The days when kids decamped to the living room for their favorite Saturday morning cartoons on local news channels are long gone. These days, it's all about the streaming platforms, and many kids have even ditched the family TV entirely in favor of handheld devices.
It might make for fewer fights over who controls the remote and which kid gets to choose the channel, but this switch to online content presents its own unique set of problems: how can parents ensure their children are watching stuff that's age-appropriate and generally suitable?
Not all streaming platforms are created equal, and some are much better at dishing up kid-friendly content than others. To help you out, here we go over a few of the best streaming services for kids and take note of the platforms to avoid. Plus, we've included handy pros and cons for each platform so you can quickly see the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Let's begin with a streaming service that has received much attention from parents of late (and not in a positive way), yet remains wildly popular with the youngest generations.
YouTube Kids is an offshoot of the popular video platform, YouTube. Much like the adult version, in YouTube Kids, all content is uploaded by other users, so there's a really eclectic mix of shows, songs, audiobooks, and cartoons available.
Sounds decent, right? But parents should think again before allowing children to use YouTube Kids unsupervised. Besides the vacuous "unboxing" videos small children seem to adore and the tedium of the Baby Shark song, there are other, more troubling aspects.
YouTube Kids is not regulated by human control personnel, rather, the company uses computer systems and algorithms to determine if content is "safe" for children to watch or not. This has led to some very questionable content being shown to young kids, as explained by the writer James Bridle in his now-famous essay 'Something is wrong on the internet.'
● An eclectic mix of content that will keep kids amused for hours.
● Completely free of charge.
● YouTube's control systems are flawed.
● Kids are exposed to multiple advertisements, which are often dressed up as content.
Top tip: Use an additional tool, such as Safe Vision, to ensure content is age-appropriate and vetted by humans, not computers.
Ah, Netflix, where would we be without you? The streaming service arguably kicked off our love affair with on-demand TV and has seen more than a few of us through long nights up breastfeeding or pacing the floors with an unsettled baby.
A perennial favorite with children, Netflix also offers parents a few helpful tools. For example, make a user account for each child and you can set age-limits for each, meaning your seven-year-old can access stuff that's rated 5+ to 7+ while your teen can see content that's rated 13+.
One downfall is that small kids can easily tire of Netflix's relatively small catalog of cartoons.
Top tip: Keep things interesting and expose your kids to other cultures by using a VPN to change your virtual location. What VPNs do is allow you to unblock Netflix content from other countries. For example, connect to an Australian server and stream the hit cartoon Bluey for your little one - trust us, it's a refreshing break from Peppa Pig.
● Create an account for each child and set individual restrictions.
● A decent amount of cartoons for younger kids.
● Plenty of pre-teen content.
● Ability to download content for offline viewing.
● Subscription prices rise according to how many screens you'd like to watch simultaneously.
● There's nothing to stop kids from using another user's account.
If your kids love Disney movies, then they're going to absolutely adore Disney Plus. As the name suggests, this popular streaming service is brought to you by Disney, plus your kids can access content from big names including Pixar, Marvel Studios, Star Wars, and National Geographic.
As with Netflix, you can make an account for each user and then set parental controls to ensure each kid stays in an age-appropriate lane. While you won't want for Disney and Pixar shorts - in fact, you might get sick of them long before your kids do - there is a lack of current cartoons on the streaming service. You won't find Steven Universe or the Storybots for example.
● Up to four devices can simultaneously stream content from Disney Plus.
● All the classic Disney movies for kids and kids at heart.
● Excellent range of content for older children.
● More focused on movies than shows.
● Not the cheapest streaming service.
We hope this round-up of 2021's most popular streaming services for kids has helped you reach some decisions, or, at the very least, given you some new ideas for kids viewing - after all, we think we can unanimously agree that there's been quite enough Peppa Pig to last a lifetime!