Skip to main content

Any child who can do basic math can hack YouTube Kids’ parent controls

YouTube Kids
Image used with permission by copyright holder

YouTube Kids officially launched Friday on the web. The website offers a similar experience to the YouTube Kids mobile app and allows parents to set limits on what content their children are able to watch on the platform.

The idea is that parents decide what children ages 12 and under and able to watch on the service and then those kids will be essentially locked out of viewing inappropriate content.

However, there’s one big issue with that age lock: to verify that you’re a parent, all you need to do is answer a basic math question that children using the service could potentially solve, essentially giving them the ability to unlock it and watch whatever they want anyway.

Independent Journal Review editor Josh Billinson highlighted the issue on Twitter. Essentially, when kids try to unlock YouTube Kid they’re faced with a question “For Parents Only” that is consistently an easy multiplication problem. While that might be slightly challenging for younger kids, children who are toward the older part of YouTube Kids’ demographic, from 8 to 12 years old, should probably be able to handle basic multiplication by now.

YouTube has locked down their new YouTube Kids platform with a state-of-the-art authentication tool to make sure kids have permission from an adult to be on the platform.

Good luck cracking this one, kids.

— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) August 30, 2019

Another concern: Even if a child doesn’t know multiplication, and ignoring the fact that calculators exist, making an incorrect guess at the questions doesn’t ever lock a child out — it just produces another math question. In theory, this means a kid could keep trying until they got a question they could actually answer. Or, if they kept typing in the same number, there’s a chance that the number they type will eventually be correct and grant them access.

The launch of YouTube Kids on the web comes the same day that Google agreed to pay between $150 and $200 million to resolve an FTC investigation into YouTube over alleged violations of children’s property law, Politico reports.

That issue stemmed from privacy groups claiming that YouTube collected personal information about minors and then used that information to target them with advertising without their parent’s permission.

The settlement is the largest ever made for a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Previously, the highest settlement ever was $5.7 million, which was paid in February by TikTok competitor

We’ve reached out to YouTube to see if it has plans to change the authentication tool and will update this post if and when we hear back.

Editors' Recommendations

Emily Price
Emily is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Her book "Productivity Hacks: 500+ Easy Ways to Accomplish More at…
YouTube TV adds three Spanish-language channels, with more options to come
YouTube TV app icon on Apple TV.

YouTube TV announced today that it's added three more Spanish-language options to its channel lineup. Added at no extra cost are Univision, UniMás, and Galavisión. All three are available today and should appear in your channel list shortly if they're not there already.

(If you're using a custom order for your channels, you'll most likely need to enable the new channels in the edit screen, only available on the web at Click Custom > Edit.

Read more
Reports of the demise of iconic YouTube video may be exaggerated
one of youtubes most iconic videos may survive after all charlie bit my finger video

Charlie bit my finger - again ! - Waiting on NFT decision

Fourteen years ago Charlie bit his brother Harry’s finger and the whole world got to know about it. That’s because the boys’ father, Howard Davies-Carr, caught the hilarious incident on camera and posted it on YouTube, where it quickly went viral. Since then, the 55-second clip has been viewed an astonishing 885 million times.

Read more
Roku calls Google an ‘unchecked monopolist’ as ongoing YouTube TV spat rages on
Roku Streambar Pro.

In late April, Roku made the decision to pull the YouTube TV app from its channel store, effectively denying it to any Roku user who wants to add it to their streaming device. It also prevented any Roku users from creating a new subscription to the Google-owned live TV streaming service.

It was the opening salvo in a very public contractual dispute between Roku and Google. On May 7, in an apparent attempt to limit further damage that might be caused if Roku elects to remove the YouTube TV app entirely, Google began updating its regular YouTube app on Roku with the ability to access YouTube TV content if you're a YouTube TV subscriber.

Read more