The first generation born into the era of social media is getting their own kid-centric versions of apps and sites that were previously only for teens and grown-ups.
Millennials have grown up side by side with social media—and their kids will be the first generation to be born into a world where social platforms are the norm. But while kids are absolutely drawn to social media, it is definitely not built for them. Age restrictions of course exist to keep them off of sites and apps that contain content that is not appropriate for young eyes, but they are ridiculously easy to get past. Anyone can be 99-years-old on Facebook just by telling it they are. At the same time, a generation of parents raised with social media see the benefits of digital platforms for younger kids—they use YouTube as entertainment, education, and even to get their kids to eat, share family photos on Instagram, and know their kids love online content. So social media is evolving to match their uses, and in the past few months, several platforms have taken big steps to become more kid-friendly than ever:
This January, the super-short video sharing platform already popular with teens and older Millennials introduced Vine Kids, a “kid-friendly” app that aggregates the vines being created that are appropriate for younger children into one feed. Children have been very attracted to the short fun looped videos featured on Vine, and Vine Kids solves the problem of parents risking exposing their children to some of the more inappropriate content that surfaces on the app. Vine Kids’ interface is also more youthful and fun, playing “quirky” sounds when the screen is tapped and using a swipe right, swipe left browsing interface. The project was hatched during the company’s Hack Week when one employee mentioned how much his two-year-old daughter loved Vine, and could mean that even more of next generation of viewers grows up accustomed to mini-videos and seconds-long storytelling.
The majority of the top ten most popular channels on YouTube are kid-focused, but while kids are watching hours of online content a week and parents know they love YouTube, allowing them to watch unattended has always meant the risk that they would access content that was PG-13, or worse. For months Google and YouTube have had the industry wondering what exactly their rumored kid-friendly new venture would be, and in February their standalone YouTube Kids app finally launched, with the tagline “designed for curious little minds.” The free app provides a wide range of age appropriate videos and channels that provide education and entertainment, including content from star YouTubers like the Vlogbrothers and big brands like Sesame Workshop, DreamWorks TV, Mother Goose Club, National Geographic Kids, and more. The interface was built with small fingers in mind, with a pared down screen and large tiles that are easy to swipe, and the app comes with strict parental controls, including the ability to limit time spent watching videos. It’s earning rave reviews for its interface, content, and even its ads—it’s made for kids, but grownups might just be watching too.
Visual, image-first communication has been the clear preference of Millennials, and socially sharing pictures is already a clear part of their behavior as parents. So it makes sense that their kids would grow up with that same behavior baked into them as a norm. Norway-based startup Kuddle is “Instagram for kids,” and designed to help teach children the right way to share their pictures online, and to discourage bullying. The differences from Instagram are meant to protect young users and foster “happy sharing:” no comments on shared images are permitted, likes are anonymous to “prevent popularity contests,” and content moderators are always watching to remove any inappropriate content. Parents can also monitor their kids’ activity and profile, and children actually can’t join the app without providing the name and email of a guardian over 18 who will be overseeing them.