A few months after launching in some smaller markets, Spotify is launching the beta of its Spotify Kids app in Australia and the UK.
Spotify Kids is a “walled garden”, “designed with safety in mind”: an ad-free, and apparently algorithm-free environment separate to the main Spotify app. Every piece of content in the app — whether it’s chart pop, stories, or lullabies — is individually checked to ensure it’s actually age-appropriate, and everything’s sorted into human-curated playlists.
The app itself is free, but signup is available only to users who pay for a Premium Family subscription, so it’s not ad-supported. And the company says kids’ data is fully encrypted — the only personal details entered at signup are their first name (or a nickname) and, if they want, their birthday so they get special messages and a playlist on the day.
If Spotify is Lego, this is Duplo: fewer pieces, rounded edges, less complexity. Spotify Kids looks different to the main app, with a scrolling main interface made up of a stream of large, colourful tiles kids can tap to explore playlists centred around artists, moods, activities (from gaming to homework), movies, and TV.
Parents select at setup whether each individual profile is for an older or younger kid, with different content buckets for each. Kids themselves can “heart” songs to add them to an offline Favourites list, just as in the main app, and they can also pick from a selection of colour themes and cute animated monster avatars.
Older kids get the chart pop artists and playlists — Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber are generally kid-approved, though not every track’s lyrics would make it past the editors — as well as collections from Disney and Nickelodeon, and other content partners. Kids 3 and up get their own audio-content sandpit to play in, with lullabies, stories, and kids’ songs about important topics like dinosaurs and space.
It’s starkly different — almost as though by design! — to the creepy, unfiltered, and disturbing free-for-all that kids’ YouTube experiences have mutated into. (YouTube Kids itself was launched as a sort of walled garden, with every piece of content available in the app whitelisted.)
The app has been available in this beta version to users in Ireland since Oct. 2019, and rolled out in Denmark, Sweden, and New Zealand the following month. While some reviews praise the ease of navigation for its young users, the reality is that with only about 6,000 items in the library, compared to the 30 million-plus in the main app, kids who are used to having access to whatever they want on Spotify (and their parents) do find it frustrating. It’s a standalone app, so parents can’t move existing family playlists over to Spotify Kids, nor can they whitelist content that isn’t editor-approved so their kids can listen to non-kid things they already know and like. (Hey, if you want to explain what Ariana’s “Side to Side” is actually about to your seven-year-old, go for your life.)
Spotify says more content will be added as the five-month-old app continues its rollout, as will more customisation and filtering options for parents.
One bit of feedback: maybe adults would also like a curated playlist of songs about dinosaurs, Spotify. Just a thought.