe that’s what kids apps should be all about.

Look­ing for a bet­ter kids video app for your child? Why not try Jellies?

Problem 3: Parents Aren't In Control

Oth­er kids video apps pro­vide very lim­it­ed parental con­trol options. Either the abil­i­ty to con­trol what your child watch­es with­in the app doesn’t exist, or you have to take extra steps and give up per­son­al infor­ma­tion to access basic con­trols. The lat­est ver­sion of YouTube Kids final­ly includes the abil­i­ty to block videos and chan­nels. How­ev­er, they lock this fea­ture behind account cre­ation, mean­ing it’s only avail­able to par­ents who cre­ate an account or con­nect their exist­ing YouTube or Google account.

These basic parental con­trols fall short of keep­ing your child safe. They don’t allow you to curate and cre­ate your own playlists for your child. Also, if your child stum­bles across a video you don’t want them watch­ing, there’s no way to remove that video from your child’s watch it again” his­to­ry with­out delet­ing the entire view­ing his­to­ry. Even if you block that video, it still impacts what videos the app rec­om­mends to your child, sug­gest­ing more of the same content.

These kids apps put the onus on you to sort through all of the con­tent in the app and remove what you don’t like. Imag­ine try­ing to pick your way through the entire YouTube Kids cat­a­logue to man­u­al­ly remove every sin­gle video and chan­nel that’s inap­pro­pri­ate, low-qual­i­ty, scary, or just plain strange. It’s a lot eas­i­er to browse and select the videos you want your child to see. That’s the Jel­lies approach.

The Jel­lies app gives you the pow­er to select which top­ics you want your child to access. We orga­nize videos into cat­e­gories, like dump trucks, ABCs, baby ani­mals, nurs­ery rhymes, and more. These top­ics are fur­ther divid­ed into age ranges (2+, 4+, 6+, 8+) to help you find what’s appro­pri­ate for your child. You can browse the Jel­lies top­ics and choose the top­ics you want your child to watch. We also pro­vide the option to select all of the top­ics in an age range with a sin­gle tap. This proac­tive approach makes sure you know exact­ly what your child is watch­ing in the Jel­lies app.

Problem 4: Ads and Commercialism

App cre­ators don’t always have the right motives. This is espe­cial­ly true for cre­ators of kids apps. Ad rev­enue dri­ves many pop­u­lar kids apps, putting the focus on mak­ing mon­ey instead of edu­cat­ing kids or keep­ing them safe. If your favorite kids app includes ads, then the app’s goal is to get your chil­dren to watch as many videos (and ads) as often and as long as pos­si­ble. This approach encour­ages unhealthy, even addic­tive screen habits and behav­iors in chil­dren.

These ads aren’t always kid-friend­ly even though they’re mar­ket­ed to chil­dren. We’ve seen inap­pro­pri­ate ads for war and shoot­er games in pop­u­lar kids apps as well as ads that are too scary for younger chil­dren. What’s more, an ad rev­enue mod­el rewards the pub­lish­ers who get the most views. This encour­ages pub­lish­ers to cre­ate kids videos that are addic­tive and sat­is­fy algo­rithms rather than con­tent that makes kids smarter or health­i­er. Some pub­lish­ers make extra mon­ey on the side by pro­mot­ing kids toys and brands. Many of the top YouTube chan­nels for kids, for exam­ple, are thin­ly-veiled com­mer­cials in disguise. 

Jel­lies, on the oth­er hand, doesn’t work off an ad rev­enue mod­el. Our goal isn’t to sell any­thing to your chil­dren. Instead we focus on the qual­i­ty of our con­tent, mak­ing sure our videos pro­vide the right mes­sage, tone, and focus to teach and inspire chil­dren. We don’t want your chil­dren to close the Jel­lies app and beg you to buy them a load of new toys.

How to Find the Right Kids Video Apps For Your Family

We’ve hit on some of the main down­sides of today’s pop­u­lar kids apps, but there’s a lot more to con­sid­er as a par­ent. Think about how apps use your child’s data, for exam­ple, or whether the app aligns with your con­tent expec­ta­tions. Do the videos pro­mote child celebri­ties or bad behav­ior? Does the app lis­ten to par­ent feed­back and take your sug­ges­tions to heart? To bet­ter under­stand how to select only the best qual­i­ty apps for your fam­i­ly, check our our resource What Makes a Good Kids App.

We cre­at­ed Jel­lies because we wor­ried about what our kids were watch­ing in oth­er kids apps. So far we think Jel­lies is a leap ahead of oth­er apps, but there’s still work to do. Learn more about what sets Jel­lies apart from oth­er kids apps, and then reach out to us with sug­ges­tions on how we can help your family.