YouTube launches a kids app on Monday. It comes with a filter for content, kid friendly design, and a parental timer for how long kids can play. It’s just one of several new media platforms targeting kids. Targeting kids is, of course, not new. There is a long and storied history going from SpongeBob back to Sesame Street and before.
What’s new is how children and teens can and do consume content.
“They are massively nonlinear,” says John Rose, a partner at Boston Consulting Group. “They watch and play what they want, when they want.” Children grow up migrating from phone to PC to tablet, with on demand content as the norm. The idea of the TV as a the only source of content or even the first source of content doesn’t really make sense to them.
YouTube’s numbers appear to prove it: viewing of family-friendly entertainment channels is reportedly growing four times faster than for the rest of YouTube. Netflix has begun creating children-oriented original content, and Rose says he wouldn’t be surprised if others joined in.
“What we’re seeing now is the emergence of a new set of players,” he says. “A rededication to find new audiences based on the mobile tablet and digital online pathways.” Faster connection speeds and more ubiquitous wireless all help.
James Steyer is CEO of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that rates content for child and family friendliness. The group also reviewed YouTube’s app.
“This is clearly a business decision,” he says, referring to the general pivot among new media firms toward children. “Parents and educators out there need to be aware that the reason companies are targeting kids is in order to make money.”
The fact that ads may accompany or derive from a child’s viewing experience means parents should watch both for content and ads. “We have to be extra vigilant that those ads when allowed are appropriate and that parents talk to their kids about the consumeristic messages kids are going to get along with the content,” says Steyer. Common Sense Media reviewed YouTube’s Kids App.
Focusing on kids content has been a market strategy for decades, and every new technology or platform has found its own way of getting in on it. Youtube and Netflix are the latest newcomers.
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