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YouTube Kids goes global following a sticky launch

YouTube Kids is breaking out of the U.S., nine months after a launch that hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for the software.

The Android and iOS app, which aims to offer family-friendly videos for the littl’uns, is now available to users in Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

YouTube Kids, which uses an automatic filtering system to gather content, removes the ability to comment and upload videos, and features a built-in timer allowing parents to limit how long their children can use the app.

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Up until Tuesday’s global launch, the ad-supported app has seen 10 million downloads, though Google-owned YouTube has had to deal with occasional missteps with the service.

Soon after launch, for example, several consumers groups slammed the company for apparently failing to block content that included not only Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie turning the air blue, but also ads for alcohol and videos featuring sexual content.

The same groups also complained that the service appeared to mix up content to such a degree that it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between ads and genuine programming.

Commenting on the situation earlier this year, Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said the app “exploits children’s developmental vulnerabilities by delivering a steady steam of advertising that masquerades as programming.”

Responding to the complaints, YouTube has been rolling out updates in a bid to improve the service, with recent features including clearer guidelines on how to set up parental controls and also how to flag up inappropriate content that YouTube Kids’ filtering system fails to root out.

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The troubling issues are likely to be the reason why it’s taken the company so long to roll it out to markets outside of the U.S., so hopefully the fact that it’s finally chosen to do so indicates YouTube is confident the app is now able to offer a much more reliable experience, and won’t have parents running to shove their hands over their kids’ ears as Bert and Ernie start sounding off.

Despite ongoing efforts to ensure content is child-friendly, the company said last month that “no algorithm is perfect, and even a perfect algorithm is no substitute for a parent or guardian’s judgment,” at the same time asking parents to be sure to flag any inappropriate content so its team can review it and take any necessary action.